An improbable shot on the last hole of the final round of the 2014 Nature Valley First Tee Open on September 28 gave the tournament’s Pro/Junior title to a Tucson teen who will be returning to the Bay Area next year to play college golf.
The team of Christopher Meyers, 17, representing the First Tee of Tucson, and his pro partner, two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen, was one stroke back as they came to the 18th green. Two Pro/Junior teams which had already completed their rounds were tied for the lead at 20-under, and Janzen/Meyers needed a birdie on the par-five 18th hole to join the tie, or an eagle to win. What happened next boggles the mind, as the youngster pulled off one of the rarest shots in golf, an albatross (sometimes called a double-eagle), to leapfrog the two teams ahead of him and snatch the win.
Teeing off at the18th hole, Meyers’ drive fell left but got a favorable bounce off the rocks at the edge of the fairway, ricocheting forward to a good position at the left edge of the fairway and leaving him 203 yards out with a good angle to the flag.
“It’s a hard shot to pull off, to use the rocks to get on that side of the fairway,” Janzen said (with a straight face) when describing his junior partner’s tee shot, “very impressive.”
With a clean lie and a great angle to the right-side flag, Meyers and his caddie decided on “a smooth 4-iron” for the shot to the green, hoping to get on with a good chance for two putts and a birdie to tie for the lead, or better yet, one putt and an eagle to win.
Watching from the fairway, Lee Janzen couldn’t see Meyers’ second shot take off, but he could hear that Meyers had made good contact, and he looked at the pin to see where the ball was going to land. The ball came down straight at the pin, and since the hole was not visible from his position in the fairway, Janzen listened for the crowd reaction from the green.
“You could hear some excitement start, ” Janzen said, “so it was going to be close, then everybody just jumped up in the air because it went in.”
The shot that clinched the win for Meyers and Janzen is not only a rare accomplishment in general, it is a unique achievement in a competitive round at Pebble Beach. According to Pebble Beach officials, no other player, pro or amateur, in all the years of competitive golf at Pebble Beach – from the Crosby Clambake/AT&T Pro-Am, four United States Opens and five U.S. Amateur Championships – has ever holed out from the fairway for two, least of all on the final hole of the tournament, for a walk-off win.
“I was just stunned,” Meyers said, “I couldn’t believe that the ball went in the hole from there.”
(Video of the amazing shot can be found here.)
Though he lives in the Tucson area, Meyers is familiar with Bay Area golf – his father is a member at Spyglass Hill Golf Course, and he had played Pebble Beach three times in the past before coming to this tournament. The youngster even has prior experience holing out at Pebble Beach: he carded his first hole-in-one at the par-3 Peter Hay golf course, located next door to Pebble Beach Golf Links, as a seven-year-old.
Meyers will be returning to Northern California next fall, when he comes to Stanford University on a golf scholarship.
The amazing shot put up by Chris Meyers broke up a potential 1-2-3 sweep of the Pro/Junior event by Northern California players. Before his historic albatross at the 18th hole, two Pro/Junior teams with NorCal junior players were in a tie for second place, with another behind them in third.
Katie Horsford of Fresno, playing with professional partner Steve Elkington, of Australia, and Joshua McCarthy of Danville, playing with another Aussie pro, Peter Senior, finished the tournament tied at 20-under, though the Senior/McCarthy team would have won on the tiebreaker, having shot a lower combined score in Sunday’s final round.
Eighty-one junior golfers from First Tee chapters across the United States came to the Monterey Peninsula to play in the event. Sixteen of those 81 juniors were from Northern and Central California, from First Tee chapters in Sacramento, Contra Costa, the Tri-Valley, Silicon Valley, Monterey County, and Fresno.
After two days of play with their Champions Tour partners at Pebble Beach and Poppy Hills, 23 Pro/Junior teams made the cut to play the final round on Sunday at Pebble Beach. Eight of those teams had Northern California junior players.
In addition to Katie Horsford and Joshua McCarthy, whose teams tied for second, Logan Lowe of The First Tee of Greater Sacramento, playing with three-time First Tee Open champion Jeff Sluman, finished solo fourth. Anna Zhou, of The First Tee of Silicon Valley, finished T-5 with partner Tom Pernice, Jr.; Bryan Baumgarten, another First Tee of Greater Sacramento player, finished T-10 with pro partner Kevin Sutherland; Kylie Fong, also of the Greater Sacramento chapter, finished T-12 playing with pro partner Duffy Waldorf; Nikhil Swaminathan of the Silicon Valley chapter, and pro partner Paul Goydos finished T-15; and Patrick Abadilla, of the local Monterey County chapter, and pro partner Jose Coceres, came in T-19.
The professional event was won by Southern California-raised John Cook; it is his 10th Champions Tour victory. Cook now holds the distinction of being one of 16 players who have recorded wins on both the PGA and Champions Tours at the same venue, and one of only two players who have won PGA Tour and Champions Tour events at Pebble Beach – the other being Hale Irwin, who won the 1984 Bing Crosby Pro-Am and the 2005 First Tee Open at Pebble Beach.
His win today set Cook in another category all by himself – he is the only golfer who has won at Pebble Beach in high school, amateur golf, PGA Tour, and Champions Tour events. In addition to his 1981 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am win and today’s Champions Tour win, Cook won the 1975 Cal State Amateur at Pebble Beach, and the 1976 CIF State Golf Championship at Pebble Beach while attending Miraleste High School in Palos Verdes.