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From Aug. 30 to Sept. 7, I traveled with Dalton Gore as his chaperone and caddie to Pebble Beach, Calif., for the Walmart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach.
This was Dalton’s second trip to the event, and I wondered whether it would match the excitement and success of last year’s. This is a continuation of the diary. The first part was in the Sept. 24 edition.
Friday, Sept. 4
Another beautiful day on the Monterey Peninsula. Every day has been boringly the same, daytime highs in the mid-60s and sunny, cool in the evenings. Missing is the morning fog that plagued the event at Pebble Beach last year.
Following lunch and warm-up, work begins in earnest. We tee off at 1:28 p.m. Pro-am partners are Dick Ferris and J. B. McIntosh, a repeat from last year.
Phil Blackmar pars No. 1, Dalton birdies No. 2, two-putting from inside 15 feet after roping a 4-iron second shot to the par-5. Blackmar nearly holes out on three for a tap-in birdie. Two-under after three holes. I am cautiously smiling.
However, both miss birdie putts inside 15 feet on No. 4. Dalton misses from 5 feet on the par-3 fifth, and Blackmar misses from 3 feet on the par-5 sixth. The magic has disappeared.
Pars continue. Dalton starts struggling and then they hit the dreaded 17th. Blackmar double-bogeys; Dalton bogeys, a dropped shot. Blackmar birdies the 18th. The team finishes at 2 under. Not good.
Saturday, Sept. 5
Up early, 8:58 a.m. tee time at DelMonte. Have to go low today. Goal is set at 8 under for the day. Need to get the pro-junior team score to 10 under to be safe for the cut to play Pebble Beach on Sunday. Pro-am partners are Thomas and Julie Frist.
Blackmar starts well, shoots 32 on the back nine, which is their first nine today. Dalton starts slowly, until the last hole, where a wedge to a foot allows for a tap-in birdie. Unfortunately, Blackmar birdies the hole as well, so they doubled up. Halfway to the goal, 4 under after nine holes.
The birdie kick-starts Dalton. After a par on the first hole, Dalton birdies two, three and five. The team is now at 7 under for the day. Need one more birdie, which was not to be.
Dalton played his last 10 holes 4-under par in a valiant attempt to get above the cut line to play Pebble Beach on Sunday. We would have to sweat it out to see whether 9 under would be good enough.
After lunch, back to Pebble Beach to hang out, putt and chew our nails as the results are updated real time on the computer in the lounge. As the afternoon scores kept coming in, it becomes apparent the 9-under scores would be subject to the tiebreak procedure, the team score in the Pebble Beach round. We were not sitting well, and a little after 4:30 p.m. Saturday realize we would not play Pebble Beach on Sunday.
It is a quiet evening with a lot of soul searching. We could count a number of places where one made putt would have made the difference but, ultimately, the killer was the bogey on 17 at PB in the first round.
Sunday, Sept. 6
Up for breakfast and off to DelMonte. Dalton is playing in the consolation event. The Core Values Cup, where two juniors (playing scratch) are paired with two amateurs (playing with handicap). Dalton’s team shoots a best-ball 13-under 59 but finishes a shot short of a first-place tie. Just the way the week has been going.
After a nice barbecue lunch, back to Pebble Beach to watch tournament play. Blackmar is having a bad day and going backward, and many players are struggling with the windy conditions. Jeff Sluman pulls it together with a solid final round and defends his individual title from 2008. Junior Will Bishop wins the pro junior with his partner David Eger.
We go to the closing meal at the beach club for juniors and their guests. Dalton says goodbyes to his friends. We head back to pack for our 6 a.m. flight from Monterey.
Monday, Sept. 7
Unlike 2008, this is not an upbeat return home to N.C. We are physically tired and emotionally spent and spend most of our first two flight segments closing our eyes and trying to get some sleep.
It is not until we get to Charlotte, have a light snack at the airport and board the flight to Wilmington that we start conversing about the future. It’s time for Dalton to think about school and preparing applications for college.
As I reflected on the two years I was privileged to go to the Walmart First Tee Open with Dalton, I thought of the similarities and differences. The adage that if something is really great the first time around it is hard to duplicate again certainly came into play.
Last year I saw a young man who didn’t know what to expect come home elated with his initial success; this year, a young man who left home with high expectations that weren’t fulfilled. A young man who recognized his game was not up to par and worked his hardest to fix it. A young man who, when the chips were down, played those last 10 holes at DelMonte in 4-under par trying to will his way past the cut line. I couldn’t help thinking this 17-year-old young man has a bright future.