Friday, April 19, 2024

Golf: Inspiring Youth On and Off the Green

The Farmers Insurance Open (which originated as the San Diego Open in 1952, 71 years ago) is played in San Diego towards the beginning of the PGA Tour season and is known as the ‘West Coast Swing.’ The tournament is organized by The Century Club of San Diego and was held in 2023 from January 25 through 28.

It was the San Diego Open from 1952 to 1985, and title sponsors were then added, first Wicks, then: Isuzu, Shearson Lehman Brothers, Buick and finally Farmers Insurance in 2010 and continuing today. There were a number of courses played throughout San Diego, including the inaugural San Diego Country Club, Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club, Mission Valley Country Club, Rancho Bernardo Country Club, and finally sinking its permanent golf cleats at Torrey Pines Golf Course (1968). I couldn’t help but wonder, imagine if it was hosted at our local and beautiful Coronado Municipal Golf Course which opened in 1957! Coronado’s Head Golf Pro Brian Smock took some Coronado youth golfers to Farmers this year (son Ty, Brock and Liam).

Farmers Insurance Open 2023 was nothing short of spectacular. It opened with a private press event for Jon Rahm who was favored to win (third in a row). Highlighted was his multi-year partnership with Maestro Dobel® Tequila, creator of the world’s first Cristalino and the ‘Official Tequila of the PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR Champions.’

Fun fact: Maestro Dobel® Tequila is served at Coronado’s own Miguel’s Cocina and they have a special Manhattan on the menu which staff is trained to make. The Maestro Dobel® press team visited Coronado the week of Farmers to take in a bike ride around the island and ended their tour enjoying Miguel’s Cocina. They were quick to rave that the food was amazing, and a perfect pairing for Maestro Dobel® which was founded by Juan Dobel and born from 11 generations of tequila making legacy. A “modern expression of tequila, pushing the global category forward and producing some of the world’s finest and smoothest tequilas.”

Also during Farmers, I was able visit with local resident and realtor Katie Herrick and her family at the event. Herrick not only sponsors the annual Rady Children’s Hospital – Coronado Auxiliary, Annual Turkey Trot, she helped the chapter reach the largest annual goals to date of $90K and $100K. The Herrick boys loved attending Farmers, as they both like golfing and are getting into the love of the sport. And what better place to foster that enthusiasm, than at tournaments like these. I asked the boys if they were having fun, and they said yes with their heads excitedly nodding up and down, binoculars in hand of course.

After the closing round Friday, having walked lots and lots of miles spending most of the days following some of my favorites, Tony Finau, Jon Rahm, and Xander Schauffele (San Diego born/raised and local favorite), Finau and Rahm were at the top of the leaderboard. Then on the final day four, a true whirlwind and switch of leaders. Which is not uncommon. Finau and Rahm dropped down on the leaderboard and Homa climbed up steadily, essentially clinching the win. My favorite shot of the tournament was on hole 14, final round, day four, right before Homa was projected the winner on hole 16. Crowds were cheering and the pressure was on for no mistakes. Homa, Sungjae Im, and Collin Morikawa were deeply analyzing their shots (all at the top five of the leaderboard) and intently walking around the green. It looked as if they were literally walking in circles. And maybe they were, knowing Homa was probably about to take it all the way home.

Rahm didn’t take the win, which was a hard loss, but he is still in the top world ranking. Rory Mcllroy (also one of my favorites) is holding strong in first, and Rahm in third (last World Ranking update as of Feb. 4, 2023). Mcllroy didn’t play Farmers this year due to a conflict with 2023 Dubai Desert Classic, and with good reason as he won the tournament, which also secured his third tournament win there.

Bella Villarin, fall 2021.

Another local fun fact! Coronado Times student reporter (and avid golfer) Bella Villarin is a member of Pro Kids, First Tee – San Diego. This year for Farmers Insurance Open she attended a youth clinic on Sunday, where they rotated different stations (driving, putting, and chipping) and then had the opportunity for a Q & A Session with one of the APGA Tour Players, Michael Herrera. The APGA is a tournament association separate from the PGA Tour, and it centers on providing minorities with the chance to play professionally as they work their way up to the PGA Tour.

Bella also attended Farmers last year after winning an essay contest with Pro Kids. Her essay was chosen out of 12 participants, so she had the opportunity to attend all four days of Farmers and meet PGA Tour players Joaquin Niemann and Maverick McNealy. “It was a super fun experience and I got to bring my dad along, and I’m super grateful to Pro Kids for giving me this opportunity.” She continued, “I love watching the players I have always looked up to on television, and seeing them in-person is definitely exciting.” Bella is an devoted golfer and is captain of our Coronado girls varsity golf team. She also shared that at tournaments like Farmers, “seeing the talent and athleticism of the players simply amazes me.” She wants to encourage other youth players to go to tournaments like Farmers, because afterwards she is always “inspired to continue to focus on my game and play to the best of my ability.”

It was an amazing week and tournaments do without question, inspire!! Farmers is the longest standing professional PGA golf tournament in San Diego. The Crosby Pro-Am (now AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AM) was at Rancho Santa Fe prior to World War ll. The U.S. Open was at Torrey Pines in 2008 (the first ‘major’ golf tournament in San Diego) and again returned in 2021. I try to attend Farmers every year, and I believe local San Diego up and coming youth golfers should too! Another favorite professional tournament is the LPGA Kia Classic, which I love to watch. And unfortunately it is not back in San Diego this year. But when you really grasp how tournaments inspires young players, I couldn’t help but think, how great it would be to get a group/bus of Coronado youth golfers to Farmers next year. As my friends know, because I preach it often, golf is a wonderful sport for youth. It’s both mentally challenging and rewarding (which is good for us adults too). Not to mention a great sport for scholarships, for young men and women!

It was an amazing and inspirational week at the Farmers Open!

Pilialoha Estall
Pilialoha Estall
Pilialoha has a diverse background, ranging from non-profits, and experiential marketing, to being an executive event producer, and has a pr agency focused on youth development. She is passionate about helping her community, (a 4th generation Coronadan) and is on the boards for Coronado Schools Foundation, Coronado Band & Choir Boosters, Rady Children’s Hospital - Coronado Auxiliary, and Coronado Flower Association.She loves spending time with her family, golfing with her daughter and friends, and Polynesian dancing! She loves writing (from comedy to novels, you name it). She also has a humble weblog and global podcast PilialohaNow - Building Sustainability, available on all major platforms.Send news tips or story ideas to: [email protected]

More Local News