PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — The definition of a star on the PGA Tour can go beyond trophies, career money or Ryder Cup teams.
Tour officials were looking for a couple of players to be partners with two important clients during the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am two weeks ago. They settled on Ryan Palmer and Jason Bohn, two personable characters with five career wins between them.
Mike Glenn, the executive vice president of market development of FedEx, which was in the final stages of renewing its sponsorship; and Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast, which owns NBC Sports and The Golf Channel.
Bohn took the unusual step of e-mailing their amateurs and inviting them to play a practice round on Wednesday. Teams typically don’t hook up until the tournament begins Thursday, but they figured it would be time well spent instead of spending the first hour or two in competition getting to know each other.
“We had a little game with them,” Palmer said. “We made sure we kept it small. We can’t afford what they can. We had lunch in the Tap Room afterward and we hit it off.”
It got even better.
Bohn and Palmer played to grill steaks Friday night. They made a deal that if one of them shot 7-under 65, and they combined to post a 10-under par, they would splurge on a magnum of Caymus Special Selection cabernet sauvignon. They talked about it all day Friday, but they failed to get it done.
“We show up Saturday morning at Monterey Peninsula, and the bottle of Caymus is sitting between the tees on No. 1,” Palmer said. “Brian had done it.”
It was another example of why Pebble remains one of the most important events on the PGA Tour, with so many corporate heavyweights that are valuable to tour affairs. And it can lead to relationships with players, never a bad thing.
Roberts is a member at Augusta National, and Palmer said he already has arranged a game this spring with Palmer, caddie James Edmondson and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton.
THE JOURNEY: During weeks like the Match Play Championship, when Mark Wilson drives a courtesy car to The Ritz-Carlton to play for $8.5 million in prize money, it’s easy for him to remember how far he came.
After reaching the semifinals last week at Dove Mountain, he talked about his early days out of North Carolina when he began his journey on the mini-tours and played for money to pay the rent. OK, that was a slight exaggeration, but only because he lived at home.
“I was living with my parents and out of my Volkswagen,” said Wilson. “That’s life on the mini tour. I was chasing my dream.”