More than 200 people were in attendance Tuesday at Lakeside GC for the Annual SCGA Youth on Course Golf Tournament, a day filled with golf, dinner, a live auction and fireside chat with 2014 Ryder Cup Captain and eight-time Major winner Tom Watson. Also in attendance were SCGA Hall of Famer Eddie Merrins and former USGA President Sandy Tatum. The event raised more than $150,000.
Youth on Course President Jim Vernon spoke to the crowd early on, describing how much time needs to be invested in the game of golf at a young age.
“$260 per month is what it would cost if you had two children who loved golf, and simply wanted to play and practice just five times per month, but with the Youth on Course Golf Pass the monthly cost drops to just $60,” explained Vernon. He also discussed the many positive aspects that golf has on youth, including that no one sits on the bench.
With an impressive professional career, Tom Watson won five Open Championships, two Masters and one U.S. Open Championship, was a member of four Ryder Cup teams and captained the 1993 team to victory. He is currently a member of the Champions Tour.
In a fireside chat led by former SCGA Youth on Course President Ed Holmes, Watson began by saying, “The reason we’re here is to help people like [Youth on Course Scholar] Desi,” who had spoken earlier in the night.
“Golf is the hook and we always need more opportunities to hook our young people,” he continued.
Watson spoke candidly about some of the great moments of his career, including one when he was 14 years old and won the Kansas City Men’s Match Play Championship. That was the moment that gave him the dream that maybe someday he would turn professional.
He then reflected on the time Byron Nelson entered his life during the 1974 U.S. Open at Winged Foot GC. Watson shot a third-round score of 69 to hold a one-stroke lead over Hale Irwin, but ended tied for fifth after the final round.
“I shot a 79 [in the final round]. I choked my guts out,” laughed Watson. “In walks Byron. He stands there and says ‘Tom, can I speak with you for just five minutes, please?’” They reflected on that tough final round, one filled with bogeys that would move Watson out of contention. But it was an overall performance that impressed Nelson. That’s how the friendship began.
To end the night, Holmes quoted one of Tatum’s many toasts in honor of Watson.
“If you play the game for all that its worth,
if you measure its worth in values that transcend money,
if your object in performance is simply to be the best that you can be,
if your lifelong love affair with the game has done a lot for the lives of others as well as for yours,
if your qualities include adding considerably to the pleasure of others with whom you play,
if the integrity of your golf swing is the reflection of the integrity of your character,
then who you are, in essence, is Tom Watson.”