Golf is the main focus of the Champions Tour’s Big Cedar Legends of Golf tournament this week in Missouri, but the event is also about the outdoors and other activities available in the Ozarks.
There will be 31 two-player teams in the Champions Division and 11 teams in the Legends Division competing Friday through Sunday at the Buffalo Ridge and Top of the Rock courses in Ridgedale, Mo. Top of the Rock is the first par-3 course to be used in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event.
The tournament came to the area near Branson as a result of a collaboration between Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris and three of the game’s top starts, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.
Nicklaus designed the Top of the Rock par-3 course. Top of the Rock, a nature-based heritage preserve created by Morris, also features a practice facility designed by Palmer and a 70,000 square-foot “Himalayan” putting course designed by Watson.
Morris is happy that the tournament is able to focus on more than golf.
“More and more, people are becoming aware of all our beautiful Ozarks region has to offer including world-class fishing, nature and golf.,” he said.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has been involved heavily in the promotion of the event and was Watson’s partner in the pro-am.
“Home to a rich array of outdoor recreational opportunities, Missouri is the ideal location for this world-class competition,” Jay Nixon said. “We look forward to hosting Champions Tour players and fans and showcasing Missouri’s many attractions during this outstanding event.”
Nixon took advantage of the time with Watson to get a little help with his golf game.
“Just slow down, be comfortable, don’t get nervous,” Nixon said of Watson’s advice when it came to golf.
“I used to play a little bit but I don’t get a chance to play much in this job. But it’s great to be outside, especially with all these pros here and all the attention on Missouri and our outdoors economy. It’s really positive.”
The Buffalo Ridge Course will bring players in contact with fields of native grasses. Also players and spectators may see free-ranging buffalo relocated from nearby Dogwood Canyon Nature Park.
“We’re the Show-Me State, and we’re going to show off,” Nixon said. “We are prepared to make this a one-week window into what this state has to offer. We will make sure you will enjoy it, and when you go home the first thing you’ll do is think about coming back.”
In addition to golf, Nixon and other pro-am participants got to enjoy fishing, shooting, archery and other outdoor events.
“We’re bringing not only a golf tournament here, but we’re bringing an element of fun, the shooting aspects, the fishing aspects, the outdoor aspects,” Watson said.
Watson hopes youths will get the message of how important it is to spend time in the outdoors.
“Kids today spend too much time on their phones rather than the outdoors,” Watson said. “I firmly believe that with events like this, we’re going to make a difference.”
Watson’s father, Raymond, got him interested in shooting as a sport growing up, and he still has a strong passion for the outdoors today.
“When I was 7 years old I went out into a duck blind and froze my toes off with my dad, and that was the moment that you know whether your kid’s going to love to shoot or not,” Watson said. “I stayed out there with dad and I learned to love the hunting aspect of life.
“Over the years I’ve done a little bit of shooting. I haven’t done as much shooting as practicing or hitting golf balls, but I’ve tried.”
To reach Tom Smith, call 816-234-4240 or send email to email@example.com.
Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf
WHAT: 54-hole Champions Tour tournament
WHEN/WHERE: Friday through Sunday in Ridgedale, Mo.
PARTICIPANTS: Players expected to compete in the Champions Division include Tom Watson, Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer. Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Jim Colbert highlight the Legends Division for golfers 65 and over.
MORE INFORMATION: Details on tickets and other information are available at bigcedarlegends.com.
Legends of Golf teams
Michael Allen and David Frost
Billy Andrade and Tommy Armour, III
Andy Bean and Mark McNulty
Mark Brooks and Tom Purtzer
Olin Browne and Steve Pate
Bart Bryant and Brad Bryant
Mark Calcavecchia and Steve Lowery
Roger Chapman and Hale Irwin
Russ Cochran and Kenny Perry
John Cook and Joey Sindelar
Ben Crenshaw and Jerry Pate
Joe Daley and Doug Tewell
Steve Elkington and Rocco Mediate
Nick Faldo and Eduardo Romero
Dan Forsman and Mike Reid
Fred Funk and Jeff Sluman
Bob Gilder and Bobby Wadkins
Jay Haas and Peter Jacobsen
Morris Hatalsky and Don Pooley
John Jacobs and Fuzzy Zoeller
Tom Kite and Gil Morgan
Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman
Wayne Levi and Scott Simpson
Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam*
Larry Mize and Hal Sutton
Andy North and Tom Watson
Mark O'Meara and Nick Price
Corey Pavin and Duffy Waldorf
Tom Pernice Jr. and Bob Tway
Loren Roberts and Mark Wiebe
Craig Stadler and Kirk Triplett
(65 and older)
Butch Baird and Al Geiberger
John Bland and Graham Marsh
Jim Colbert and Jim Thorpe
Charles Coody and Dale Douglass
Allen Doyle and Hubert Green
Dave Eichelberger and J.C. Snead
Bruce Fleisher and Larry Nelson
David Graham and Tony Jacklin
Mike Hill and Lee Trevino
Tommy Jacobs and Bobby Nichols
Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player