2010 Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge

Pick One For Pebble

Which of these average American golfers deserves to play the U.S. Open setup at Pebble Beach with Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees, hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, and actor/producer Mark Wahlberg?

2010 Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge: Pick One For Pebble

May 2010

Sure, Tiger's line about a 10-handicapper not breaking 100 at Oakmont in 2007 has helped fuel the Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge, but this contest was never only about proving him right or wrong. The bigger objective for Golf Digest, the USGA and NBC Sports has always been to show the wonderfully open world of golf. The game sometimes has a stuffy image, but that evaporates when you meet some of the nearly 200,000 golfers who've entered our contest in its three years. We marvel at the number of self-proclaimed average golfers desperate to risk their ego in a count-every-stroke round on the U.S. Open setup. (And the thousands of moms, dads, kids and grandparents who think their loved one should be there.)

That this year's winner will be playing at Pebble Beach, in a group with New Orleans Saints quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees, hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, and actor/producer Mark Wahlberg, in front of a gallery and with a USGA official calling the rules merely enhances the prospect. Did we mention that NBC Sports will record it for a 90-minute special that will lead into its final-round telecast of the 2010 U.S. Open?

"You couldn't buy this experience," says Seattle's Andy Breidenbach, one of the many golfers we met during a cross-country search.

If you're unfamiliar with the Challenge, it debuted in 2008 at Torrey Pines. Contest winner and 8-handicapper John Atkinson, who died from lung cancer a year later, shot 114. Tony Romo managed an 84, Justin Timberlake 98 and Matt Lauer 100. At Bethpage Black last June, Larry Giebelhausen, a Phoenix police lieutenant and 8-handicapper, shot 101. Ben Roethlisberger amazed with an 81, Michael Jordan had 86 and Timberlake an 88.

In this year's 60-word essay contest, we heard from teens and great-grandparents and every age in between. Men and women. Happy and sad. Wealthy and poor. Some told us they were scratch players, and others admitted they've never broken 100. Their message was consistent: I am your golfer for Pebble Beach.

Or in the case of Joe Caselli, one of the 13 semifinalists who won a trip to Orlando's Reunion Resort for a trial run, the message came from his daughter Allie: "I'd like to enter my dad in this contest because his 50th birthday is coming up. He does everything for me, so I thought this would be a good way to show my appreciation."

Handkerchief, please.

After our weekend in Orlando, we faced our most difficult choices yet. So many compelling stories, and only five spots on the voting site. In the end, we're left with the most diverse Final Five we've ever had for voters. There's a choir teacher/golf coach from El Paso, a plumber from Boston, a former sports-team mascot from Seattle and a young attorney from California who lives in New Jersey. And for the first time, we've included a woman--an unemployed sales manager and club champion who might be the best golfer of the five.

"She gives this entire contest a new shot of life and purpose," says USGA Chief Business Officer Pete Bevacqua.

Now, the choice is yours. Starting March 31 and ending April 30, visit gdopencontest.com, watch video profiles of the five finalists and vote for the golfer you think most deserves the opportunity to play Pebble Beach under U.S. Open conditions. You can vote once a day, and every time you do, you'll receive an entry into our sweepstakes to win an all-expenses-paid golf vacation for two to Pebble Beach.


2010 Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge finalist: Eric Weaver


FRIENDS CALL ME: Coach or Big Weave
BORN: 12-30-76, Punxsutawney, Pa.
FAMILY: Wife, Lizeth; son, Alexander (4); daughter, Valeska (2); No. 3 is on the way
EDUCATION: B.A., Vocal Music, UTEP
OCCUPATION: High school choir director and varsity golf coach
DREAM JOB: An independently wealthy opera singer with time for golf
HOME COURSE: Dos Lagos Golf Course ("The Dos"), Anthony, N.M.
ONE COURSE FOR LIFE: Of those I've played, Poppy Hills, in Pebble Beach
TIGER OR PHIL: For a while, it was Tiger. I thought Phil's nice-guy persona was an act. But the way he's handled his wife's cancer and still found a way to play at a world-class level, I've been swayed.
BEST ROUND: 68 at par-70 Coronado C.C. in El Paso during a "friendly wager."
WORST ROUND: Can't come up with one. Even when playing poorly, I find a positive.
HOLES-IN-ONE: None, but I did make a double eagle on the par-5 15th at The Dos. Driver, 3-iron on the 487-yard hole.

2010 Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge finalist: Margaret Ference


BORN: 10-15-58, Springfield, Ill.
RESIDENCE: Skillman, N.J.
FAMILY: Divorced; maybe this leads to a great golfing boyfriend
EDUCATION: St. Louis College of Pharmacy
OCCUPATION: Unemployed biotech sales and marketing leader
DREAM JOB: VP Commercial Ops, start-up biotech in oncology (have to be practical)
HOME COURSE: Cherry Valley Country Club, Skillman, N.J.
TIGER OR PHIL: Both wives have faced the greatest personal challenges of their lives and done so with incredible grace.
BEST ROUND: One-under 71 from the gold tees (6,060 yards) at Cherry Valley in '08.
WORST ROUND: There are a number of shots I'd like back, but never a worst round. I try not to dwell on the negative.
HOLES-IN-ONE: Memorial Day 2008, 136-yard 11th at Cherry Valley; another in '09 on the 165-yard 16th at Brookville Country Club on Long Island during the WMGA Stroke Play Championship.

2010 Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge finalist: Eric Hunt


FRIENDS CALL ME: Hunter, The Kid or Steve Miller (for taking the money and running)
BORN: 2-9-69, Newport, R.I.
RESIDENCE: Norton, Mass.
FAMILY: Wife, AnnMarie; daughters Allison (11) and Hannah (8); son, Brice (5)
EDUCATION: High school diploma, plus three years of plumbing school
OCCUPATION: Plumber/business owner
DREAM JOB: Pro golfer (cliché, but honest)
HANDICAP INDEX: 8 (estimated)
HOME COURSE: Heather Hill Country Club, Plainville, Mass.
ONE COURSE FOR LIFE: Sunday River Golf Club, Newry, Maine
TIGER OR PHIL: If we're talking only golf, how can anyone not pick Tiger?
BEST ROUND: Stone-E-Lea Golf Course in Attleboro, Mass. Playing with my father and two of my brothers, I flushed every shot, including a hole-in-one on the 154-yard seventh. Not my best score, but the round is discussed during most holidays.
WORST ROUND: 94 in the Attleboro Open, with all scores posted in the local paper.
HOLES-IN-ONE: In addition to the one at Stone-E-Lea, I made one on a par-3 course.

2010 Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge finalist: Kenny Evans


FRIENDS CALL ME: Top Daug or Daug (I was the mascot for the University of Oklahoma men's basketball team.)
BORN: 9-23-65, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
FAMILY: "Absolutely beautiful" wife, Kortnee; daughter, Ambra (21); sons Jordan (17), Isaiah (15) and Kieron (six months)
EDUCATION: B.A., Public Administration, University of Oklahoma
OCCUPATION: Finance, major wireless carrier
DREAM JOB: Motivational speaker
HANDICAP INDEX: 7 (estimated)
HOME COURSE: Seattle-area public courses
TIGER OR PHIL: Tiger. (He can overcome whatever is placed in front of him.)
BEST ROUND: Even par, several times
HOLES-IN-ONE: One, at Tacoma C. & G.C. during my senior year at Clover Park H.S.
MOST EMBARRASSING GOLF MOMENT: Playing in a high school tournament, I teed up my ball too close to the marker, made a really bad swing and shattered my dad's persimmon driver. He still reminds me every time I tee up close to a marker.

2010 Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge finalist: Scott Fahrney


BORN: 5-28-82, Whittier, Calif.
FAMILY: Wife, Andrea
EDUCATION: University of St. Francis; Valparaiso University (law school)
DREAM JOB: Sports agent or Scotty Cameron's assistant
HOME COURSE: Passaic County Golf Course
ONE COURSE FOR LIFE: Riviera Country Club, because I love its history, and I love L.A.!
TIGER OR PHIL: Before Thanksgiving, I was a huge Tiger fan. I still have great respect for his golf. I've never been a big Phil guy.
BEST ROUND: The first time I beat my dad; made a long four-footer to do it.
Worst round As a freshman in high school, my first varsity tournament, I was so nervous I didn't hit one good shot.
HOLES-IN-ONE: Nothing yet.
MOST EMBARRASSING GOLF MOMENT: Tripping over the tee marker on the first tee during a junior golf tournament or the time I thought I looked cool dressing like Matt Damon did in "Bagger Vance."

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