FROM MY SEAT 

FROM MY SEAT

FORE! Let’s play 18. There are at least that many reasons to embrace this week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic at Southwind’s TPC. While the Redbirds and Grizzlies continue to grow on us, our local PGA stop is now 46 years old and as healthy as ever. With an appropriate nod to its colorful history, here’s a cyber-round for the FESJC. 1) Billy Maxwell won the 1958 Memphis Open at the Colonial Country Club, an event that placed the Bluff City firmly on the still-growing map of professional golf. He edged Memphian Cary Middlecoff for a hefty winner’s check of $2,800. 2) A statue of Middlecoff now stands near the Southwind clubhouse, a fitting tribute to a man who won the 1961 Memphis championship, made 14 consecutive appearances at his hometown event, and was recently named the 20th best golfer in history by The Sporting News. 3) The FESJC knows greatness. Glance at the list of past champions and you’ll find Nicklaus, Player, Trevino, and Norman. Arnold Palmer played here five times, finishing eighth in 1958 and 1968. 4) The FESJC knows Cinderella. Glance at the list of past champions and you’ll find Jerry Pate, Jodie Mudd, Dicky Pride, and Ted Tryba. In eight appearances since his 1994 victory, Pride hasn’t so much as finished in the top 50. 5) This golf tournament is for Memphians, by Memphians. There’s a legion of volunteers who return year after year to make sure the tents are secure, drinks are cold, and “Hush Y’all” is at once a command and a courtesy. And that’s just for the fans. The players are treated like the big-leaguers they are. 6) “I must be in the front row.” Bob Uecker would love the FESJC. Nowhere else in the Mid-South will you find weekend duffers standing within earshot of Hall of Famers like Nick Price during a tournament televised live coast-to-coast. 7) The FESJC knows the record book. Al Geiberger became the first PGA player to shoot a 59 when he torched Cordova’s Colonial during his second round in 1977. In 1996, John Cook shot a PGA-record 24-under-par (189) over his first three rounds. 8) It’s all about the kids. Since 1970 the Memphis tournament has raised more than $14 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (including more than $1 million from last year’s proceeds alone). 9) The timing of the FESJC has never been better. Falling two weeks after the U.S. Open and three weeks before the British Open, Memphis essentially bisects the 2003 Grand Slam schedule. You’ll be seeing golfers aiming for peak form . . . now. 10) Defending champ Len Mattiace captured the brightest spotlight in the game when he capitalized on a stellar fourth round at this year’s Masters to force a playoff with Mike Weir. His rally at Augusta called to mind his charge from seven strokes back on Sunday at the 2002 FESJC. Look for a considerably larger Mattiace gallery this weekend. 11) International starpower. In addition to Price, Germany’s Bernhard Langer made an early commitment from overseas to play the FESJC. A two-time Masters champ, Langer finished second in his two previous Memphis appearances (1989 and 2001). 12) See ball . . . kill ball. Yes, he’s unkempt, and yes, he makes more headlines these days off the course than on, but Big John Daly is still ours. And he still drives the ball more than 300 yards without flinching. Every sport needs a cleanup hitter. 13) Root, root, root for the home team. As if Daly weren’t enough to give the field a local touch, we have Loren Roberts, David Gossett, Vance Veazey, Doug Barron, and Shaun Micheel aiming to keep the winner’s purse right here in the Bluff City. 14) Vijay Singh won’t be here. Sorry to be mean-spirited about this, but I’ve found a guy to root against on the PGA Tour. Considering all the controversy golf has faced over the years in battling racial and social stigmas, Singh has some pair to be an outspoken opponent of Annika Sorenstam breaking a gender barrier at last month’s Colonial. This ain’t football, Vijay. Girls can play too. 15) Money talks. Just ten years ago, the winner’s share of the purse at the FESJC was $198,000. This year’s champ will walk away with a cool $810,000. There’s no such thing as a recession on the PGA Tour. 16) Sweet 16th. The longest hole on the Southwind course - 528 yards, par 5 - is reachable in two for these pros. Which means an eagle or two just might land here (there were eight last year). 17) A national champ in the field. You have to go back to 1998 to find a U.S. Open champ in this year’s field, but Lee Janzen is a nice fit. The two-time winner of the hardest tournament in golf has yet to finish in the top-20 in six Memphis appearances. Here’s hoping he’s on the leaderboard come Sunday. 18) The kids win . . . again. The FESJC is the only tournament on the PGA Tour that features a charity’s name in its title. Do you think the children at St. Jude care who wins? For many of them, a round of golf is but a dream. Since 1970, the tournament has raised more than $14 million for the hospital. That, folks, is worthy of a golf clap. 1) Billy Maxwell won the 1958 Memphis Open at the Colonial Country Club, an event that placed the Bluff City firmly on the still-growing map of professional golf. He edged Memphian Cary Middlecoff for a hefty winner’s check of $2,800. 2) A statue of Middlecoff now stands near the Southwind clubhouse, a fitting tribute to a man who won the 1961 Memphis championship, made 14 consecutive appearances at his hometown event, and was recently named the 20th best golfer in history by The Sporting News. 3) The FESJC knows greatness. Glance at the list of past champions and you’ll find Nicklaus, Player, Trevino, and Norman. Arnold Palmer played here five times, finishing eighth in 1958 and 1968. 4) The FESJC knows Cinderella. Glance at the list of past champions and you’ll find Jerry Pate, Jodie Mudd, Dicky Pride, and Ted Tryba. In eight appearances since his 1994 victory, Pride hasn’t so much as finished in the top 50. 5) This golf tournament is for Memphians, by Memphians. There’s a legion of volunteers who return year after year to make sure the tents are secure, drinks are cold, and “Hush Y’all” is at once a command and a courtesy. And that’s just for the fans. The players are treated like the big-leaguers they are. 6) “I must be in the front row.” Bob Uecker would love the FESJC. Nowhere else in the Mid-South will you find weekend duffers standing within earshot of Hall of Famers like Nick Price during a tournament televised live coast-to-coast. 7) The FESJC knows the record book. Al Geiberger became the first PGA player to shoot a 59 when he torched Cordova’s Colonial during his second round in 1977. In 1996, John Cook shot a PGA-record 24-under-par (189) over his first three rounds. 8) It’s all about the kids. Since 1970 the Memphis tournament has raised more than $14 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (including more than $1 million from last year’s proceeds alone). 9) The timing of the FESJC has never been better. Falling two weeks after the U.S. Open and three weeks before the British Open, Memphis essentially bisects the 2003 Grand Slam schedule. You’ll be seeing golfers aiming for peak form . . . now. 10) Defending champ Len Mattiace captured the brightest spotlight in the game when he capitalized on a stellar fourth round at this year’s Masters to force a playoff with Mike Weir. His rally at Augusta called to mind his charge from seven strokes back on Sunday at the 2002 FESJC. Look for a considerably larger Mattiace gallery this weekend. 11) International starpower. In addition to Price, Germany’s Bernhard Langer made an early commitment from overseas to play the FESJC. A two-time Masters champ, Langer finished second in his two previous Memphis appearances (1989 and 2001). 12) See ball . . . kill ball. Yes, he’s unkempt, and yes, he makes more headlines these days off the course than on, but Big John Daly is still ours. And he still drives the ball more than 300 yards without flinching. Every sport needs a cleanup hitter. 13) Root, root, root for the home team. As if Daly weren’t enough to give the field a local touch, we have Loren Roberts, David Gossett, Vance Veazey, Doug Barron, and Shaun Micheel aiming to keep the winner’s purse right here in the Bluff City. 14) Vijay Singh won’t be here. Sorry to be mean-spirited about this, but I’ve found a guy to root against on the PGA Tour. Considering all the controversy golf has faced over the years in battling racial and social stigmas, Singh has some pair to be an outspoken opponent of Annika Sorenstam breaking a gender barrier at last month’s Colonial. This ain’t football, Vijay. Girls can play too. 15) Money talks. Just ten years ago, the winner’s share of the purse at the FESJC was $198,000. This year’s champ will walk away with a cool $810,000. There’s no such thing as a recession on the PGA Tour. 16) Sweet 16th. The longest hole on the Southwind course - 528 yards, par 5 - is reachable in two for these pros. Which means an eagle or two just might land here (there were eight last year). 17) A national champ in the field. You have to go back to 1998 to find a U.S. Open champ in this year’s field, but Lee Janzen is a nice fit. The two-time winner of the hardest tournament in golf has yet to finish in the top-20 in six Memphis appearances. Here’s hoping he’s on the leaderboard come Sunday. 18) The kids win . . . again. The FESJC is the only tournament on the PGA Tour that features a charity’s name in its title. Do you think the children at St. Jude care who wins? For many of them, a round of golf is but a dream. Since 1970, the tournament has raised more than $14 million for the hospital. That, folks, is worthy of a golf clap.

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