ORLANDO – It’s good for Christina Langer that her family isn’t the teasing type.
The daughter of Bernhard Langer has competed before in the PNC Father/Son Challenge and was back at it with dad for the 2016 edition looking for her first win. The father/daughter pair played good golf over two days at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Grande Lakes, tying the lead at one point in Sunday’s final round before finishing T-5 at 19 under.
But Bernhard has already won this event with two different partners, sons Stefan (2005, ’06) and Jason (’14). That leaves the perfect opportunity for some sibling ribbing. Yet, the brothers have refrained.
“We’re a very competitive family but very supportive at the same time,” Christina said.
Even if they had mocked her, it’s likely she wouldn’t have cared this week. Langer, 23, couldn’t get the victory with dad – a win would have made Bernhard the first father to capture this event with three different children as well as the first to do so with a daughter as a partner – but she earned a much bigger memory from the week.
During the tournament’s gala dinner on site Friday, Langer and boyfriend Chase De Jong, a 22-year-old minor league pitcher who made the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 40-man roster last month, slipped out to the big Christmas tree in the Ritz-Carlton lobby, ostensibly for a De Jong family photo.
Except there was no family there. And then De Jong peppered Langer with a strange question.
“I asked her if she thought there was anything in the (Christmas) boxes around the tree, and she was like, ‘No, they’re all empty,’” De Jong said.
But the ruse soon became clear, as De Jong then revealed from behind him a black velvet box with an engagement ring inside, asking, “Well, what about this one?”
“I was shocked,” Langer said. “He caught me completely off guard.”
The plan had worked to perfection. De Jong had only let about a half-dozen family members in on his proposal strategy, enough to help him plan while still keeping it a secret. He had thrown his future fiancee off further by telling her previously that they would be engaged soon (before 2017 spring training for sure), but he needed more time. The plan succeeded, and the most important point: She said yes.
— Chase De Jong (@ChaseDeJong) December 10, 2016
Then came the funniest part. The newly engaged couple had to return to the gala to break the news to everyone. It was celebration for family members, but it also produced a humorous situation with two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen and his family, who were sitting at the couple’s table.
“We were sitting with the Janzens and they were like, ‘Oh my gosh, what the heck?’” De Jong said. “I just met Lee Janzen’s wife (Beverly), and I introduced myself as (Christina’s) boyfriend. We left, came back 15 minutes later and I was the fiance.”
Regardless, it was a happy occasion. It was actually a different U.S. Open winner who inadvertently got the pair together in the first place.
Chase’s older brother Blake got married in 2014 to Stacey Jones, who just happens to be the daughter of 1996 U.S. Open champ Steve Jones.
That’s the start of the chain. Vikki Langer, Bernhard’s wife, and Bonnie Jones, Steve’s wife, were chatting at a tournament a couple of years ago when Stacey and Blake came up. Larry Moody, the PGA Tour Champions chaplain, then chimed in, telling Vikki that if she had a single daughter, she needed to meet a young guy.
The wheels started turning in Vikki’s head. Did Blake have a little brother? Bonnie answered in the affirmative.
The matchmaking pair thus began the process of setting up a meeting between little brother Chase and Christina. Chase actually met Bernhard first out of respect, and he got introduced to Christina at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship last November.
Not that the future couple got off to a perfect start.
De Jong actually showed up “completely overdressed” in nice jeans, a sweater and suede boots as he tried to impress Langer in their first time meeting.
She called him on it, noting that the boots in particular would have his feet hurting by day’s end.
“He was like, ‘Oh no, I’ve worn these so many times,’” Langer said.
“I said they were really comfortable. I lied through me teeth,” De Jong added, with a chuckle.
Langer knew best, as De Jong had blisters from the experience and showed up in more athletic attire the next day. De Jong also noted that she was into the golf and he spent more time talking to sister Jackie Langer the first day than Christina herself. But a connection had been made.
A month later, the pair had its first date and was on its way.
By about six or seven months in, De Jong knew how serious this was. It helped that Langer is a golfer’s daughter, as De Jong’s long baseball season meant the couple would be separated for significant periods of time.
Langer, who graduated from Florida Atlantic this year after four years on the golf team, is now a personal trainer based out of Long Beach, Calif. Her job allows a little flexibility in travel, and the pair was able to meet up every few weeks this past season, but it’s certainly a grind. De Jong marvels at how she deals with it.
“Christina understands the travel schedule and she’s adapted to that extremely well,” De Jong said. “She supports me unbelievably well.”
De Jong, a right-hander, has actually played for seven different minor league teams since 2012 but may have a chance at the majors in 2017 now that he’s on the 40-man roster.
Whatever happens, the couple couldn’t be happier.
They’re a good golfing pair, too. Langer may have been a senior co-captain for Florida Atlantic and is still the better golfer, but De Jong is catching up quickly.
The pitcher shoots consistently in the low 80s and has beaten his fiancee twice. Of course it’s doubtful he’ll ever reach his future father-in-law’s level, but that doesn’t really matter when he has his approval.
“I’m very proud of the man (Christina) chose,” said Bernhard, a two-time Masters champion and a 29-time winner on the PGA Tour Champions. “And I think they’re going to have a great life together, they really seem to fit each other very well.”
Christina actually missed the Father/Son the past two years, so this had to be a sweet return. She dropped out in 2014 due to injury, as a bulging and herniated disc left her unable to compete. She would have two back surgeries in February 2015 to fix that. She missed out last year because her 2014 replacement Jason was promised the spot the following year only if he won in Christina’s place, which he and dad did.
But it’s likely Christina felt the most discomfort this year, although it was of the happy kind.
“It took me a while to fall asleep (Friday night),” she said. “I think I was still shaking from the proposal when I woke up Saturday morning. But I woke up, looked at my hand and was like, ‘OK, it happened.’ ”
The couple couldn’t be more excited how everything worked out.
“(The proposal) was everything I wanted it to be and everything she wanted it to be,” De Jong said. “She’s the most amazing person I’ve ever met.”