PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS INSIDER
Couples returning to Endicott for first time in 24 years
He won the 1991 B.C. Open at En-Joie Golf Course in duel with Brad Faxon
August 09, 2019
By Stewart Moore, PGATOUR.COM
- August 09, 2019
- Couples will play in his first DICK'S Sporting Goods Open next week. (Getty Images)
It has been nearly 24 years since World Golf Hall of Fame member Fred Couples strolled the fairways at En-Joie Golf Course. At this year’s DICK’S Sporting Goods Open, the beloved legend returns to Endicott to compete for the first time in his PGA TOUR Champions career, as the excitement throughout Broome County is palpable for young fans, those who go back four decades and Tournament Director John Karedes, who has seen it all in one of golf’s iconic locales.
“We are thrilled to have Fred in the field for the DICK’S Sporting Goods Open,” said Karedes. “This Tour is about providing opportunities for our fans and partners to interact with the game’s legends, and he is certainly near the top of a very short list of legendary figures in golf. The fact that he’s a former B.C. Open champion makes it even more meaningful to us.”
Entering the 1991 B.C. Open, at the ripe age of 31, Couples was in the prime of his career, with five wins to his name including the 1984 PLAYERS Championship and the FedEx St. Jude Classic just three months prior. His laidback attitude and sheepish good looks covered up a cutthroat desire to compete and to leave other players wondering what sort of red number blitz they’d just endured. That desire went on to deliver 15 career PGA TOUR titles, including the 1992 Masters and a follow-up win at TPC Sawgrass in 1996.
But in Endicott, Couples left a lasting impact after four rounds of stellar golf gave way to the sixth win of his illustrious career in what was and is one of the smallest markets in professional sports. The business world craves eyeballs from the likes of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and London, but for the fan, and often the athlete, small-town Americana is special, creating a footprint and experience that larger cities don’t have time for.
For those fans who remember 1991, this year’s DSGO will bring back a wave of good memories from a fun week of golf that resulted in arguably the best champion in B.C. Open history.
Couples opened his week with a 5-under 66 to sit two shots back of Blaine McCallister through 18 holes, while a second-round 67 moved him into solo-third at 9-under-par, but suddenly a distant four shots back of good friend Brad Faxon entering the weekend.
On Saturday, Faxon struggled, recording four bogeys for an even-par 71 to remain at 13-under, just one shot clear of a surging Couples, who birdied two of his first three holes and two of his last four to close the gap with a third-round 68. With third place a distant three shots back of Couples, Sunday was set for a two-man duel atop the leaderboard, which gave way to a stellar showdown through 16 holes of final-round play.
Standing on the tee of the par-3 17th at En-Joie late Sunday afternoon, Couples was at 15-under, one clear of Faxon, thanks to three birdies in his opening five holes.
Faxon, normally one of the game’s better short-iron players, badly missed the green on the 71st hole, leading to a double-bogey and a two-shot swing after Couples walked away with a routine par.
''You just kick back and tell yourself there are only two guys that are probably going to win, it`s myself or Brad. You just can`t make any mistakes,” said Couples after the tournament in 1991.
A par on the 72nd hole was more than enough for Couples, who walked away with $144,000 and a three-shot win over Peter Jacobsen, who backdoored a runner-up finish thanks to a final-round 68 and Faxon’s late stumble. The victory propelled Couples to No. 2 on the PGA TOUR money list and into the following week’s Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island – known as the famed “War by the Shore” – where he again solidified his legendary status with a 3-1-1 record to lead the United States to a one-point victory.
Since turning 50 in 2009, Couples has won 13 times on PGA TOUR Champions, including senior major titles at the 2011 Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS and 2012 Senior Open Championship. But he’s also won in places like Calgary, Biloxi and Madison, where the thrill of victory is immense in an arena that may as well be the Super Bowl for local fans.
“It’s great when we go to places like Endicott for a Tour event,” he said. “The fans support it with amazing passion and for an entire week, golf is the talk of the town. It’s easy to see why PGA TOUR golf has had so much success here.”
From afar, PGA TOUR stars look like borderline deities with private jets, immaculate swings and charisma Fortune 500 companies pay highly for. But they all have a beginning, and Couples’ was in Seattle, where his father was a groundskeeper for the Seattle Parks Department and he learned the game on Jefferson Park Golf Course, a venue very similar to En-Joie.
Augusta National, Merion, Shinnecock Hills and Riviera have unbelievable prestige and history, but places like next week’s host course have something even more valuable – an open door. This is a fact not lost on Couples as he makes his triumphant return.
“I grew up at a public golf course, and while our jobs afford us the opportunity to play some of the most exclusive clubs in the world, I think it’s great when we come to a place like En-Joie that is accessible for all of the fans,” he said from this year’s Senior Open Championship. “Before we come to town and after we leave, this is their course, and in turn it’s kind of their event.”
Welcome back, Fred. While it’s been a long 24 years, the fans in Endicott are ready.
And as it turns out, he’s ready for them.
“I remember a fun tournament, a great course and huge galleries. I can’t wait to get back.”