Local golf: Fresno top golfers Watney, Ernst, DeChambeau to play in local tournament

Four of the Fresno area’s more accomplished professional golfers are teaming up for an upcoming fundraiser tournament held in town.

PGA Tour pros Nick Watney, Derek Ernst, Bryson DeChambeau and Mike Springer all will attend the inaugural Gift of Life Golf Classic that runs Nov. 6-7.

The four Fresno pros will highlight the first day of the fundraiser event by conducting an interactive clinic at River Park Golf Center, along with taking photos and signing autographs for fans.

The second day will consist of a round of golf at Dragonfly Golf Club – as well as a golden opportunity for 10 lucky golfers to win $1 million during the Hole-in-One Challenge from 165 yards. A qualifier is held on the first day of the tournament to determine the 10 hole-in-one participants.

Tournament entry fee is $200 per player and $50 for those wanting to only qualify for the Million Dollar Hole-in-One Challenge. Proceeds benefit the Fresno Nephrology Kidney Foundation.

Tournament Director Jon DeChambeau, the father of the former Clovis East High star Bryson DeChambeau, said he’s hoping the Gift of Life Golf Classic will be held annually and fill the celebrity golf tournament void missing since the Save Mart Shootout last was held in 2009, along with the LinkUs Celebrity Shootout in 2010.

We want to bring that Save Mart Shootout-type event back but with a little bit different flavor – a local flavor.

Gift of Life Golf Classic Tournament Director Jon DeChambeau

“I personally believe Fresno is capable of handling a major golf sporting event and that there’s plenty of interest among the public to make that happen,” DeChambeau said. “We want to bring that Save Mart Shootout-type event back but with a little bit different flavor – a local flavor.”

As part of their efforts to help the fundraiser event, Watney, Ernst, Bryson DeChambeau and Springer all waived the typical appearance fee that can run for as much as $50,000 and instead are participating in the clinic for free.

“They just care about Fresno and they care about raising money for local charities and supporting local causes,” said DeChambeau, who added that the tournament is working to bring aboard other celebrity-type personalities from other sports.

Watney, the former Fresno State All-American and nephew of longtime Bulldogs golf coach Mike Watney, sat out the majority of this PGA Tour season because of a back injury. He’s in the process of working his way back for next season.

55th Where former Fresno State golf star Nick Watney ranked on the PGA Tour money list in 2015

Watney has won five PGA Tours, including a World Golf Championship and a FedExCup Playoff event. He ranked 55th on the PGA Tour money list last season.

Ernst, who starred at Clovis East then UNLV, was the 2013 Wells Fargo champion and made 10 cuts in 20 PGA Tour events.

Bryson DeChambeau, a rookie on the PGA Tour, won last year’s U.S. Amateur championship, as well as the 2014-15 NCAA Individual National title. He’s also known for wearing old-school attire, like a Ben Hogan-style cap while playing.

Springer, who lives in Fresno, has played professionally since 1988 and has two PGA Tour victories. Springer currently plays on the PGA Champions Tour.

The general public is invited to attend the fundraiser event with admission free to watch.

The Gift of Life Golf Classic paired with the Fresno Nephrology Kidney Foundation in the aftermath of tournament director Jon DeChambeau being diagnosed with kidney failure in 2014.

The fundraiser event paired with the Fresno Nephrology Kidney Foundation in the aftermath of Jon DeChambeau being diagnosed with kidney failure in 2014.

Upon reading about DeChambeau’s need for a kidney transplant, Mike Watney offered to donate one of his kidneys.

Though DeChambeau and Watney are not a matching blood type, DeChambeau will move to the top of the wait list for a kidney transplant that matches because of Watney’s generosity.

“There’s going to be people who’ve donated at the tournament and maybe others like me who need a kidney,” DeChambeau said. “We want to raise awareness and help any way we can.”

Teeing it up for charity

THE GIFT OF LIFE GOLF CLASSIC

  • Nov. 6: Meet and greet with PGA tour players at River Park Golf Center
  • Nov. 7: 4-person scramble at Dragonfly Golf Club
  • Entry fee: $200 per player
  • Other activities: Hole-in-one final, raffle, silent auction, awards dinner
  • Of note: Pro golfers Nick Watney, Derek Ernst and Bryson DeChambeau expected to attend Nov. 6 events. Proceeds benefit the Fresno Nephrology Kidney Foundation.
  • More information: Contact Jon DeChambeau at 559-706-7715

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