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Returning to their Roots

(Far left) Charley Hoffman (left) and Rickie Fowler demonstrated numerous aspects of the golf swing during the players' clinic at Balboa Park, and then autograph seekers kept them busy when the clinic was over.
Doug Milne/PGA TOUR

January 25, 2012

By Doug Milne, PGA TOUR Staff

SAN DIEGO, Calif.—Every now and then on the PGA TOUR, something more important comes up. Something that takes its players from their honing rituals on the driving range to a place where the formative dreams of others take shape and begin down the road to fruition. It’s the same road those PGA TOUR stars once traveled down themselves.

On Jan. 24 at the Farmers Insurance Open, local San Diego favorites Rickie Fowler and Charley Hoffman packed up their clubs from the exclusive Torrey Pines Golf Course and hit the road, bound for nearby Balboa Park Golf Course, to an awaiting crowd of more than 200 kids of all ages and economic backgrounds for an afternoon not soon to be forgotten.

Farmers Insurance, the Century Club and the City of San Diego sponsored the Tee It Up For Kids Youth Clinic, featuring Fowler and Hoffman. Champions Tour player and current CBS Sports announcer Gary McCord hosted the clinic. For more than an hour, Fowler and Hoffman put their talents on display, hitting balls while fielding questions from the enthused gallery. The pros even gave the kids chances to hit a few balls, drawing advice as they went.

“Seeing the kids out there with their parents, the smiles and laughter, the bonding…it was just so special because you just don’t get to see a lot of that these days,” said Mhayse Samalya, president of distribution for Farmers Insurance. “For Rickie and Charley to take the time to go off site to Balboa Park was really a tangible way of showing the support these guys have for community. In no way were they obligated to do this.”

In past years, the event was held at Torrey Pines. But in an effort to take the Farmers Insurance Open to the young golf fans of San Diego, the event relocated to the downtown area.

“I was one of those kids once,” said 2007 Humana Challenge champion Charley Hoffman. “Doing something like this, especially in the community where I was raised, is a no-brainer. It’s special. It does my heart good to see so many kids with an interest in the game. In golf, there is so much to learn about life and the positive things it can offer. That’s what this is all about today.”

“I love doing junior clinics. They reveal so much about potential in life,” said Fowler, a member of the 2010 U.S. Ryder Cup team. “It’s very cool to be in a position to even do a junior clinic. I grew up on munis, even played a junior tournament right here at Balboa Park. So to talk to kids about what I learned when I was one is great. Heck, I practically still am a kid.” For the record, Fowler recalls winning that junior tournament “sometime between the ages of 10 and 18.”

Donning free junior clinic T-shirts and colorful, flat-brimmed Fowler-esque hats, the kids moved close to and in front of two of the PGA TOUR’s rising stars who took a step back in time to their roots.

Even McCord, admittedly older and “out of touch with the times,” left Balboa Park with a smile and a laugh. “I have grandkids Rickie’s age, for Pete’s sake,” he laughed. “I mean just look at all these kids. Rickie’s got every one of them out here dressed up like a cute little blue bonnet.”

In addition to the experience of an unforgettable afternoon, each attendee over the age of 15 was given a complimentary ticket to this week’s Farmers Insurance Open. Kids under 15 will be admitted free of charge.

 

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