Milburn Country Club is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and one of the highlights will be playing host to the 2017 Watson Challenge.
Officials announced Wednesday that the 11th annual event to determine the best golfer in the Kansas City area is set for June 9-11 at the club in Overland Park.
Watson, 67, said he helped start the event in 2007 because he noticed a lull in the spirit of the game in the Kansas City area.
Watson said the event has raised interest in amateur and Midwest Section PGA events in the area since golfers who compete in those events have a chance to qualify for the Watson Challenge.
“It has created a better golf environment, more participation, more excitement about golf in Kansas City,” Watson said.
Rob Wilkin, the head professional at Heritage Park in Olathe, is the defending champion. He won the event last year at Hallbrook Country Club.
Wilkin, who has played in numerous United States Golf Association and PGA events during his career, said the Watson Challenge has become one of his favorite events of the year.
Wilkin proudly sat in front of the Watson Challenge trophy Wednesday, and Watson noticed that it had a nice shine.
“I’m going to try and get it back in June,” Wilkin said. “It has been in my front room for the better part of a year and I want it back.”
Watson, the Kansas City golf legend who has 39 PGA Tour and 14 PGA Tour Champions victories to his credit, said he has many good memories of playing at Milburn.
He played in local tournaments on the course as a youngster, including when he won the 1971 Missouri Amateur, and he won the second Watson Challenge at Milburn in 2008.
Watson said he likes the way the course is set up today. A key to success on the course, he said, is to be able to hit the ball straight.
“It has some great finishing holes,” Watson said. “It’s a really fine test of golf.”
The Watson Challenge benefits The First Tee of Greater Kansas City. In its first 10 years, the Watson Challenge raised more than $600,000 for the youth program.
Tom Smith: 816-234-4240
The Watson Challenge
When/where: June 9-11 at Milburn Country Club in Overland Park
The field: 48 golfers from the area will participate
Tickets: They are available before the event through the Kansas City Golf Association offices and the days of the event at Milburn Country Club