Strong field gathers for Mitsubishi Electric Classic

PGA Tour Champions event begins Friday at TPC Sugarloaf
Fred Funk interacts with participants at the FCA Gameday Experience at TPC Sugarloaf, April 23. The event was part of the run-up to the Mitsubishi Electric Classic. (Photo by Kate Awtrey-King)

Credit: Photo by Kate Awtrey-King

Credit: Photo by Kate Awtrey-King

Fred Funk interacts with participants at the FCA Gameday Experience at TPC Sugarloaf, April 23. The event was part of the run-up to the Mitsubishi Electric Classic. (Photo by Kate Awtrey-King)

There were 50-plus boys and girls, all dressed in white logoed caddie bibs, surrounding the 10th tee box at TPC Sugarloaf. They were there as part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Gameday Experience, which gave them an opportunity to walk the fairways and interact with two pros while they played a practice round for the Mitsubishi Electric Classic.

As the kids assembled for a group photo, eight-time PGA Tour winner and nine-time PGA Tour Champions winner Fred Funk came bouncing through the yellow gallery ropes and asked, “Can I get in there?”

The ever-amiable always energetic Funk hopped into the front row of the picture and smiled. As the group photo-op ended and the kids moved off to the side, Funk shifted into quip mode.

“When I first came out on the PGA Tour, I was like a Supercharged VW,” said Funk, now 67. “Now I’m a Prius.”

Funk and his practice-round partner, Savannah’s Gene Sauers, both struck their first shots – a handful of the kids succeeded in shouting “mashed potatoes” – and the event was underway.

The FCA event is one of many scheduled this week for the Mitsubishi Electric Classic, which steadily has grown into a fixture on the PGA Tour Champions since its inception in 2013.

Stewart Cink was the main attraction at a pro-am Monday and will serve as the official host of the tournament. Cink, formerly a Sugarloaf resident, is now 50 and eligible to compete in the event.

There are two more days of pro-ams, hosted by leadership guru John Maxwell, that will be contested Wednesday and Thursday. The Georgia State Golf Association will host an adaptive golf clinic Friday, and the First Tee of Metro Atlanta and PGA Tour Superstore will host the Kids’ Putting Experience on Sunday.

And somehow, they’ll find time to squeeze in a golf tournament.

The field includes defending champion Stephen Ames, who joined left-hander Steve Flesch as the only two-time winner of the event. The only past champion not in the field is Bernhard Langer, who tore his Achilles tendon in February and is out for the year. Previous winners Dicky Pride, Scott McCarron, Woody Austin, Olin Browne and Miguel-Angel Jimenez.

Cink, who won the 2006 Open Championship, is joined in the field by other major champions Darren Clarke, David Duval, Retief Goosen, Lee Janzen, Tom Lehman, Larry Mize, Vijay Singh, David Toms and Y.E. Yang.

The field also includes Paul Broadhurst, who won last week’s Invited Celebrity Classic in Dallas and moved up to No. 2 on the Charles Schwab points list. No. 1-ranked Steven Alker, who missed last year’s event, will make his TPC Sugarloaf debut.

“Each year, we’re pleased to be able to showcase such a strong, dynamic field of the game’s greatest legends, and this year’s tournament is no exception,” said Ashley Hamilton, senior tournament director. “We’re looking forward to another exciting tournament week with world-class golf to entertain our fans, as well as a full slate of activities and events sure to engage our community.”

Admission is free for military members and veterans, as well as first responders. Tickets must be reserved at

Classic notes: Jose Maria Olazabal, who made the cut at the Masters two weeks ago, withdrew, as did former PGA champion Rich Beem and Marco Dawson. Getting into the field were 2018 Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn, who earned his way by his tie for third at last week’s Invited Celebrity Classic, Clark Dennis, David McKenzie and David Branshaw.