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Pros set to play Bay Area courses; AT&T Pro Am; Bandon Dunes; Langer; SMGA

By Richard Davison (Special to the Index-Tribune)

As mentioned in prior Golf Notes, the LPGA, PGA and Champions Tour will all be in action in Northern California this year, and with the release of the Web.com schedule for 2014 last week, the Bay Area will also showcase the best up-and-coming players.

After a one-year hiatus, the Web.com Tour will return to StoneBrae Golf Club in Hayward for the StoneBrae Championship. A new date, July 31 through Aug. 3, should see the course in excellent shape and playing fast and firm for the 156 players who make up the field.

A new clubhouse at the club, coming in at 32,000 square feet, should be opening in June, giving the players a much more comfortable feel than it did from 2009 to 2012, when the event was last played. Watch for more information on tickets and notables in the field as the event gets closer.

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Only two weeks remain before the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am, which gets underway on Feb. 6.

This year’s amateur field will be without fan-favorite Bill Murray, who is not playing due to the fact that he has a movie coming out that week and he’ll be doing promotional appearances for that (I bet he hates it when work gets in the way).

Still, there will be some other big names trying to make the cut and play all four rounds as an amateur, including Matt Cain, Alex Smith, Aaron Rodgers, Wayne Gretzky (look for him to be paired with future son-in-law Dustin Johnson), as well as Ray Romano. Newcomers this year include Kid Rock and T-Bone Burnett.

On the professional side, joining defending champion Brandt Snedeker will be Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk and two Irishmen, Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell.

For McDowell, this will be the first time back at Pebble since he claimed the 2010 US Open there. For more information, or tickets, go to attpbgolf.com.

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Speaking of Pebble Beach; Sonoma Golf Club’s John McMullin and Tony Marshall will get a sneak-peek of the conditions that the professionals and amateurs will face when they get to tee-it-up at the Pebble Beach Pro-Amateur Invitational next week, Jan. 30 through Feb. 2.

The event will be played over Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill and features some of the best club professionals from across the country.

Marshall got some practice in last week at Bandon Dunes resort and looks to keep up his solid play that saw him fire a 70 at Old MacDonald in the final round at the Oregon resort.

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To say that we had good weather at Bandon Dunes this year would be an understatement. That’s not to say that we didn’t see some rain; it rained on our way up there and poured the first day of play, but it was a small price to play as the remaining three days were sun-soaked.

Unlike prior years, when it either rained all day or was frosty followed by sunny weather, this year saw warm and sunny skies each day.

As much fun as the golf courses are in miserable weather, they are an absolute dream in the great weather.

Standing, looking at the Pacific, with some spectacular waves crashing in, definitely made the eight-hour drive worthwhile.

Now, if we can just bottle that weather up and bring it with us every year!

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The Champions Tour got its 2014 season underway last weekend at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii, but it had a very familiar feel.

German Bernhard Langer walked away with the win after a spectacular final round 64 that included birdies on the 13th through the 17th holes to pull away from fan favorite Fred Couples.

For Langer, it was the start of the year that he needed, after letting several events slip away in 2013. His goal this year was to get off to a good start and put the disappointments of 2013 behind him.

At 56, Langer doesn’t have too many more productive years on the Champions Tour, although he might be in the best shape of anyone on that tour, still looking as he did when he won the Masters for the first time in 1985.

Langer’s quick start gets him to the top of the Charles Schwab Cup points list and on his way to trying to claim the season-long Charles Schwab Cup, which will cumulate in Phoenix Arizona this year.

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The Sonoma Men’s Golf Association is still looking for members for its 2014 season. Membership is $125 and includes membership into the NCGA.

This year’s tournament schedule gets underway Sunday, Jan. 26, at Paradise Valley Golf Club in Fairfield.

Anyone interested in joining can do so by mailing a check to SMGA, PO Box 1502, Sonoma, CA, 95476. For more information, contact rwdavison@yahoo.com or tvmsonoma@att.net.