LEAWOOD, Kan. – The competitive juices are flowing for legendary Kansas City golf icon Tom Watson, whose next competitive tournament will be his own Tom Watson Challenge, June 3-5 at Hallbrook Country Club in Leawood.
Hallbrook hosted the first Watson Challenge in 2007 and is the first club to host two of the events that determine the best golfer in the metro area. This will be the ninth Watson Challenge and the eight-time major title winner has brought home five championship titles from his own tournament.
“I want to win this thing, are you kidding?” a grinning Watson said Friday morning when asked about the way he will approach the tournament. “I’m going approach this like I would the Masters. I haven’t won in a while and I want to get that (championship traveling) trophy back.”
This year, he will tee off with Ryne Fisher, the 2015 Kansas City Golf Association Player of the Year, and 2015 PGA Midwest Section champion Chris Mabry. Both are graduates of the University of Missouri.
The Watson Challenge has a field of 48 players, which is comprised of the 18 top club professionals from the Midwest Section PGA, 18 top amateurs from the KCGA, players granted special invitations and those who qualify through an 18-hole qualifier round.
“I’m lobbying for a senior division this year,” quipped Watson, 66, the winner of two Masters titles, who played his last competitive round at Augusta earlier this month. “I’m looking for an advantage. These guys can drive the ball!”
That comment brought a grin from Fisher and Mabry, who open play at 8:30 a.m. June 3 with their boyhood idol.
“I’ve played with Tom (in the Watson Challenge) many times, but I’ve never beat him,” admitted Mabry, the assistant pro at Lake Quivira. “Teeing off to open the Watson Challenge with Tom is fantastic, amazing. I can’t wait.”
Neither can Fisher, who added, “Teeing off with Tom is something I can tell my kids and grandkids about. All my relatives will be there – it’s going to be an amazing day.”
Over a 25-year period Watson brought the best golfers in the world to compete in the Children’s Mercy Hospital Golf Classic, which raised more than $12 million for the Kansas City hospital. The Watson Challenge has earned $475,000 for First Tee, an organization that encourages young people ages 7 to 17 to play golf and learn the basics of the game.
“I want every youngster in the metro area to at least have the opportunity to put a club in their hand,” Watson said. “I want to see the game grow, and I think if they have the opportunity to play, and they make that one great shot they’re going to be hooked. They may play when they’re 9, and not pick up a club again until they’re 28 – but they’re going to remember that shot and get back out on the course.”
Tickets will be available at Hallbrook Country Club the days of the Watson Challenge.