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Crowded leaderboard atop CVS Caremark Charity Classic

June 23, 2014

After the first round of the 2014 CVS Caremark Charity Classic Peter Jacobsen, pictured, and his partner Jimmy Walker are tied with defending champions Steve Stricker and Bo Van Pelt. Each group fired a 9-under 62. The two-day tournament at Barrington’s Rhode Island Country Club wraps up today. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN

BARRINGTON – Peter Jacobsen found himself in an unusual position when the first round of the 16th annual CVS Caremark Charity Classic ended Monday afternoon.

The former PGA star and playing partner Jimmy Walker manufactured a nine-under 62 at Rhode Island Country Club, and he admitted being tied for the lead – with the defending champion tandem of Steve Stricker and Bo Van Pelt – was a spot he didn't anticipate.

“What was our secret? I don't know, except maybe my youngest daughter (Kristen Sahler) is in the hospital (in Greenwich, Conn.); she's in labor, so maybe that's it,” he smiled.

Another daughter, Amy, who naturally works with Peter Jacobsen Sports which produces the event, immediately chimed in, “Dad, it's got to be the adrenaline!”

Noted Jacobsen with a chuckle, “That's it!”

He's competed in each and every tournament over the years, though has never posted a better outing than a tie for third. He did that twice, once with Jay Haas in “Y2K” and again with David Duval in 2002.

In fact, since he and Chris Riley mustered fifth in 2004, he hasn't placed better than a deadlock for seventh; the last came in 2011, with LPGA legend Juli Inkster.

“I've never won this, but the reason we're here is Jimmy,” Jacobsen explained later. “I got the first pick (when invitations were RSVP'd), and I told (co-coordinators) Brad (Faxon) and Billy (Andrade), 'I want the FedEx Cup points leader!'

“I got my first pick and Jimmy got his last,” he added, laughing. “No, honestly, I've known Jimmy since his college days at Baylor, where he won a couple of (Big 12) conference championships. His success isn't a surprise to me or to him.”

Walker wasn't so sure.

“It's been fun,” he stated of his career's recent boom. “I've been putting in a lot of work the past four or five years, and it's good to see that hard work pay off. It's tough to win. You need some breaks, and you've got to play well and be consistent.”

As for the attention he's receiving on the PGA Tour nowadays, he admitted, “It's different. I'm getting a lot more support now, with people saying, 'Hey, Jimmy!' It's definitely been different; like I said, it comes down to a lot of hard work. Ever since 2009, it's been a nice, steady climb. You can't force it. It just kinda happens.”

Walker claimed he had eagerly awaited an invitation to this particular event, and when it came from Faxon, he jumped at the chance.

“Getting the invite was very cool,” he said. “I've known about this for a while, and I've always wanted to play in it. It's for such a good cause.”

Offered Jacobsen about the high level of interest the Classic achieves: “It just goes to how committed everyone is to the charities, and it's all because of the support Jimmy and all of these players have in it. They just get it. We have the chance to play between the ropes and win money, but giving back, that's what it's all about.

“I told Jimmy before we teed off, 'Let's go out and have some fun, make us some birdies,' and we did.'”

After recording two pars to open, the duo collected six straight birdies on Holes 3-8 to go out in a six-under 30. No other pairing achieved it, though the teams of Faxon/Erik Compton and Zach Johnson/Matt Kuchar did manage 31s.

Jacobsen chipped in on the 161-yard, par-three fifth, while Walker did the same on the 450-yard, par-four seventh.

They moved to seven-under with a birdie two on the 217-yard 10th, then gathered another on the par-four 12th. The pair remained status quo until the 398-yard finishing hole near Narragansett Bay's shoreline; that's when Walker nailed a tricky, downhill four-footer for bird for the nine-under score.

“This is my first time here, and I thought the course was really fun,” Walker explained. “The greens were tough, and so were some of the shots, especially when the wind picked up. When it did, you struggled, but Peter helped me. He led on every tee.”

Jacobsen stated it was just a “great team effort.

“We ham-and-egged it, but he hit it so well,” he said of Walker. “He's a great iron player and a fabulous putter.”

Chipped in Walker: “Just like Peter said, we never doubled up on birdies at all. We complemented each other. What I liked is that this is so different from a tour event. Playing here with Juli and Morgan (Pressel) was great. It's nice to see somebody else out here, people you never get the chance to play with and have some fun.

“On the back, it was tough to make birdies; they'd put the holes in some tough spots. I mean, I hit some shots that I thought were close, but then you get up there and find they'd hit some ridges and roll back.”

***

Stricker and Van Pelt happened to be the final group on the course, and – unlike their co-leaders – began slowly. They closed the front side in four-under 32, with Stricker dropping an eagle putt on the par-five eighth. After that, they caught fire, posting five straight birds between Nos. 10 and 14.

Over the last four, they assembled pars to gain a share of the lead.

“We laughed about (reigning) after last year, and we did when we say each other in the locker room this year,” Van Pelt stated of the 25-under 117 and winning $300,000 it claimed last summer. “Obviously, this is about making birdies. The great thing about it is you've got a partner, so if he's on, you can put your foot on the gas and go for it.”

It was extra special for Stricker, as he had his 15-year-old daughter Bobbi caddying for him.

“She did a good job; hey, she made it around the course,” he grinned. “No, seriously, it was great to spend some time with her. We had good memories from last year, and now we're right back in it again.

“Bo made five birdies, and I think I made three with the eagle,” he continued. “I just got a lucky bounce with my four-iron and sank the putt. Still, the course is playing tougher this year with the wind. It made it a little more challenging.”

As for Andrade and Bill Haas, they will enter today's final round one shot back after a combination 63. Two others are tied at 64, including Russell Henley/Harris English and Hunter Mahan/Jason Dufner.

“The wind made it very difficult,” Andrade said. “The last few years, the wind hasn't really blown that hard, so it's good to see it. It makes the shot-making that much tougher … With this format, you've got to ham-and-egg it; when one guy's out, you've got to step up.”

He also addressed his entrance onto the Champions Tour, he indicated he's enjoying it immensely, though learning the new courses affiliated with it and the different schedules has been a challenge.

“It's a great league to be in, and it's fun to be back playing tournament golf again,” he stated. “I haven't really been lights out with the putter, but I knew I'd be just fine once I got going. I didn't have the reps. I just need to play more. I'm feeling competitive, and it's nice to compete again.”

Inkster claimed she didn't play that well, but she was fresh off the U.S. Women's Open this past weekend.

“I didn't get in until (Sunday) night, and I didn't play any good,” said Inkster, who with Pressel shot a four-under 67 and sat in a last-place tie with Lexi Thompson/Billy Horschel. “I think I was tired, my body's tired, so I need to go home and get some rest for (today's) round.

“I still wouldn't have missed this,” she added. “This is a terrific cause, and Brad and Billy have been friends of mine for years. You know, you look at this event, and the galleries that come out and the charities it serves, it's incredible. A lot of them wouldn't be funded without this help, and I'm thankful to be a part of it.”

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