Tuesday, February 12, 2013


ACE Group Classic-Champions Tour 2013 Naples

They are lining up the troops here in South West Florida for the Ace Group Classic Golf Tournament to take place this coming weekend. There are five contestants who will tee off at TwinEagles in Naples  this year as newcomers: Rocco Mediate, Steve Elkington, Bart Bryant, Duffy Waldorf, and Gene Sauers.

Mediate won the Champions Tour event last weekend, on the east side of the state in Boca  Raton. His pockets were a little heavier as he headed west to the Gulf side. He picked up  $ 270 000 for his win. Not exactly chump change. Bernard Langer, who is always a contender on this tour, finished second,  and picked up $ 144 000 for his efforts.

Other strong finishers last week included: Mark O’Meara, Corey Pavin, Fred Funk, Tom Lehman, David Frost, Larry Mize, and Jay Don Blake.

Blake was ten strokes off the pace, and pocketed $ 31 500. He was one of the first players to head to the practice tee on Monday morning. Most of you who chase the little white ball without a soul know that there are always adjustments to be made to get to the top. Blake strapped a device to both arms to keep them from flying as he stroked a few irons onto the fairway.

On Tuesday morning, the battle began for the pros who would like to have their names announced later in the week. Fifty-nine players headed out to another fine local course, Old Corkscrew, to qualify for the ACE Tournament. Only five made the grade. That’s pressure. Consider this as well: Last week Fuzzy Zoeller did not finish well, and was rewarded with $ 738. Many others finished out of the money.  Now that’s incentive to drive long and straight.

Last year we followed one of the Canadians on the tour, Rod Spittle. He and Jim Nelford, originally from Burnaby, British Columbia, are in the hunt for one of those qualifying positions. Make the grade, and you might have a nice payday. Come up short, and head to the range, to try to tweak your game to play later at other events on the tour.

                                                                 Rod Spittle

Chip Beck, Bobby Clampett, Bunky Henry, and Tom Byrum are also trying to qualify. A tough field.
The whole tournament experience is something no golfer should miss. There are plenty of sponsors on hand to share the news about their products. For $ 25, you can spend the entire day, quite relaxed, basking in the Florida sunshine, watching these pros at work. For fifty bucks, you get admission for the entire week. Wear pants with large pockets. You will be presented with all kinds of trinkets, as souvenirs.

SUBWAY Restaurants are also involved in the tournament, with a “Family Putt for Dough Challenge”. There is a three hole challenge, which must be covered under par (five strokes or less). Successful candidates then enter the long putt round, fifty feet. The winner of the Grand Prize receives $ 50 000. Not too shabby.

On Tuesday, prior to the main event, PGA TOUR Superstores participated in a “Play Golf America Day” at the TwinEagles Club. Many of the popular manufacturers, including Mizuno, Nike, and the like were on hand to debut their new products. Spectators received free raffle tickets, and the lucky ones were rewarded with merchandise and tournament memorabilia.

Jim Rutledge hails from Victoria, British Columbia. According to the media guide, he will be 54 this year. At the end of last season, he earned a fully-exempt status card for the 2013 Champions Tour events by finishing fourth at the National Qualifying Tournament. He won the Canadian Seniors Championship last July in Milton, Ontario. He opened the event with a ten under par 62, then broke the tournament record with a 17 under par 199 total for three days.

He lists Wayne Gretzky and Steve Nash as his favourite athletes. He adds that his favourite team as a kid was the Harlem Globetrotters, and his favouite player- “Meadowlark Lemon”! What’s not to like!
I plan to cover the final two rounds of the tournamnent, which will be shown in the evenings on the Golf Channel. I’d best have a bowl of Wheaties to prepare. The course is more than 7 000 yards in length.

Hit ‘em long and straight!

James Hurst

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