by Jeff Skinner
There will be plenty of butterflies and sweaty palms today as a fresh group of rookies start their season on The PGA Tour at The Sony Open in Honolulu. Waialae Country Club is the scene for the first full field event of the year and while there are plenty of familiar names and faces there are also a bunch of first timers hoping this will be the start of a special season.
Ernie Els, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh will be representing the “old guard” if you will but a 67 year old Dave Eichelberger will truly be the oldest of the old guard. The old pro Monday qualified for The Sony and will be looking to make some major history over the weekend.
The rookies of the 2011 season are an eclectic group indeed. Robert Karlsson, with eleven European Tour wins is the dean of the rookie class at 41. Five time Euro winner Charl Schwartzel is making his tour debut and he’ll be joined by Open Championship winner Louis Oosthuizen. It’s odd to think of these fine, established players as rookies but technically they are. This is the first year they all will play a full season on the PGA Tour.
The rest of the rookies do not carry such a grand pedigree but still offer some interesting players. The most heralded of the youngsters is Jamie Lovemark who was an NCAA Champion and the youngest ever money leader on The Nationwide Tour. Keegan Bradley will be playing in his first ever PGA Tour event and he has some excellent bloodlines: he’s the nephew of Hall of Famer Pat Bradley. South Korean, Bio Kim will be the youngest member of the tour this year, he’s only twenty. Joseph Bramlett is the first African American to make it through Q-school in 25 years. There are many rookies with impressive college career like Kyle Stanley, Michael Thompson, Kevin Kisner, Ben Martin and Kevin Chappell.
The youth movement of the past few years has paid big dividends for the tour. The Tour is even playing up this aspect of “Establishment vs New Breed” with a weekly matchup on its website. Maybe this crop of rookies will make a name for themselves and give the tour a little more juice this season. First they’ll have to hit that nerve wracking first shot. Good luck to them all.