Golf

Importance of getting youths interested in golf is stressed during Watson Challenge announcement

Tom Watson (left) presented the trophy to Chase Hanna after Hanna won the 20015 Watson Challenge at Mission Hills Country Club.
Tom Watson (left) presented the trophy to Chase Hanna after Hanna won the 20015 Watson Challenge at Mission Hills Country Club. Special to the Star

Golf legend Tom Watson fondly recalls his days of playing in junior tournaments or going out to play a few holes with his father while growing up in Kansas City.

Now one of his main focuses is to help grow the game among youths in the Kansas City area.

The Watson Challenge golf tournament was established in 2007 to help raise money for The First Tee of Greater Kansas City, an organization that teaches kids positive values through golf. Over the years, the Challenge has raised over $400,000 for the chapter’s scholarship fund.

Tournament officials announced Friday that this year’s tournament will be contested June 3-5 at Hallbrook Country Club.

Watson said he still looks forward to occasionally playing in PGA Tour Champions events, but he hopes to beat his younger opponents in this year’s Challenge.

One of Watson’s rivals in this year’s Challenge is Chris Mabry, who played in college at Missouri and is now on the staff at Lake Quivira Country Club.

Mabry, the 2015 Midwest Section PGA player of the year, said he looked up to Watson as he learned the game while growing up in this area. Watson said he enjoys helping build the game among youths in Kansas City and surrounding areas so more players like Mabry will come along.

Watson will be involved in two upcoming events to help with that goal.

Saturday, the Kansas City Parks Department and The First Tee of Greater Kansas City will hold a dedication ceremony at 11 a.m. for the newly-named Tom Watson Golf Academy at the Heart of America Golf Course, 7501 Blue River Road in Swope Park. After the ceremony, Watson will hold a free clinic for youth and speak about the The First Tee program and its partnership with Youth on Course to offer affordable access to golf for area youths.

On May 14, Watson will be in Maryville, Mo., for the grand opening of the Watson 9 hybrid golf course that he designed for youths and adults.

Watson said having places like the academy in Swope Park and the nine-hole course in Maryville are important because golfers of all ages often don’t have time to play a full 18 holes.

“We’ve created an arena here for the kids to learn and love the game of golf for the rest of their lives,” Watson said. “Golf is, very simply, a game of a lifetime.”

Tom Smith: 816-234-4240

Watson Challenge

▪ WHAT: The Challenge is a 54-hole tournament designed to determine the best golfer in Kansas City.

▪ WHEN/WHERE: June 3-5 at Hallbrook Country Club.

▪ DEFENDING CHAMPION: Chase Hanna.

▪ TICKETS: They will be available before the Challenge through the Kansas City Golf Association and the days of the event at Hallbrook.

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