Blake Trimble ‘09, a communications major who played for the USD golf team from 2007-09, gained entry into the event through an exemption invitation. Gunner Wiebe ‘11, a communications studies major who currently plays on the USD golf team, is the lone amateur in the tournament field.
Wiebe (pictured, top right) beat out 100 other golfers, including USD golf coach Tim Mickelson, in a qualifying event. Wiebe beat Mickelson in a very close 18-hole, head-to-head playoff on Dec. 5 when he birdied the final hole.
“I knew I had a chance to win if I played well. When it came down between coach and me, I knew it was going to be a battle. It means a great deal to both of us and we were both very deserving of the exemption,” he said. “Coach is a very good player and I knew it was probably going to come down to the wire. Obviously the (final) result was exactly what I had hoped. It has been a lifetime dream of mine to play on the PGA Tour and this will be my first tour event which is very exciting.”
Mickelson, who in recent years has played in the USGA’s U.S. Mid-Amateur tournament when not coaching the Toreros’ golf program to West Coast Conference and NCAA success, took the defeat in stride. “I’m really excited for him to get the opportunity and it’s a chance to jump-start his career. I look forward to seeing what happens.”
Due to the large number of players, Torrey Pines utilizes both its North and South courses for the first two rounds of play. Trimble will start from the No. 10 tee on the North Course at 10:20 a.m. Thursday and from the No. 1 tee at 9:10 a.m. on the South Course on Friday. Wiebe tees off on the South’s No. 10 tee at 10:30 a.m. Thursday and from the North’s No. 1 tee at 9:20 a.m. on Friday. Both players will advance to weekend play — exclusively on the South Course — if they make the cut following Friday’s round.
Playing in the tournament is a big step for both golfers. Trimble (pictured, bottom right) lives in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. The Torrey Pines High School graduate attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and played golf there for two years before transferring to USD. He and Wiebe were teammates on the Toreros’ 2009 team that finished 13th at the NCAA National Championship Tournament.
Despite it being Wiebe’s first PGA tournament, the Denver, Colo., native is no stranger to the tour. His father, Mark, enjoyed a long career on the tour and won two tournaments. Mark Wiebe currently plays on the PGA’s Champions Tour.
“My dad has been very influential in my golf career. He has served as a great role model and has also been my teacher since I was a kid,” said Wiebe, who phoned his father from the golf course moments after earning the amateur spot. “The best advice he has given me is just him telling me that I am every bit as talented but to learn from the players that I will play with and go out and try to win.”
Wiebe hopes to create a legacy of his own as he competes against some of the best golfers in the world. This week’s tournament features top golfers such as Robert Allenby, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson, Tim’s older brother. Wiebe will try to become the first amateur to make the weekend cut since Charley Hoffman did it in 1996.
“I have some things I need to improve on, but I am on my way toward following in my dad’s footsteps and hopefully creating footsteps of my own,” Wiebe said. ”It has been a lifetime dream of mine to play on the PGA Tour and this will be my first PGA Tour event which is very exciting.”
— Justin Saks, USD Athletics
Ryan T. Blystone contributed to this story