Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf

Whispers, the first tee starter, greets every player and announces to the crowd, “Let’s give them a sweet Savannah welcome” and everyone does just that all week. Savannah opens its arms, homes and restaurants, the hospitality is unbelievable and the Liberty Mutual Legends of golf has been coming here since 2003. Doug Tewell was the defending that year and it was nice to be back together, the golf wasn’t very good but the reminiscing was fun.

Savannah Harbor Resort and Spa occupies the north side of the river across from downtown, and despite the “no-seeums” it’s a great links style course, perfect for the old-timers, new young guns, and accommodates the nice crowds. The field has been watered down a bit over the years and we know play a team event for official money but its fun watching the gallery follow their favorite legends. Starting Monday there are players from eighty to fifty years old teeing it up and competing like the good old days, but most important they’re out having fun with old friends. Golf really keeps folks together like no other sport.

I find myself hanging out around the clubhouse gathering autographs from Gary Player, Lee Trevino, and Fred Couples something I normally don’t do each week. The old caddies and players hang out, sit around telling stories, giving each other a hard time along with some hugs. A lot of guys you only see this week it is more like a reunion than a tournament. The best reunion this week was the Ken Green – Mike Reid pairing and it over shadowed every other story.

Ken lost his girlfriend, brother, dog, and leg in a motor home accident less than a year ago. Nobody expected him to play golf again but he was here hitting lovely 150 yard five irons perched on a prosthesis. He never was a favorite of many; his brashness used to be a bit over bearing, but when he walked off eighteen each day there was a group of players, caddies, press, and spectators greeting him with admiration. I watched one day as the press surrounded him and he answered questions with a smile for almost an hour. His story is tragic yet inspirational.

Like I said the hospitality is great, especially for me. Sixteen years ago I met Joe and Kathleen Boggs in Pinehurst, NC, they know live in Savannah and they built me a nice little spot above their garage. Its home for the week and I get to spend a lot of time with their kids, Liam and Shea, plus get a home cooked meal every night. You can’t beat it. Shea actually attended The Legends when she was three days old and it was fun to watch them wander the course Saturday afternoon.

It was great to be back with Doug and his wife Pam for the week. I’ve been working with Doug off and on since 1989, they are wonderful people, but Doug hadn’t played competitively for three years and it showed. The heart was willing but the game wasn’t quite ready for competition. We made some adjustments, tried to hit a little extra club each shot, but we struggled hitting long irons or utility clubs into most greens. There were a few gems and we helped our partner Bob Gilder a couple of shots each day but it wasn’t the same as those tournament winning years 1999 – 2005. There were occasional sparks but no continuous fire all week but we had fun despite the high scores and nasty weather.

Our opening round 66 gave us some inspiration but we floundered a bit on the weekend and finished thirteen under deep back in the pack. The only respite was the caddy hospitality tent where each day a local Savannah restaurant catered a mass of starving caddies. Paula Dean of Food Channel fame served up a Southern country style meal early in the week and when the word got out players, tour officials, volunteers, and a few vagabonds were looking for the caddy chow line. We’re not used to this, kudos go out to Brian Goin and his Championship Management team for the southern hospitality.

Liberty Mutual has been sponsoring the Legends since its inception, 1980 I believe, and it has been bouncing around a bit. Hopefully it has found a home in Savannah, everyone loves everything about the week, the complaints are minimal which is unusual among players and caddies, and the sponsors do a great job of entertaining their corporate guests. The players put on a good show and everyone thoroughly enjoys the atmosphere surrounding this tournament across from the quaint little harbor town.

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