San Francisco City champion Charles Porter (AmateurGolf.com photo by Pete Wlodkowski)
by Stephen Langsam
MONTEREY, Calif., Jan. 31, 2023 – A sponsor exemption on the PGA Tour has the potential to give golfers a once-in-a-lifetime experience they might not otherwise be able to enjoy. Charles Porter, 23, is one such shining example at this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Porter is a San Francisco native and a long-time First Tee San Francisco and Youth on Course participant. Thanks to a sponsor exemption, Porter, who turned pro in 2021 and is now a member of Korn Ferry Tour, will be part of the 2023 professional field.
“For my entire life, I have obsessively watched the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and have dreamed of earning my way into the field,” Porter said. “Last year, I was fortunate enough to be a spotter from Wednesday through Friday on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach. Being that close to the action was both exhilarating and inspiring to one day compete in the event.”
Porter, who stands out on the golf course with his 6-foot-7 frame, will now get a chance, as he says, “to compete against the best players in the world.” Raised in government housing with his six older siblings, Porter was introduced to golf by his father and First Tee-San Francisco, while also playing in Youth on Course.
“I strongly believe I am the living embodiment of the Youth on Course mission statement — to provide youth access to life-changing opportunities through golf,” Porter said.
Although he couldn’t afford to play in many junior golf tournaments, Porter seized the opportunities when he got them. In 2020 alone, he captured both the San Francisco City Championship and the Contra Costa Amateur, plus qualified for the California State Amateur.
Thanks to the help of a private sponsor, Porter entered the 2022 Korn Ferry Qualifying School and qualified on his first attempt, one of only eight golfers to do so.
“Not every sponsor exemption will change someone’s life,” said Steve John, CEO of the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, host of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. “But in the case of Charles Porter, it has just that potential. This is a young man who in 2021, his first professional season when competing with no financial sponsor, had to work three jobs while taking care of his ailing father. Charles stands for everything this tournament is about and is beyond deserving of a sponsor exemption.”
Four international players on the PGA Tour also have earned sponsor exemptions:
- Geoff Ogilvy. The 2006 U.S. Open Champion, the Australian-born Ogilvy took a four-year break from the Tour to concentrate on his charity foundation and course design firm OCM. The 45-year-old is again ready for competition.
- Ben Silverman. The Canadian-born Silverman, 35, capitalized on a similar exemption last week when he captured the Korn Ferry Tour’s Bahamas Great Abaco Classic in a playoff.
- Marcel Siem. The 42-year-old German is a four-time winner on the European Tour.
- Paul O’Hara. Born in Scotland, O’Hara, 35, is the No. 1 PGA player on the U.K. and Ireland tours for the past six years.
Two collegiate players making their professional debut at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am are RJ Manke and Garett Reband. Manke, a former player at Pepperdine and University of Washington player, was voted the Pac-12 Player of the Year in 2022 and finished off the year as an NCAA First Team All-American. Reband, the former captain of the University of Oklahoma golf team, won a national championship while playing in college and gained First Team All-American honors.
John Pak, a Florida State University graduate who made his professional debut in 2021 and played two weeks ago in the PGA Tour’s American Express event, also has earned a sponsor exemption.
The four-day tournament tees off Thursday with play on Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Course, and Monterey Peninsula Country Club’s Shore course. The tournament will be broadcast by Golf Channel, CBS, and PGA TOUR LIVE, and aired on PGA TOUR Radio. Fans also can follow on the tournament’s social media channels: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
For more about the Monterey Peninsula Foundation and opportunities to give, visit www.montereypeninsulafoundation.org.