By Phil Dailey
For one area golfer, next week’s Farmer’s Insurance Open is more than just another golf tournament, though he will try and tell himself that it’s not.
Anthony Paolucci has made a name for himself already in the golf world as he was named the Rolex Junior Golfer of the Year last fall, an honor designated for golf’s best national player among 12- to 18-year-olds.
Paolucci, who lives in Del Mar, is a senior at La Jolla Country Day and has committed to USC to play collegiately. It was announced last week that Paolucci earned a sponsors’ exemption to play in the event at Torrey Pines Golf Course.
“I had a really good summer in junior golf … and as a local player in the area asking for a sponsors exemption couldn’t hurt,” Paolucci said. “It ended up working out really well.”
Paolucci said he and his father simply crafted an e-mail with his resume and sent it in.
“It’s such a great field, and I knew it was going to be a difficult field to get in,” he said. “I was fortunate to be selected. Obviously I want to play well, but I also want to enjoy the week since this is my first Tour event. Whatever happens, I’m almost in a win-win situation here so just go out and enjoy it.”
Typically, the Torrey Pines event is one of the biggest of the early season as golf’s elite players come together for the first time. This year’s field includes Rocco Mediate, Angel Cabrera, John Daly, Bubba Watson as well as Phil Mickelson and likely Tiger Woods, who has not officially committed, but is expected to play in the event for the first time in three years.
Mickelson, of course, is one of San Diego’s greatest players and has won the event three times. It’s fitting that he will play a practice round with Paolucci, an up-and-comer who just may be the next great golfer in the area.
“That’s going to be a blast,” Paolucci said.
Though he describes his first Tour event as a win-win, there are also some high stakes if he plays well among golf’s best players.
Last season for the Torreys, he demonstrated just how good he is at such a young age.
"He hits the ball a ton, he's got a great short game, but far and a way what stands out is his emotional maturity on the golf course and how he understands the game of golf," said Bill Cahoone, the golf coach at LJCD. "He doesn't really get nervous on the golf course, you don't see him get upset. He's definitely learned those lessons along the way."
One of Paolucci’s goals is to be named to the Walker Cup, which is the amateur equivalent to the Ryder Cup.
A good showing at the PGA level will go a long way in earning that honor.
“It’s just another tournament,” Paolucci said. “If I can think of it like that … if I’ve got a 5-footer for birdie out there, it’s still a 5-footer. There shouldn’t be any more pressure out there because it is a Tour event.”