The 2014 event marks the tenth playing of the Boeing Classic, Washington’s only annual major professional tournament and one that has grown immensely popular with players and fans since it was first contested in 2005. After starting life as the Greater Seattle Champions Classic then becoming the Boeing Greater Seattle Classic two months before its debut when the home-city aircraft manufacturer signed on as title sponsor, the event changed its name once more – to the Boeing Classic – in 2007 when it was first recognized by the Champions Tour at its end-of-year awards ceremony. That year, the tournament won the Outstanding Achievement Award and, it rose to the pinnacle of Champions Tour events three years later, winning the prestigious Presidents Award, given to what is considered the very best tournament on the schedule.
Since then, the Boeing Classic has won the Players Award (2011) and two Tournament Business Affairs Awards (2012, 2013), which tournament director Michelle DeLancy says “specifically acknowledges (the tournament’s) efforts to engage and encourage the involvement of the community we are proud to be a part of.”
This year, the Boeing Classic will surely pass the $5 million mark in charitable donations, money that benefits the Heart Institute at Virginia Mason, the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason, the First Tee of Greater Seattle, and other local non-profit organizations. Ninety thousand golf fans, or thereabouts, are expected to line the fairways and fill the grandstands at the TPC Snoqualmie Ridge during tournament week, and over 1,000 volunteers will help ensure another successful show.
To get you in the mood for this year’s Boeing Classic, here’s a look back at the first nine.
Boeing Classic 2005-2014
David Eger, a former golf administrator with two stints at the PGA Tour (1982-‘92 and ’95-’96) and one at the USGA (’92-’95) where he was Senior Director of Rules and Competition, won the inaugural Boeing Greater Seattle Classic with a 54-hole total of 17-under 199. With rounds of 68, 64 and 67, Eger won by three from Tom Kite to earn the $240,000 first place check and his second Champions Tour title (he now has four).
Kite went one better 12 months later winning his first Boeing Classic title after beating Keith Fergus with a birdie at the first extra hole. The pair had tied on 15-under 201 after breaking free from a seven-man tie at the top during the back nine. Fergus shot 64 to earn his spot in the playoff but Tom Jenkins had gone three better, matching Scott Simpson’s one-day-old course record of 61. On the par 5 18th in the playoff, Kite was bunkered after two but got up and down for a birdie while Fergus’s second found a tricky lie to the right of the green after being caught by a fan in his hat. The best he could manage was a six.
The fun and games continued in 2007 when seven players – Craig Stadler, Dana Quigley, Joe Ozaki, Gil Morgan, Eger, RW Eaks, and Zimbabwe’s Denis Watson – were all tied on nine-under 207 at the end of regulation play. On the first playoff hole (the 18th), only Eaks, Stadler and Watson managed a birdie four, Watson thanks to a chip-in from off the green. On the second go-round, all three remaining players reached the green in two, but only Watson holed his eagle putt. It was the second of his four Champions Tour wins.
After, what was for him, an inadequate showing in 2007 when he finished tied for 38th on one-under-par, Tom Kite reaffirmed his affinity for Snoqualmie Ridge in 2008 when he claimed his second Boeing Classic title and third top-two finish in four years. With a final-round 66, the Texan overtook second-round leader Scott Simpson to win by two on 14-under 202. It was the first time Kite had won since his previous Boeing Classic victory – a span of 56 tournaments. Kite won his 10th and final Champions Tour title and the last of his 38 career victories as a professional.
Loren Roberts birdied the last two holes to snatch the title away from Mark O’Meara, shooting a final-round 65 and setting a new tournament record of 18-under 198. Roberts and O’Meara turned the back nine into a two-man duel. O’Meara birdied the 17th, but Roberts followed him in when his 5-iron caught the slope and curled the ball down to within five feet of the treacherous back-left pin. O’Meara could only par the final hole, but Roberts made his winning birdie when he pitched to two feet and rolled in the putt. It was the eleventh of Roberts’ 13 Champions Tour wins. For O’Meara, it was the eighth runner-up finish of his Champions Tour career. He would eventually win his first over-50s tournament at his 58th attempt – the 2010 Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf alongside partner Nick Price.
A month after winning the US Senior Open at Sahalee CC in Sammamish, Bernhard Langer matched Loren Robert’s record 54-hole total from the previous year with rounds of 66, 63 and 69. The German beat Nick Price by three shots and won his fifth Champions Tour title of the 2010 season. He has now won 21 times on the seniors tour, and a total of 93 tournaments in an amazing career.
Local favorite Fred Couples made his Boeing Classic debut finishing third on nine-under 207 with rounds of 68, 72 and 67.
After 13 wins on the PGA Tour, Mark Calcavecchia won for the first time on the Champions Tour when he birdied the first extra hole in a playoff against Russ Cochran. The two had finished on 14-under 202, five shots clear of Chip Beck in third. Calcavecchia birdied the final three holes in regulation to get to -14, but Cochran joined him on that total with an eagle three at the 54th hole. Calcavecchia two-putted for a winning birdie at the first extra hole to extract some revenge on Cochran who had beaten him by two shots at the Senior British Open just a month before. In an August 2012 interview with this magazine, Calcavecchia said the Boeing Classic was a ‘big win’ for him, and that he played just about as well as he had in his entire career.
Tied 16th on one-under 215 after rounds of 73, 69 and 73.
Jay Don Blake beat the hapless Mark O’Meara at the second extra hole to win his third Champions Tour event. After finishing regulation play tied at ten-under 206, Blake and O’Meara halved the first playoff hole with fives after O’Meara missed an eight-footer for the win. On their third trip of the day up the 18th hole, both missed the green with their second shots but Blake was able to get up and down for birdie. O’Meara, meanwhile, could do no better than five.
Forced to withdraw after playing just one shot when his perennially bad back started playing up again.
The virtually unknown John Riegger won in just his fifth Champions Tour start having turned 50 only two months before. Riegger, from Illinois, managed just three top-ten finishes in 230 career PGA Tour starts so surprised everyone by holding off John Cook, Fred Couples, Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer to win by two. Riegger finished on 15-under 201 after rounds of 69, 64 and 68.
Third on 11-under 205 with rounds of 69, 70 and 66.
Five Players to Watch
The field for the 2014 Boeing Classic won’t be finalized until approx: 5pm the Friday before tournament week (August 8th), but the following five players are expected to play.
How could you go to the Boeing Classic and not watch Freddie? He’s Seattle’s own golfing superstar, a former world number one, a two-time PGA Tour Player of the Year, a four-time winner of the World Cup (with Davis Love), a five-time Ryder Cupper, a three-time Presidents Cup-winning Captain, and now a Hall of Famer. He has won a total of 62 professional tournaments including the 1984 and 1996 Players Championships and 1992 Masters. He has ten wins on the Champions Tour including two senior majors – the 2011 Senior Players Championship and 2012 Senior Open Championship. Couples has two third places finishes in three appearances at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge (it would be four but he withdrew early in 2012). Time he finally won it.
The Scotsman never did enjoy much luck on the regular PGA Tour, but since joining the Champions Tour in June 2013 he has blossomed rather, finishing in the top ten 12 times in 21 tournaments and winning two majors – May’s Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores in Michigan, and the US Senior Open at Oak Tree National in Oklahoma two weeks ago when he beat Gene Sauers in a playoff. Like Couples, Monty is a Hall of Fame member having won the European Order of Merit title seven years in a row (1993-’99), and winning 43 times around the world.
The 2010 Boeing Classic champion is worth watching not only for the quality of his golf, but also because he is a wonderful role-model for kids. Quiet, humble, generous and hard-working, the 56-year-old German turned pro in 1972 and has amassed 93 professional victories. Another Hall of Famer, Langer joined golf’s immortals in 2002.
Though the date on his birth certificate suggests he might be getting on a bit, watching Hale Irwin play golf never gets old. The 69-year-old, three-time US Open champion was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992, and it is remarkable how well he strikes the ball, averaging well over 250 yards off the tee and hitting nearly 80 percent of fairways. With 45 Champions Tour victories to his name and over $26m in earnings, Irwin is by far the most successful senior golfer of all time, his last win coming at the 2007 MasterCard Championship at Hualalai in Hawaii.
Fehr may not have had the sort of Hall of Fame career that Couples, Montgomerie, Langer, and Irwin put together, but he’s a local boy so get out there and cheer him on. The Seattle native won over $4m in a PGA Tour career that began in 1985 and petered out in 2001/2002. He won twice in that time (1986 BC Open, 1994 Walt Disney/Oldsmobile Classic) and recorded nine runner-up finishes. Since turning 50 at the end of August in 2012, Fehr has battled injury but has played a total of 26 Champions Tour events. He has yet to record a top-ten finish, however. Wouldn’t it be great if he could put that right at Snoqualmie Ridge?
Three Most Pivotal Holes
14th – 448 yards, Par 4
Known as Bear’s Canyon, the 14th is one of the most exciting holes on the Champions Tour, tempting competitors to go for the green 80ft below and at the end of a horseshoe-shaped fairway. The carry from the back tee to the front of the green is 293 yards which explains why only four players went for it in the first round last year when the hole played its full length. Eleven attempted it in the second round when the tee was pushed forward, but only six players recorded birdies, while one made a triple-bogey. On Sunday when the tee was set at 410 yards, 29 gambled and 11 made birdie while Kenny Perry made an eagle two, keeping alive a streak of nine straight years in which at least one eagle was made on the hole. Canyon Club ticket holders (see below for ticket prices) get a great view of the action and half off beer when someone makes a birdie!
17th – 211 yards, Par 3
The par 3 holes at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge usually rank among the toughest half-dozen or so every year, and the 211-yard 17th over a pond to a wide, shallow green with a distinct step in the middle may be the hardest of the lot. Indeed, with an average of 3.28, it played the toughest hole last year yielding a total of only 22 birdies over the three rounds.
18th – 498 yards, Par 5
A par five of 498 yards should represent a golden opportunity for birdie or eagle to players of this caliber, but when the holes plays significantly uphill and is threatened by 16 deep bunkers, it is anything but a pushover. Seven of the bunkers need to be avoided off the tee to leave any sort of chance of reaching the green in two, and five more lie in wait for any approach shot that flies even slightly off line.
The undulating green is 31 yards from front to back and surrounded by a natural amphitheater on which 20,000+ fans will cheer home this year’s winner.
August 4th, 2pm – Snoqualmie Showdown
The official countdown to the 2014 Boeing Classic actually begins 18 days before the first drive is struck when four of Seattle biggest names tee it up at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge to raise funds for local charities. Fred Couples will join former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in a fourball match against former UW football coach Rick Neuheisel and 950 KJR AM morning host Mitch Levy in front of just 500 ticketholders. Be sure to get your tickets ($100 each) by visiting the Boeing Classic.
Monday, August 18th
8.30am Seahawks Rumble at the Ridge
2pm Champions Tour pros practice rounds
Tuesday, August 19th
8am-5pm Executive Women’s Day TPC Clubhouse
12pm Emirates Youth Clinic at the TPC Driving Range
1pm-5pm Adaptive Golf Clinic TPC Alternate Driving Range
All Day practice rounds
Wednesday, August 20th
7.45am Korean Air Pro-am day one morning shotgun
1.30pm Korean Airlines Pro-am afternoon shotgun
Thursday, August 21st
7.45am Korean Air Pro-am day two morning shotgun
1.30 Korean Airlines Pro-am afternoon shotgun
Friday, August 22nd
11.20am Boeing flyover
11.30am Round one begins
Saturday, August 23rd
9am Round two begins
3.30pm-6.30pm Golf Channel telecast
Sunday, August 24th
Military Appreciation Day
9am Round three begins
5pm 18th green ceremony
4pm-6.30pm Golf Channel telecast
TPC Snoqualmie Ridge is located 26.5 miles east of downtown Seattle off I-90. Take exit 25 (WA-18) toward Snoqualmie Parkway. Proceed onto Echo Glen Parkway which becomes Snoqualmie Parkway. Turn left onto Fairway Ave SE, then right onto SE Ridge St. Travel time from downtown Seattle is estimated at 31 minutes.
Friday, August 22nd – 3.30pm-5.30pm Golf Channel
Saturday, August 23rd – 3.30pm-6.30pm Golf Channel
Sunday, August 24th – 4pm-6.30pm Golf Channel
Single Day – $20 (advance), $25 (gate)
Tournament pass – $40 (advance), $50 (gate)
Week pass – $60 (advance only)
50% discount for seniors (60+)
General admission and one-day Canyon Club Party Pass – $35 advance, $40 gate
Tournament Pass and three-day CCPP $85 advance, $110 gate
One-day CCPP (available Fri, Sat, Sun) $15 advance, $20 gate
ANA Dreamliner Lounge
All-inclusive hospitality unit overlooking the 18th green. Food provided by El Gaucho Steakhouse, indoor and outdoor seating, HDTV screens.
Individual ticket $350
1st tee – The downhill 554-yard opening hole is actually one of the easiest on the course. It’s a great place to see the Boeing flyover and see each player introduced before he starts his round. See if the competitors can thread the needle between the fairway bunkers about 260 yards off the tee.
9th green – The 207-yard 9th is a potentially perilous par 3 with a 196-yard carry over water from the back tee. The ground beyond the green is raised slightly making it easy for spectators to share the players’ joy or grief as they make it to dry land or sink to the bottom of Eagle Lake.
14th tee – This hole will surely be the scene of some of the week’s greatest drama with players taking on the huge carry over the tree-filled canyon. To make it to the other side then stop the ball on the green before it bounds over the back and into trouble requires a combination of power and a high, soft-landing ball flight that only the very best golfers can generate.
17th green – Spectators to the right of this hole will get a great view of shots as they approach the green over the pond and hopefully settle on the correct level of the two-tiered putting surface. On Sunday, see if players can get to the back left pin by hitting a draw that catches the slope and trundles down towards the hole.
18th green – With the skyboxes and natural grass amphitheater that surrounds the final green, the atmosphere on Sunday afternoon as the tournament draws to a close is electric, and it’s a spectator view that has been voted ‘Best View from a Clubhouse’ by the Champions Tour. Video screens 15’x35’ keep the gallery up to date with what’s happening on the leaderboard.