The Allianz Championship is less than two weeks away and the golfers on the Champions Tour will be playing a spiffed-up course.
No radical changes for The Old Course at Broken Sound in Boca Raton, just a little trickier and a little faster for the three-round Allianz on Feb. 6-8.
There will be some new just-turned-50 faces in this year’s field, including Paul Goydos and Lee Janzen.
Also, there will be some of the usual suspects:
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▪ Bernhard Langer, at 57 a two-time Masters champion who has won 23 times on the Champions Tour, including the 2010 Allianz.
▪ Returning defending champion Michael Allen, 55, who parlayed the lowest round of his career, a 12-under-par 60 that was one stroke off the PGA record for lowest round ever, into the 2014 Allianz title.
▪ Other notable names appearing will be Tom Lehman, Corey Pavin, Rocco Mediate, Nick Price and Colin Montgomerie, among others.
“Tiger, unfortunately, is not quite ready to join us this year,” joked tournament director Ryan Dillon. At age 39, Tiger Woods is still 11 years away from making a possible debut on the senior circuit.
Dillon said due to an upswing in the economy in recent years, “This tournament is getting better and better, and we’re doing great.”
This year will be the ninth that the event has been held in Boca Raton and the 15th it has been sponsored by Allianz, making it one of the most stable tournaments on the Champions Tour. The total purse is $1.7 million with $255,000 going to the winner.
The tournament has been and is continuing to be innovative with its charity endeavors.
A year ago, a Marine who had lost his legs and an arm in Iraq hit the event’s opening tee shot. Immediately after, people in the gallery watching him launch the first drive pledged $15,000 on the spot to Allianz charities. Then came a phone call from a gentleman in Chicago who was watching on the Golf Channel and he added $30,000 to the total.
Overall, a total of $400,000 for 20-plus charities was raised a year ago.
That success just served as incentive for the tournament and Dillon.
They are shooting to raise half a million this year as three Navy Seals will parachute onto the first tee for the opening shot. “The Seals will bring the opening golf ball from 20,000 feet up and give it to a 10-year-old girl golfer with cancer,” Dillon revealed, “and she will hit the opening shot.
“The Seals have a huge foundation,” Dillon further explained, “for kids with cancer. They put the kids through a mini-Seal training camp, teaching them to never give up and keep fighting hard.
“We’re extremely proud to be a part of this.”
South Beach influence
The South Beach International Amateur is a prestigious tournament, and this year’s winner — Gabriel Lench of Lake Mary — learned how much so.
Before the tournament, Lench was ranked 396th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. After winning, he jumped to 58th.
Jorge Garcia, who just finished his senior season at Plantation American Heritage High and is headed to the University of Florida in the fall, is ranked 42nd.
That’s a fact, jack
Want to heat up your game? That’s easy to do. Go play Furnace Creek Golf Course in Death Valley National Park. The course, at the bottom of Death Valley, is 214 feet below sea level, making it the world’s lowest elevation for a golf course. Certain times of the year, because of the heat, players are not allowed to tee off any time after noon.
At one point, the course was among Golf Digest’s 50 Toughest Courses in America.