‘The Rivalry’ aims to pair top collegians, alumni pros

Bubba Watson after winning the Zurich Classic.

Bubba Watson after winning the Zurich Classic.

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1Joey GarberGeorgia  68.61 
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Uniting college golf past with college golf present. That’s what “The Rivalry” plans to do when it debuts Nov. 16-18, 2012, at a course to be named in Southern California.

The brainchild of Pacific University men’s coach Brandon Goethals, the event will bring together some of professional golf’s shining stars and current college players.

The tournament will be a two-man-team pro-am with a distinctive college flare. Each of the 24 participating pros will represent his alma mater and be paired with one of the top players on that school’s golf team.

The event originally was scheduled to be held at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., but those plans changed when it was announced last month that the Champions Tour's Charles Schwab Championship would be held at Desert Mountain Club in Scottsdale in early November. The thought was that two professional events in such a short time period might saturate the market. Goethals is currently in discussions with several Southern California courses about the possibility of hosting the event.

A pro-college am on Nov. 16 will serve as a practice round for The Rivalry participants, followed by two rounds of best-ball tournament play, which will count against the college players’ NCAA-regulated 24 days of competition.

“I really think this is going to be an awesome, awesome event that will revolutionize college golf,” Goethals said. “It will be a lot of fun and really promote the rivalry concept of college golf.”

Goethals said he has talked with the NCAA and received the go-ahead and also has received support from his fellow coaches.

He also has talked with officials at the PGA Tour and Golf Channel and said, “They were all in favor of it.” He said there’s a good chance Golf Channel will televise both days of the tournament. The event falls on the weekend after the PGA Tour’s final Fall Series event.

“Everyone we’ve talked with seems extremely excited about the idea. . . . We just signed a contract with Peter Jacobsen Sports to help run and market it," Goethals said. "I really think this thing has a lot of mojo behind it.”

The major tasks right now are securing the 24 two-man teams and sponsors, including a title sponsor. Goethals hopes to put together a $720,000 purse for the 24 professional players.

“Over the next three to four months, we’ll be working diligently to sell this product to players and potential sponsors,” Goethals said. “Our goal the first year is to donate a minimum of $250,000 to the charity or charities of choice of the title sponsor. The Rivalry is a 501(c)3 foundation, Goethals said.

Goethals hopes to attract a host of PGA Tour winners, including major champions, as well Ryder Cup captains and former college players of the year. Several pros already have committed, including Bubba Watson, Jamie Lovemark, D.A. Points, Chris DiMarco, Bill Haas, Todd Hamilton, J.B. Holmes and Ricky Barnes.

Here’s a list of the college programs on The Rivalry’s initial invitation list and the professionals who were asked to compete: Stanford (Tom Watson), Arizona State (Paul Casey), Florida (DiMarco), Oklahoma State (Rickie Fowler), Texas (Justin Leonard), Arizona (Barnes), Georgia Tech (Stewart Cink), Georgia (Watson), UCLA (Corey Pavin), USC (Lovemark), UNLV (Charley Hoffman), Wake Forest (Haas), Clemson (Lucas Glover), Illinois (Points), Oklahoma (Hamilton), BYU (Mike Weir), Ohio State (John Cook), LSU (David Toms), North Carolina (Davis Love III), Kentucky (Holmes), Oregon (Ben Crane), Fresno State (Nick Watney), North Carolina State (Tim Clark) and Washington (Alex Prugh).

Although The Rivalry is still a year away, it has been three years in the making for Goethals.

“The reason I started this is because every time I’d go to the GCAA (Golf Coaches Association of America) convention, there would always be talk about getting our national championship on national TV,” Goethals said. “When I got back from the convention three years ago, I was talking to my wife-to-be (now wife, Janelle), who works in marketing. She said, “Why not get the pros involved and call it The Rivalry?” I liked the idea, and the more and more I got into putting things together and talking with people, the more excited I got about doing it. Now, I’m really hyped about the whole concept.”

Organizers hope the event will have a complete college feel to it, especially being held in the fall, at the height of college football season.

“With the level of world-class players we hope to have, combined with the leading up-and-coming stars of tomorrow in the college ranks, and with the mascots, cheerleaders, bands and a college game-day concept, this will be an event like no other,” Goethals said.

It also may be the perfect prescription for bringing an awareness of college golf to the general public. Sounds like a win-win situation for all involved.

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