It's a field of dreams

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

One of the best players of all time, one of the hottest, one of the most courageous, and one of the funniest.

Those will be the headliners this year when the Blackhawk Tour Challenge returns to Edmonton this summer.

Peter Jacobsen, back to host an event that was wildly successful the first time around, is joined by three new playing partners - Tom Watson, Paul Azinger and LPGA sensation Natalie Gulbis in the Aug. 14 exhibition and clinic.

"We talked to Peter today and he was really excited about the group that we were able to put together," said Blackhawk managing partner Al Prokop.

"Tom Watson is one of the greatest players of all time. A multiple major champion who was the leading money winner on the Champions Tour last year. He's still playing really great golf."

A HALL OF FAME LEVEL

Watson alone lifts the exhibition into a Hall of Fame level. The 39-time winner on the PGA Tour, including eight major championships (five British, two Masters and a U.S. Open) also has eight wins on the Champions Tour since 1999, including two Sr. British Opens and a Sr. PGA title. The best links player of all time is currently fourth on the Champions money list.

"We're really happy to be able to land him," said Prokop. "He's a pretty significant player in our minds."

The other two aren't exactly slouches, either. Azinger is a 12-time winner, including the 1993 PGA Championships. He's also won a Tour Championship, a Memorial and the 2000 Sony Hawaiian Open, but his most significant accomplishment might be the 1995 Ben Hogan award he received for his inspirational fight against cancer.

He's only a part-time player these days, spending the rest of his time in the ABC booth, but he can still get it up and down; last year he was one stroke off the lead through 54 holes of the Sony Open.

"Paul is very outgoing and opinionated, which comes out when he's doing the colour on ABC. And he's being touted as the next Ryder Cup captain after Tom Lehman this year, so it'll be good to have him.

"It's kind of fitting that he'll be here because the week he's here is the week of the PGA, which he's won. So he'll be going from here to compete in the PGA."

Gulbis, 23, is one of several young guns that have become the new face of the LPGA. Sexy and talented, she is on virtually every piece of promotional material they have. She already has her own TV show and was a key player in America's Solheim Cup win last summer.

"She's a big up-and-comer, very popular," said Prokop, who wanted a new cast for this year's event, even though last year's inaugural show with Jacobsen, Fred Couples, Craig Stadler and Stephen Ames was such a hit.

A FRIEND SAID ...

"A friend of mine always told me that in the entertainment business it's typically not a great idea to bring back your headliner two years in a row.

"Freddie is so popular with everybody, but I think the quality of the players this year is every bit as good, and bringing Natalie in brings a whole new perspective to it. It gives people an idea how good these young LPGA stars are. It should be a pretty entertaining event."

They limited tickets to 2,000 last year (at $99 each) and will probably cut back a little this time.

"Not that there was too much crowd, we just want to make sure we give everybody a good opportunity to see the players up close."

Tickets will go on sale later this summer, with proceeds going to the Caritas Hospital Foundation.


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