Jeff Sluman won near Boston earlier in the 2008 season, and he punctuated his fine season with a victory at the Walmart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach. Sluman broke a four-way tie through 36 holes by shooting a final-round 67 at Pebble Beach Golf Links to win going away, rolling past Craig Stadler and Fuzzy Zoeller by five strokes.
The tournament, in its sixth year, has become a popular staple on the Champions Tour, with professionals paired with youth amateurs from The First Tee program. A year ago, Zoeller teamed with Salinas, Calif., native Sydney Burlison to win the pro-junior division by eight strokes.
Sluman is 19th in the 2009 Charles Schwab Cup standings. His best individual performance this year was a tie for fourth at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. He also lost in a playoff with Stadler as his partner at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf.
TRICKY FORMAT: There will be 78 professionals and 78 juniors, along with 156 amateurs, playing this week. On Friday and Saturday, each professional will play with one junior and two amateurs in a team format. Thirty-nine groups will play one round each on Del Monte Golf Course and Pebble Beach Golf Links. Three events will be scored -- professional stroke play, pro-junior (gross) and best ball of foursome (all juniors play scratch). On Sunday, 22 pro-junior teams continue, and starting times will be made based on the professionals' 36-hole scores. In addition, 12 two-player amateur teams will also advance to Sunday's final round and will be grouped within the professional tee times.
CAN'T STOP, WON'T STOP: Bob Gilder's appearance at the 2009 Walmart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach will be his 139th consecutive Champions Tour event for which he has been eligible. Gilder's run began at the 2004 JELD-WEN Tradition and is the longest current run on Tour. Dana Quigley holds the all-time record with 264 consecutive events played -- 278 in a row for which he was eligible.
NO HINTS HERE: In the first five Walmart First Tee Opens at Pebble Beach, the eventual winner has started play Friday at Pebble Beach twice and the other host course three times. Stadler opened with an even-par 72 at the Bayonet Course at Fort Ord when he won the inaugural event in 2004. In 2005, Hale Irwin started with a 6-under 66 at Del Monte Golf Course. In 2006, Scott Simpson opened at Pebble Beach with a 5-under 67, and in 2008 Gil Morgan began at Pebble Beach with a 2-under 70. Last year, Sluman shot an opening, 3-under 69 at Del Monte.
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PEBBLE BEACH PROS: Nine players in the field have enjoyed success on the PGA TOUR on the Monterey Peninsula, including Irwin, who is the only one of the eight playing this week with both a PGA TOUR title and Champions Tour title at Pebble Beach. Irwin won the 1984 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am and the 2005 Walmart First Tee Open. Mark O'Meara won five times on the PGA TOUR at Pebble Beach (1985, 1989, 1990, 1992 and 1997). In addition to O'Meara, this week's field includes Tom Watson, who won the 1977 and 1978 Bing Crosby National Pro-Ams and later claimed the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Tom Kite won both the 1983 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am and the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, while John Cook was the 1981 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am winner -- his first of 11 TOUR titles. Ben Crenshaw, (1976), Zoeller (1986) and Peter Jacobsen (1995) all won the tournament now known as the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Lanny Wadkins won his lone major title, the 1977 PGA Championship, at Pebble Beach.