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Kirk Triplett ready for title defense at Hoag Classic golf tournament

Kirk Triplett gestures to the crowd after defeating Woody Austin to win last year's Hoag Classic at Newport Beach Country Club.
Kirk Triplett gestures to the crowd after defeating Woody Austin to win last year’s Hoag Classic at Newport Beach Country Club.
(Drew A. Kelley)

Kirk Triplett has been playing golf at Newport Beach Country Club for a long time.

The 57-year-old, who was born in Washington and lives in Arizona, remembers playing in the old Crosby Southern Pro-Am event there in the late 1980s.

He will return to Southern California and the Newport Beach Country Club in a few days. When he does, he’ll be defending his title at the annual Hoag Classic, a PGA Tour Champions event. The three-day tournament begins Friday.

Triplett sank a 12-foot eagle putt to win the tournament last year following a two-hole playoff with Woody Austin. He finished the weekend with a 10-under-par total of 203.

“I’ve always enjoyed being in that area, so I’m really looking forward to coming back as the defending champion,” said Triplett, who won twice on the tour last season. “I’m pretty excited, at 57, to have a little resurgence. It seems like a lot of times, guys play pretty good from 50 to 55, then kind of hang on for a few more years. I’m hoping to remain competitive and get a couple more good years out of it. That’s why we’re playing at this point, to try to be in contention and have a chance to win.”

Another impressive field is lined up for the Hoag Classic, which has an overall purse of $1.8 million and first-place prize of $270,000. The tournament is in its 25th year overall and 22nd year being managed by Hoag. It features names like Newport Beach resident Fred Couples, John Daly, Vijay Singh and Mark O’Meara. Couples won the tournament in 2010 and 2014, and Singh triumphed in 2018.

In addition, newcomers like Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, who recently turned 50 and became eligible for the tour, are scheduled to compete.

Long Beach native Paul Goydos, who tied for fifth at the Hoag Classic last year, said he hopes to be cleared to play as he deals with an arthritic condition in his sternum.

“On the golf course, there’s no big advantage, there’s no style of play that really stands out there,” said Goydos, who now lives in Rancho Santa Margarita. “If you play good, you can be competitive there, if you’re a short hitter, long hitter, straight hitter, whatever. It’s a very fair golf course to play.”

Tournament week kicks off with a pro-am Monday, which is not open to the public. Tuesday morning is the annual Breakfast with a Champion, while the Legends pro-am takes place on Wednesday and Thursday and is open to the public.

Each day of the tournament also features a different theme. Saturday is Military Appreciation Day, when all active duty, military reserve, national guard, military retirees and veterans — and up to three of their guests — will be honored with complimentary admission and food and beverage.

Sunday is Student Day, and all students 18 and under will receive complimentary admission and can enjoy the Kids Fun Zone.

Jeff Purser, executive director of the Hoag Classic, said he’s looking forward to another successful weekend of golf.

“If you look at the fields historically, throughout the entire Champions Tour year, ours is one of only one or two tournaments that really rival the majors,” Purser said. “In some cases we’re better than the majors, because we’ll get some guys that really aren’t as competitive anymore, but will still come play here. It’s gratifying when players love to come back and keep coming back.”

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