Md. Open opened doors for Funk

July 13, 2008|By TIM KOELBLE

Fred Funk has been a member of the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, won eight PGA Tour events, three Champions Tour events and at age 52 continues to be a prominent name in professional golf.

Funk, a Maryland native, was the golf coach at the University of Maryland from 1982 until 1988 as he built toward a full-time gig on the PGA Tour.

Along the way, Hagerstown became a victory stop for Funk when he captured the Maryland Open Championship at Fountain Head Country Club in 1987.

"I have good memories and had a good time playing in Hagerstown and at Fountain Head," Funk said recently. "It was great fun and a great golf course."


Funk remembered the tournament as "not being over until it was over."

His memory serves him well. Webb Heintzelman shot an opening-round 69 to share the lead and Funk opened with a 1-over 71. Heintzelman had a 3-under 67 and led Funk by four shots after the second round with Funk shooting a 69 for an even-par 140.

Funk wasn't to be denied in the final round. He peppered Fountain Head with six birdies, had only one bogey and carded a 5-under-par 65, outracing Heintzelman and winning by seven strokes to collect a $2,200 first-place paycheck.

"Webb and I were friendly rivals and he always got the notoriety because he played so well in section events," said Funk, who lives in the Jacksonville, Fla., area and is extremely involved in charitable events. "Everyone was saying how (Webb) was looking forward to the Kemper Open.

"I said it wasn't over after two days and ended winning by a bit and it was a big deal. At the time, this was a major tournament for me."

Chuck Pessagno, an assistant pro at Beaver Creek Country Club, was the professional at Fountain Head when it hosted the Open for the fourth time.

"I watched Fred for the final 36 holes and I don't remember him missing a fairway," said Pessagno. "He turned it around the final day with birdies on some really tough holes on the back nine. He was a workmanlike kind of guy."

Fountain Head is an old Donald Ross design that has stood the test of time, and even though he's not been back to the course, Funk said probably won't play much different than in 1987.

"It's old school and the kind of course that you have to have control and play for position," he said.

The highlight of Funk's PGA career came in 2005 when he won The Players Championship, at the time becoming the oldest player (48) to win when he endured 33 holes of play on a Monday to outlast Tom Lehman, Luke Donald and Scott Verplank.

That victory earned him a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour.

When he turned 50, he began to split time between the PGA and Champions tours, most recently winning the MasterCard Championship in Hualalai, Hawaii, to open this season. Issues with his knee and back, however, have led him to concentrate on only one tour.

"Playing on two tours is almost impossible and you really find out how tough it is, so I'm going to focus on the PGA Tour for now," said Funk. "I'll have opportunities for a few more years."

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