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Champions Tour legends promote hunting and fishing

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Do the outdoor sports of golf, tennis and cycling intersect with the outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing? You bet they do. Recreational outdoor pursuits are more important than ever to those looking for a reason to unplug from the Internet and to get outside. The Champions Tour in professional golf just held the first-ever PGA event that included a Par Three golf course, a shooting sports school and a fishing tournament.

Golf legends like Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson were not only playing golf at the Big Cedar tourney, but they were also stressing how the outdoor sports mean so much to them. Colletonian readers may recall that the Legends of Golf Tourney was held the past eleven years in Savannah, but due to a change in sponsorship, the event was moved to the Ozark Mountains of Missouri.

The new title sponsor is Bass Pro Shops of Springfield, and the Big Cedar Lodge and Top of the Rock Par Three golf course are located about an hour south in the hills overlooking Table Rock Lake. Bass Pro owner Johnny Morris designed the Big Cedar area to host an event like this and fans who viewed this inaugural edition came away with a wow factor. The course, the views, the clubhouse, and the can-do spirit were all worthy of note.

The Ozark Mountains are not unlike the Smokies in that they are older mountains that have been weathered by time and are well-forested. This natural setting is where the shooting sports, fishing and golf can all coexist. The tournament program shares that Jack Nicklaus loves to go fishing. Who knew that he landed a grander black marlin while fishing in Australia many years ago? Apparently Johnny Morris knew, and now a full-size mount of that marlin is over the bar at Top of The Rock.

The tournament program also shares that Missouri native Tom Watson enjoys the sport of waterfowling with his son and family when not playing golf around the world. Sir Nick Faldo of England was present, and he talked of fly-fishing back home and how casting was not so different from a golfer swinging a club. Both disciplines require practice in order to produce a successful motion that can be repeated over and over again.

The week began with a special gathering of outdoor VIP’s like Bass Master Kevin Van Dam, freshwater master Bill Dance, and NASCAR’s Richard Childress. They chipped, putted, shot and cast their way around a course of dreams for many outdoorsman. Childress shared that while he knows racing, he’s always tuned in to golf and outdoor shows so that he can pick up useful knowledge to apply in his recreational pursuits. It’s just awesome to see these folks all come together, including the PGA, to show that conservation and the outdoor sports are so important.

The actual pro golf tourney got underway on the weekend with two divisions, separating the age classes from 50 to 65 and 65, and older. Like most other outdoor pursuits, golfers can maintain their game and continue playing later in life. At the end of the rainy weekend of play it was the two-man team of Fred Funk and Jeff Sluman who won the younger division. Sluman won the 2013 event in Savannah, too. In the older division, it was 73-year-old Jim Colbert and Jim Thorpe who took the top spot.

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (385 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com