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Few true legends to go around




My internal applause meter told me Lee Trevino was on the 18th green.

The volume was noticeably higher when Trevino was introduced with his playing partners during the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf last weekend at The Club at Savannah Harbor.

While there were plenty of great golfers playing great golf to go around, those of true legend status were rare. One was Trevino, the self-taught golfer and ex-Marine who burst on the scene in the 1960s and challenged (and defeated) the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. He might be in the World Golf Hall of Fame on personality alone, but has accomplishments to spare over a long and glorious career.

Fans pick favorites based on various criteria, but Trevino's exuberance was contagious in a starched culture. He obviously was having fun out there, and was the type of playing partner we'd want for weekends on the municipal course - sharp of wit, slick with the sticks and first to buy rounds at the 19th hole.

We don't have his game, but we can relate to the man. Who wants to watch for hours in the heat, politely applauding the parade of golf shots, without some sort of feedback from the players? We yearn for acknowledgement for our support - at least a tip of the cap, but preferably something more emotional.

Tiger is Tiger, a cut or more above the competition, but without the fist pumps and the occasional mini-meltdowns, he's a little too perfect and too predictable. What fun is that? We admire the great ones and root for the most compelling ones.

Familiar faces

The 2008 Legends of Golf was an opportunity to personally witness icons from decades of golf fanhood such as Trevino, Tom Watson and Ben Crenshaw. The Demaret Division brought the likes of Lee Elder and Al Geiberger to Savannah.

We need some interaction. I've seen the way spectators are drawn to Fuzzy Zoeller, perhaps hoping for a spontaneous quip or comment they can store away, repeating for years, "Did you hear what Fuzzy did?"

Years ago, I saw fans cluster at greens to watch Chi Chi Rodriguez, praying he would finish with a flourish - sinking a nice putt and then wielding his club like a saber, a trademark move never meant to show anyone up, just to please the crowd. After his rounds, Rodriguez would set up a table outside the clubhouse for the long lines of autograph seekers.

Rodriguez, 72, doesn't play much any more. There are no guarantees future Legends tournaments will see Rodriguez, Nicklaus, Player or Arnold Palmer. So where are the new icons coming from? Who will be the main attractions to infuse star power?

The answer, of course, is in the only factor that is guaranteed: Age. As the PGA Tour's best reach 50, they become eligible for the Champions Tour, which makes no secret of its lifeblood. A list of prospective members, printed in the tour's official 2008 guide, includes Fred Couples (2009), Paul Azinger (2010) and Savannah's Gene Sauers (2012).

There will be familiar names and major champions, but how many "icons" will regularly play on tour into their 50s and 60s? They probably don't need the money or the "grind." I'm not betting on seeing Tiger Woods (50 in 2025) or Phil Mickelson (2020) tee it up in places not named Augusta.

The once colorfully endearing and now just disappointing John Daly turns 50 in 2016. (Take note Liberty Mutual, it's on April 28.) If he can outrun his demons until then, Daly just might have reason to keep playing.

Boo Weekley, more of a true-life "Happy Gilmore" than Daly, is today's man-of-the-people golfer and marketer's dream. The late bloomer will be 35 in July, but made it known that this country boy will be gone fishin' and huntin' as soon as the egg has a big enough nest.

Weekley's 2-for-2 success rate at the Verizon Heritage, played one week before the Legends, could bring him back to Hilton Head Island for years to come. On the outside chance schedules remain the same, in 16 years Weekley could be eligible for the 2024 Legends event. Tournament officials should start courtin'.

 

 

Read more at http://savannahnow.com

 

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