Hoge pays homage to Pine to Palm as Pebble Beach defending champ
Fargo South graduate Tom Hoge heads into the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am as the defending champion
FARGO — It was another seemingly interesting step in the rising PGA Tour career of Tom Hoge. This week, he was a featured participant in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am pre-tournament press conference, mainly because he’s the defending champion.
He got a wide array of questions, including one on why the Pine to Palm golf tournament that is held every summer in Detroit Lakes, Minn., is such a big deal.
“Well, how much time do we have?” Hoge said with a chuckle. “It’s a very unique golf tournament. The format is the same as the U.S. Amateur, you play 36 holes of stroke play and 64 go into match play, but it’s on a 6,200-yard golf course. To cram that many people on the course throughout the whole week and have a tournament. You’re staying on the lakes of Minnesota, it’s just a fun week that everybody loves up there.”
Hoge won the Pine held at the Detroit Country Club in 2009 and was the runnerup in 2010. The Pine wasn’t the only reference the Fargo South graduate made about his roots.
A TCU graduate and avid Horn Frogs fan, especially in football this year when TCU reached the College Football Playoff national championship game, he was asked if the Horned Frogs’ season was an inspiration to him.
“A little bit,” he said. “I feel like my career has paralleled TCU, being the underdog from North Dakota and TCU being such a small school that we all kind of embrace that chip on the shoulder, we always have something to prove.”
Hoge will be playing in the Pebble Beach event for the ninth time.
“This is a spot that has grown on me over the years,” he said.
There is no discounting that Hoge can’t repeat. In his nine starts so far this tour season, he’s registered three top-10 finishes including a victory pairing with Sahith Theegala in the QBE Shootout in mid-December, although that partner tourney isn’t considered an official PGA Tour event.
“It’s been pretty solid, it feels like I’ve hit the ball pretty well from tee to green,” Hoge said. “Just kind of waiting for that putter to click one of these weeks like it did last year.”
Putting was the key to his breakthrough win at Pebble Beach last year. He was clutch down the stretch with three birdies in his final five holes.
Hoge goes into Pebble Beach 15th on the FedExCup standings, which is the path to qualifying for a high standing in the PGA Tour Championship. He’s 29th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
“It’s taken me so long to get here that I have a better appreciation for it,” Hoge said. “Not to say that I’ve peaked, I certainly hope I can do more good things in this game, but I know I’ve climbed that ladder pretty well and now it’s trying to stay right there.”