Golden Bear coming off first place tie in Greats of Golf
A seven-year collaboration between one of the nation’s most passionate conservationists, Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris, and three of the most successful golfers in the history of the sport has resulted in the creation of a spectacular new golf course that will now host one of golf’s most beloved events, the Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf to be played June 2–8 on the resort’s Par-3 Top of the Rock course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, and the 18-hole Buffalo Ridge Course (formally Branson Creek GC), freshly redesigned by Tom Fazio. This will be the first PGA TOUR-sanctioned event to use a Par-3 Course in official competition.
Top of the Rock, a nature-based heritage preserve created by Morris, also features an Arnold Palmer-designed practice facility with 18 target greens and the remarkable 70,000-square-foot “Himalayan” putting course designed by Tom Watson.
In addition to Big Cedar Lodge, the State of Missouri, Bass Pro Shops and MasterCard will be sponsors of the tournament.
“Big Cedar Lodge should be a wonderful host site for the tournament and I look forward to seeing how Top of the Rock is received by some of the best players in today’s game,” Nicklaus said.
“Johnny Morris has been very passionate during the development of the course, and we’re pleased with the golf experience created. I hope my friends and fellow pros on Tour will find it to be an enjoyable test of golf.”
“The Legends of Golf and Champions Tour both share a history of being innovative and engaging properties, and that legacy will certainly continue here at Big Cedar Lodge with the introduction of a Par-3 golf course in official competition,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. “If there was ever a Par-3 course worthy of PGA TOUR tournament play, Top of the Rock is it. It truly is an outstanding venue and a wonderful complement to the newly redesigned Buffalo Ridge course. We believe the inclusion of this dramatic short course will demonstrate to a time-crunched world that par-3 golf is fun, entertaining, and a worthy alternative for golfers. We thank Johnny Morris, Governor Nixon, and MasterCard for their support of this popular event and are excited to present a refreshing new concept to our players and fans.”
The field will feature two divisions for players age 50–65 and 65 and older. Following Friday and Saturday rounds at Buffalo Ridge and Top of the Rock, all contestants will play at Top of the Rock in the final round. The total purse is $2.75 million.
Gary Player will join Nicklaus in the field’s Legends Division. Other competitors are Butch Baird and Al Geiberger; John Bland and Graham Marsh; Jim Colbert and Bob Murphy; Dave Eichelberger and J.C. Snead; David Graham and Tony Jacklin; Charles Coody and Dale Douglass; Allen Doyle and Hubert Green; Bruce Fleisher and Larry Nelson; Mike Hill and Lee Trevino; and Tommy Jacobs and Bobby Nichols.
Buffalo Ridge has been rated the Number One Public Golf Course in Missouri by GOLF magazine and has been named one of the Top 10 Missouri Courses by Golf Digest for 11 consecutive years. This event will showcase the course for the first time since a major renovation directed by Fazio and Morris. The course will highlight the beautiful Ozarks nature and bring players in contact with fields of native grasses and free-ranging buffalo relocated from nearby Dogwood Canyon Nature Park.
“The Legends of Golf coming to Missouri is great news for this region and for our state,” Governor Nixon said. “Home to a rich array of outdoor recreational opportunities, Missouri is the ideal location for this world-class competition. We look forward to hosting Champions Tour players and fans and showcasing Missouri’s many attractions during this outstanding event.”
“At Big Cedar Lodge you have all the elements to make the Legends of Golf a unique tournament and to show fans that golf, even for professionals at the highest level, doesn’t have to be played on long, 18-hole courses,” Watson said. “I’m proud to have lent a hand in the creation of such a special place and am enthusiastic about Top of the Rock and hope this innovative approach will inspire new golfers, who have limited time on their hands, to take up the game. Families and kids barely have time to consider golf, but a nine-hole par-3 course is a perfect option to get started in the game.”
An important and unique component of the Big Cedar Legends tournament is that it will have two pro-am days featuring multiple sporting events including golf, shooting, archery, and fishing with Legends from these sports scheduled to compete as well.
Another tradition that Nicklaus regularly partakes in is the Greats of Golf exhibition match at the Champions Tour’s Insperity Invitational. Nicklaus teed it up with Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, known as the “Big Three,” to bring home yet another first-place trophy shooting 11-under par in the 2014 event, held in May. It was the Golden Bear’s third consecutive appearance in the match-play event.
“We enjoyed it,” Nicklaus said. “We didn’t make any bogeys, we made a few birdies, and we hit a few nice shots and had a great time. And that’s what this is all about.”
Nicklaus won 10 times on the Champions Tour during his storied career—then known as the Senior PGA Tour—including a record eight senior majors.