Sunday, February 15, 2009


Imagine holding a friendly 36-hole golf tournament at your local course and Tiger Woods shows up. Vijay Singh appears, too, along with Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson.

Imagine that you were included, too, playing alongside your PGA Tour heros. Imagine yourself at the 19th hole, sitting around the clubhouse swapping stories with your new-found golf buds: "Hey Tiger, let me tell you about my birdie on 12..."

Sounds pretty far-fetched, doesn't it? Yet for five years in the mid-1960s (1962-66), many of the top pro golfers in the world did come to Lynn Haven's Panama Country Club for a two-day event known as the Little Tournament of Champions.

Of course, their names weren't Woods, Singh, Els, or Mickelson. Instead you had U.S. Open winner Tommy Bolt, Masters and U.S. Open champ Cary Middlecoff, and British Open champ "Champagne" Tony Lema. Even the great Slammin' Sammy Snead, the winningest pro in the history of the game, made an appearance.

And there were dozens of others, winners of prestigious tournaments and Ryder Cup veterans.

Three decades have passed since the final LTOC was held. Some of the participants are no longer with us. For others associated with the event, memories have begun to fade. Perhaps a trip back into time is in order, to Bay County in the 1960s, to a time when Panama Country Club became--for two brief days each year--the center of professional golf's universe.

No comments:

Post a Comment