A GUY LIKE DANA QUIGLEY doesn't worry about which Champions tour
events to enter. For the past 6 1/2 years he's played in all 30
of them, setting a record by making 245 consecutive starts.
Setting a schedule, though, can be a tricky business for almost
everyone else. One senior pro who wishes to remain anonymous says
that back in the day, he only played tournaments held on great
courses. "The trouble is," he says, "we don't have many of those
on the Champions tour." What the Champions lacks in quality
tracks, it makes up for in perks, and in most cases that's what
makes some senior tournaments more special than others. Based on
a survey of players, tournament officials and media, here is a
ranking of the seven best Champions tour events.
--Gary Van Sickle
1. BRUNO'S MEMORIAL CLASSIC (April 30-May 2) Greystone Golf &
Country Club, Birmingham
THE SKINNY Not counting 'Bama football, the Bruno's is the
biggest event of the year in Birmingham. This year the tournament
drew an average crowd of 25,000, a senior tour high.
June 6, 2004
PERKS Free locker room haircuts and laundry (huge for guys who
are on the road weeks at a time); comp tickets to Harry Connick
Jr. (left) concert; Porsche driving school (Tom Watson loved it).
BEYOND THE CALL Watson (right) is still gushing about the on-site
dermatologist who removed--without charge--blemishes from his
face, neck and hands.
2. U.S. SENIOR OPEN (July 29-Aug. 1) Bellerive Country Club, St.
THE SKINNY The prestige of the name and the winner's exemption
into the flat bellies' U.S. Open makes this the over-50 set's
most prestigious stop. (It'll also be the hottest. St. Louis in
late July? Bring your own shade.)
PERKS Get serious. The USGA runs this show, meaning the course
will be the best and the most challenging that the geezers will
play on all season. Also, you can park the carts at the
BEYOND THE CALL The USGA lightened up this year, hiring the Bruno
Event Team to basically run the event. Anyone need a haircut?
3. SENIOR PGA CHAMPIONSHIP (May 27-30) Valhalla Golf Club,
THE SKINNY Oldest senior major, dating to 1937 when it was played
at Augusta National. Untethered from bleak PGA National in Palm
Beach Gardens, Fla., in 2001, it has regained sizzle at great
venues such as Ridgewood, Aronimink and Firestone.
PERKS Tuesday-night PGA and Senior PGA past-champions' dinner; on
Wednesday wives are invited to Churchill Downs, where the third
race on the card is dedicated to the tournament.
BEYOND THE CALL Every player gets a Louisville Slugger with his
signature burned onto it.
4. 3M CHAMPIONSHIP (Aug. 6-8) TPC of the Twin Cities, Blaine,
THE SKINNY The 3M and the Toshiba duke it out most years for the
money title. That is, the most money donated to charity, as each
event contributes more than $1 million.
PERKS Junior pro-am on Tuesday; players-only surf 'n' turf feed
on Wednesday; fishing pro-am with $10,000 purse. (Did you know
that Bob Murphy is the Tiger Woods of senior tour fishermen?)
BEYOND THE CALL This year three threesomes of legends--including
the trio of Gary Player, Chi Chi Rodriguez (right) and Lee
Trevino--will be miked for TV and sent out ahead of the leaders.
5. TOSHIBA SENIOR CLASSIC (March 19-21) Newport Beach Country
Club, Newport Beach, Calif.
THE SKINNY You have to play well just to break even, because the
course is next door to the upscale Fashion Island Mall, a
favorite of tour wives.
PERKS The course, a 1953 William Bell design, is a fave; pros'
parking lot is a no-autograph zone.
BEYOND THE CALL This year the SBC Classic, the tournament before
the Toshiba, did not offer courtesy cars to all players, so
Toshiba organizers took their Cadillacs to the SBC site in
Valencia (80 miles to the north) so the pros would have them to
drive down to Newport Beach.
6. BANK OF AMERICA CHAMPIONSHIP (June 25-27) Nashawtuc Country
Club, Concord, Mass.
THE SKINNY Run by Pro Links Golf, the same outfit that stages the
3M, and follows the same formula: lots of activities for wives
and families. "Nothing is off-limits," says a tournament
PERKS Sightseeing flights to Nantucket; primo seats at Fenway
Park (right). (A few seniors have even thrown out the first
BEYOND THE CALL In addition to participating in the pro-am last
year, 18 NHL players teed it up for the final two rounds.
7. FIRST TEE OPEN (Sept. 3-5) Pebble Beach Golf Links and Bayonet
Golf Course, Pebble Beach and Seaside, Calif.
THE SKINNY Hasn't even been contested yet--the First Tee debuts
on Labor Day weekend--yet already makes this list based solely on
PERKS Fun format. Grouped with a junior and two adult amateurs,
pros will compete at stroke play. Juniors have a best-ball with
their pro, and the low 22 kids advance to final round. Ten lowest
adult amateur teams also advance to Sunday.
BEYOND THE CALL Ever see a junior golfer cry? That could happen
when they get a load of the fierce Bayonet course. "We've had a
Nationwide stop and didn't even put those guys all the way back,"
says tournament director Ollie Nutt.