Rob Oppenheim needed a big performance last week at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Fortunately, he had Bill Belichick in his corner.
Oppenheim, a 37-year-old journeyman golfer from Andover, had to finish in the top 10 at Pebble Beach to earn a spot in this week’s PGA Tour event, the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club. Oppenheim finished 26th on the Web.com Tour money list last year, missing out on a PGA Tour card by one spot and $392, and anything lower than a top 10 last weekend would have placed him instead in a Web.com Tour event in Panama.
Oppenheim finished tied for eighth, shooting 9 under par to clinch that spot at Riviera and bring home a nice $216,000 check. And he gives a lot of credit to Belichick, who was in Oppenheim’s foursome for the first three days of the AT&T Pro-Am.
“The energy was so good from winning the Super Bowl,” Oppenheim said by phone from Los Angeles Monday night. “It was just good energy.
“Everyone was happy, he was in a good mood, and I think things would have been completely different if it went the other way. I don’t see myself having the success I had in the tournament if the Patriots would have lost.”
The last three weeks have been quite memorable for Oppenheim, a veteran of the Canadian Tour, Cleveland Tour, Hooters Winter Series, and Moonlight Tour. He found out about two weeks before the Super Bowl that he would be playing with Belichick from Pebble Beach CEO Bill Perocchi, a close friend and fellow New Englander. The foursome also included Perocchi and pro golfer Ricky Barnes, whose father, Bruce, was a punter for the Patriots in the 1970s.
Once Oppenheim learned he would be playing golf with Belichick for the first time, he knew he also had to get tickets to his first Patriots Super Bowl. He met up with three friends in Houston and watched the Patriots pull off the biggest comeback victory in Super Bowl history, erasing a 25-point deficit to win, 34-28, in overtime.
Witnessing the Patriots’ amazing victory was thrilling enough for Oppenheim. But playing golf with Belichick four days after the big game, and getting to pick his brain about how the game unfolded, was an experience Oppenheim will not forget.
“Obviously you don’t want to ask too many things or get too in-depth, but he was pretty open,” Oppenheim said. “I know how sometimes he can look kind of closed off to the media, but he couldn’t have been a better guy to play with and to talk to and play 54 holes with.
“It’s just fun to listen to him talk about how the [Dont’a] Hightower fumble was a big turning point in the game. We see that, but does he see that? It was just nice to hear his perspective. It wasn’t different than anything that everyone else saw, but it’s great hearing it from him.”
Oppenheim joked that asking Belichick about football was like a 20-handicap weekend hacker talking to him about golf. He was mostly impressed by Belichick’s attention to detail.
“He’s telling me a regular halftime is 12 minutes, but then the Super Bowl halftime is 29 minutes,” Oppenheim said. “Just how much they prepared differently for different parts. Every little detail he’s aware of and the team’s ready for.”
Barnes and Belichick shot 13 under through 54 holes and didn’t make the pro-am cut, but Oppenheim was impressed with Belichick’s game nonetheless. Belichick remarked that he hadn’t touched a golf club since last July, and playing three days in a row on three challenging courses — Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, and Monterey Peninsula — certainly isn’t easy.
“He progressively got better as the week went on,” Oppenheim said. “The first day was probably 55 degrees, windy, cold, some rain. Wasn’t the easiest conditions. We threw every element at him.”
But Belichick seemed to enjoy the experience. Oppenheim said the coach stopped several times to autograph footballs and other items for fans.
“He was an absolute rock star out there,” Oppenheim said. “In front of us was Mark Wahlberg and Larry Fitzgerald, and behind us we had Bill Murray, but no one was more popular than Belichick that week as far as people yelling for him.
“On probably half the holes or even more, people were chanting, ‘No days off! No days off!’ It was great, and he embraced it very well.”
Sure, Oppenheim qualified for another PGA Tour event and earned a nice check, but playing three rounds with Belichick was by far the highlight.
“We got some good pictures,” Oppenheim said. “There’s no question that if the Patriots lost the Super Bowl, the atmosphere in the group would not have been the same.
“Everything was fun, and we had a blast out there, and I think it kind of helped me play well. It was definitely a week I’ll never forget.”