Above, Tom Pernice Jr. and his caddy watched his drive from the first tee in last year’s classic.

This year’s pro-am field will feature Mike Stoops and Rich Rodriguez.

Conquistadores Classic a loaded field

The field for the second Tucson Conquistadores Classic won’t include Champions Tour fan favorite Fred Couples this week — he has chosen to rest his aching back for next month’s Masters — but all of the tour’s other headline names are back: Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie, Rocco Mediate, Tom Lehman, Lee Janzen, Mark O’Meara, you name it.

The Conquistadores gave an exemption to Tucson pro Ronnie Black and put ex-Arizona Wildcats Don Pooley and Dan Pohl on the list of alternates; a withdrawal means Pooley is already in the field. The field also includes 1980s UA standout Mike Springer, 50, who will be making just his third Champions Tour start, and ex-Sabino High state champion Willie Wood.

The pro-am field will feature Mike Stoops and Rich Rodriguez. They’re not freebies, either. It costs $3,500 to play in the pro-am. Stoops is a good golfer; he has played at Augusta National and has a single-digit handicap. RichRod is, shall we say, a full-time football coach.

In some ways, the Champions Tour event at Tucson National has already been a success. Last week, the Conquistadores played host to an outing for Special Olympics golfers at the El Rio Golf Course. It was terrific to see Pooley, the 2001 U.S. Seniors Open champion, among those helping the Special Olympians. Pooley has been a regular as these events since the 1980s. On Monday, he carried his PGA Tour bag and played in the four-hole event.

It’s unfortunate the Tucson Conquistadores Classic sometimes gets lost opposite the opening week of the NCAA Tournament, but it’s a first-class event and Tucson’s last remaining link to big-time pro sports.