The 18th-annual Straight Down Fall Classic teed off Saturday with the Pro-Am team of Doug Garwood and Joe Bendetti leading the field with a 63 for a two-shot lead over Tim Fleming and Alan Bratton at the San Luis Obispo Country Club.
When either Garwood or Bendetti had a bad hole, the other had a good one, leading to a combined nine birdies. Six teams are tied for third at 66, including the teams of former world No. 1 Fred Couples and Brad Shaw, and San Luis Obispo native Loren Roberts and teammate Michael Pineau.
Garwood, 51, from the San Fernando Valley, is playing some of his best golf this year. After professional opportunities slipped away from him after his college career he has made a resurgence, landing him on the Champions Tour. His play has put him in the top 30 on the money list, earning nearly $700,000 and full status for next year. Garwood’s game is a unique mix of long and short game, which he uses to great effect. He had to take the hard road to the Champions Tour — after never playing on the PGA Tour — by grinding through mini tours against much younger players.
Garwood relies on a mental freshness that he believes gives him an edge over other Champions Tour players who have become burned out after years on the PGA Tour. He compares his success to a baseball game.
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“Winning and playing well just kind of happens,” he said. “You can’t try to score eight runs. … It works out, you get what you get.”
Garwood prefers not to set goals and rather lives round-to-round, day-to-day.
Dedication and perseverance have been the keys for Garwood’s success as the two-time All-American at Fresno State lost prime golf years to substance abuse. Fifteen years later, under the sponsorship of Lloyd Anderson, he is thriving.
Anderson met Garwood through a mutual friend, who lobbied for Anderson to sponsor Garwood. Anderson’s response? “Well I have to play with him first,” he said.
After a round of golf, Anderson, now 83, decided that not only was Garwood good, he was worthy of sponsorship. Their relationship has evolved to something of a father-son dynamic, with Anderson receiving Father’s Day cards from Garwood.
“If I ever had a son I would want him to be just like (Garwood),” Anderson said.
The tournament concludes today with the first golfers starting at 7:20 a.m. The top golfers should finish around 4 p.m. today.