BARRINGTON – Local legend Billy Andrade knew he and playing partner Bill Haas slowly had been creeping up the leaderboard at this 15th annual CVS Caremark Charity Classic on humid Tuesday, but never knew just how close they were to the front-runners, the duo of Steve Stricker and Bo Van Pelt.
When Haas knocked down a 10-foot birdie putt on the 452-yard, par-four 13th to move he and Andrade to 19-under, the board just behind the green indicated they had sliced the gap to a mere shot.
“I didn't know because we have beautiful scoreboards on the front side, but they weren't being utilized for whatever reason,” Andrade, the tournament co-chair with buddy Brad Faxon, grinned near the 18th green at his forever Rhode Island Country Club home. “We didn't know how we were doing, but we figured we were close.”
Haas canned another birdie try on the shorter, par-four 14th, and Andrade, now at minus-20, believed they were in business, until …
With the team of Andrade-Haas preparing to tee off on the par-three 17th, a massive crowd following Stricker and Van Pelt on No. 16 sent out a roar that could've been heard from Barrington High School, and it came in response to an apparent “shot for the ages.” Stricker had just dropped a 121-yard wedge into the cup.
Two pars later, that miraculous eagle left the tourney newcomers not only with a phenomenal 13-under 58 for the day, but also the 2013 title with a new Classic record of 25-under 117. (The previous mark of minus-24 had been set by 2011 CVS champions Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar).
The Andrade-Haas pairing settled for runner-up honors with a 10-under Tuesday showing and a minus-21 (121) for the event.
With their four-shot victory, Stricker and Van Pelt also nailed a new tourney mark for the most decisive triumph.
“When Steve dumped the eagle on (No.) 16, we knew it was over,” Andrade smiled afterward.
Stricker seemed more stunned than anyone.
“This is the first time Bo and I have teamed up on anything, and I thought we just carried each other when we needed to,” he stated while fans were clamoring for his autograph. “We supported each other. I'm sorry I haven't been here before, because this was a lot of fun. Teaming up with another PGA player (in a best-ball format) isn't something we usually get to do, so this (event) is unique.
“I don't know how we got to this point,” he added. “We had a good feeling for the course, and we carried each other at times. We really 'ham-and-egged' it (Monday), so we wanted to play well (Tuesday).
“I had a great time; my (16-year-old) daughter was caddying for me for the first time, and it was all so we could just be together. She's getting more and more into golf, so it was good for her to be here watching the swings. It was a real treat for her, and for me, too. Hey, she's 1-for-1 caddying for me.”
When asked if he'd tip her well, Stricker beamed, “Oh, yeah!”
Champions Tour representative Jay Haas and LPGA favorite Morgan Pressel teamed up for a 10-under 61 on this final day and mustered a 19-under 123, while the ever-popular Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson dipped to 64 and an 18-under total of 124.
“Man, this was fun!” Van Pelt beamed after accepting the tournament trophy and a $300,000 check he will share with his partner. “We got on a roll early (Monday), and we got off to a good start (Tuesday). This is really fun. As young pros, we used to see this tournament on television and it seemed like a good time.
“My hat's off to Brad and Billy for creating this thing; it's all for local charities, and it's so great they can do that.”
The Van Pelt-Stricker combo picked up where they left off from Monday, piling up birds on their initial six holes, then eagled the 516-yard, par-five eighth when Stricker reached the green in two and sank a 30-foot curler for eagle to put it at 20-under.
They then manufactured birdies at the 12th, 13th and 14th holes before Stricker's remarkable wedge at the 16th. (That also earned the team the lone skin of the day, worth $25,000).
“They played really well, and made a lot of putts” noted Fowler, who with Watson watched with awe how Van Pelt and Stricker tamed the links. (Fowler last played here in 2010 with Faxon). “It seemed like if one guy was out of a hole, the other picked him up. When Steve holed out for 'two' (on the 16th), I just thought, 'There's another one.' We weren't all that surprised, not the way they were playing.
“This is a great event and a great course; it's quite a location,” he continued. “It was a little warm, but still a good time. It's got a good feel to it. (Rhode Island) seems like a fun place to hang out.”
As for Andrade-Haas (who was teamed with Pressel and Haas' dad Jay), they began their round at 11-under, but managed a birdie on the first before turning it up a notch. They followed with birds at the fifth, sixth, eighth, 10th and 11th to push them to 18-under.
The younger Haas also dropped a 28-footer on the 17th to move he and Andrade to minus-21, but there was no overcoming Stricker and Co. Still, the duo earned the $200,000 second-place prize. The teams of Faxon-Jeff Sluman and Juli Inkster-Russell Henley tied for fifth at 16-under 126; both took home half of the $125,000 awarded each.
“I just watched, as Bill was absolutely phenomenal; it was a pretty awesome watch, actually,” Andrade chuckled later. “I had one (birdie) at the ninth, but he did the rest. I'm not that surprised with the low scores; when it's this hot, the shots go further, and the golf course plays very short.
“Everyone had a great time; everyone had smiles,” he continued. “That was unbelievable play by Steve and Bo. They just shut the door with that eagle on 16.
“This is a win for us and a win for them. Sure, it's a charity event, and these players don't have to come, but they want to. They're walking out of here with a little pocket change, so it's not like they're coming out of this without anything.”
After the post-tourney awards ceremony, Faxon and Andrade addressed the overheated but entertained crowd.
“Thank you all very much for coming out; you really are great fans!” Faxon stated.
Andrade followed suit, “We'll see you all next year!”