Fred Funk returns to Central Oregon

Pro golfer won Jeld-Wen Tradition twice at Crosswater

By Zack Hall / The Bulletin / @cogolfguy

If you go

What: Golf clinic hosted by Fred Funk, three-time winner on the PGA Tour

When: 5 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Pronghorn Club; 65600 Pronghorn Club Drive, Bend

Cost: $30 donation to local nonprofit Devin’s Destiny, includes beer, wine and bottled water

Register: 541-317-0077

On the web: www.devinsdestiny.org

The last time Fred Funk was in Central Oregon, he was standing on the 18th green at Crosswater Club hoisting the winner’s trophy for the Jeld-Wen Tradition.

Nearly four years to the day since Funk won the 2010 Jeld-Wen Tradition — which moved from Sunriver Resort to Alabama before the 2011 tournament and was renamed the Regions Tradition — the 58-year-old veteran of the PGA and Champions golf tours will return to Central Oregon.

This time Funk will not be competing against the best senior golfers in the world. Instead, he will be here to host a benefit clinic Tuesday at Pronghorn Club for Devin’s Destiny, a Central Oregon charity directed by Bend resident Rick DeLuca that hosts birthday parties for homeless children in the area.

Nonetheless, he is looking forward to returning to the region.

“I really liked it,” Funk says of Central Oregon. “I loved the golf course (Crosswater). I just loved the way it was designed around that river (the Little Deschutes). I loved both sides, but the front nine weaving in and out of the creek was really neat. The setting, Mount Bachelor in the background and the climate was really good. The cool nights and the really hot days, I really like that. It was fun.”

Before turning 51, Funk had never set foot in Central Oregon. Yet Central Oregon remains a special place for him.

His golf star burned bright in the four years he played in the Jeld-Wen Tradition — a major championship on the Champions Tour that was held annually at Crosswater Club from 2007 though 2010.

The Maryland native won twice in four appearances at The Tradition and dominated Crosswater in a way that no other golfer could.

In those four appearances he combined to shoot 47 under par, by far the best of any player at Crosswater those four years, and he never finished worse than a tie for seventh place.

He posted 19 under in his win in 2008 while not shooting a round higher than a 4-under-par 69, and he was three shots better than anyone else in the field. He also contended until late in the final round of the 2009 Tradition before settling for a tie for fifth place.

“Some guys didn’t like (Crosswater) and called it a little quirky, but I loved it,” says Funk, adding that he believes Crosswater could host another pro tournament one day. “I couldn’t get enough of that golf course.”

Funk was among the elite golfers on the Champions Tour during the Tradition’s run in Central Oregon.

A late bloomer, Funk in 2005 became the oldest player ever to win The Players Championship, doing it three months shy of his 49th birthday.

His peak as a professional golfer continued after turning 50. He split time between the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour, winning a tournament on both circuits in 2007.

“During that stretch back then I was playing really pretty good golf,” Funk says. “I played my best golf between 44 and 52.”

These days, Funk has slowed down considerably while dealing with a litany of nagging injuries that have resulted in multiple surgeries, including a 2009 knee replacement.

This year he paired with Tom Lehman, whom he overtook in the final round of the 2010 Tradition, to win the Legends of Golf team competition. But otherwise he has logged just two top-10 finishes this season.

“It’s been a frustrating year in a lot of regards,” Funk says. “It’s still fun, and when I am playing well it’s a lot of fun. It’s what I want to do. But I don’t enjoy playing poorly and I don’t enjoy playing when I am hurt.”

On his way to play in the Boeing Classic, a tournament that begins Aug. 22 near Seattle, Funk says he still has plenty to share with Central Oregon golfers.

He will get that chance on Tuesday.

The annual event is open to the public for a $30 donation to Devin’s Destiny and includes a question-and-answer session with Funk after the clinic.

“We’re just going to freewheel it,” Funk says. “I’ll give them my knowledge of how I kind of try to work on my game and try to make parallels to other sports and how it works into golf. (I will talk about) how they can improve and maybe get them a little different understanding on how they can work on the game themselves.”

The Devin’s Destiny event has made a habit of attracting some notable tour players.

That list includes Oregon native Peter Jacobsen and former British Open champion Ian Baker-Finch, but none has enjoyed near the professional success in this region that Funk has.

“It will be neat to come back there,” says Funk, who had a reputation for being among the most accessible and friendly pros during the Tradition’s run in Sunriver. “I really love that spot. It’s a beautiful area. I love both the golf course (at Pronghorn) there and the whole facility. It’s really special.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7868, zhall@bendbulletin.com.