New sponsor, same weather, at Annandale

The following column was written two years ago from Annandale Golf Club when what is now the Sanderson Farms Championship was then the Viking Classic. Thing is, you could change a few words and it could run again this week. Don’t know what it is about the PGA golf and Mississippi tournaments, but ducks must love it.

From the July 16, 2011 Clarion-Ledger:

It’s a good thing PGA Tour golf tournaments last four days and not 40. At the Viking Classic, we’d have to build an ark and collect the animals two by two.

Nearly every year.

I mean, really: Who needs a rain dance, when you can try to hold a PGA Tournament in Mississippi?

Doesn’t matter whether it’s the Hattiesburg Country Club or Annandale Golf Club. Doesn’t matter whether it’s the Magnolia State Classic, the Magnolia Classic, the Deposit Guaranty Classic, the Southern Farm Bureau Classic or the Viking Classic. Doesn’t matter whether it is played in April in Hattiesburg, in July in Madison or October and November in Madison, as well. The one constant: fierce thunderstorms.

As this is written, rain is drenching Annandale. Big bolts of lightning are followed all too quickly by thunder. The second round, delayed two hours by overnight rains, has been suspended by this latest thunderboomer.

I know, I know, we needed some rain in mid-Mississippi. We’ve been in drought-like conditions since . . . since . . . well, since the fall of 2009 when 22 inches of rain in a one-week period washed out the entire tournament.

Viking Classic? This tournament ought to be called the Monsoon Open.

In the beginning …

Long-time readers know I have a history with this tournament. My first was the first, in 1968, in Hattiesburg, when violent storms blew holes in the old army tent, then used as a media center and threatened to rust out our old manual typewriters. Rains earlier in the week forced a 36-hole final day, which ended with a nine-hole sudden death playoff finished after dark with car lights shining on the ninth green. Turns out, that was a good year.

Remember the Easter Flood of 1979? How could you forget? Yes, it coincided with the old Magnolia Classic in Hattiesburg. It was Jackson’s 100-year flood, but Hattiesburg flooded, too. I was sent to Hattiesburg to cover a golf tournament and wound up covering an evacuation. A Hattiesburg police officer took me for a boat ride around town. We almost turned over when our boat bumped into the top of a basketball backboard.

When the tournament moved from July dates to fall dates in 2002, then-tournament director Robert Morgan hailed what he called, “Sweater weather.”

“I called the National Weather Service and they told me the average rainfall for the last week in October was under a half inch,” Morgan said.

The course, of course, flooded. Sweaters? We needed slickers and hip waders. Luke Donald, currently the No. 1 ranked player in the world, won his first PGA victory here that year and he didn’t even have to play on Sunday. The tournament was rained out with Donald leading by one and it was already too wet to play on Monday. The bunkers looked like small ponds, the fairways like rivers. Donald won almost as much money as the wrecker services made removing cars from the swampy parking lots.

This year, the tourney televised live on the Golf Channel. Friday, it probably looked like a Weather Channel highlights show. It has been worse. Much worse.

One year, I forget which, but it was July in Madison, the sirens started blowing about the same time 75 mph gusts did. The media tent began shaking and then the metal photographers’ lockers all blew over, crashing into the work desks. At least one laptop, mine, was mortally wounded.

… to last call

It’s a shame, really. So much work goes into putting on an event of this magnitude. So many volunteers spend so much time.

And then this. . .

At least, there have been some lighter moments, even in the wettest of times.

Take 1980 for instance. That was the year Roger Maltbie, the golfer-later-turned-announcer, shot 65 the first round for a one-shot lead. Understand, Maltbie, sponsored at the time by Michelob, was one of the tour’s all-time party guys. Nowadays, these guys work out religiously. Back then, Maltbie concentrated on 12-ounce curls.

After his first day 65, the skies opened and rained poured. And poured. And poured.

The last three rounds all were rained out. Maltbie was declared the winner. I was sent in search of an interview.

I found Maltbie at the Ramada Inn bar where he had just found out the winner’s check was for $4,500.

Said Maltbie, with a devilish grin and glassy eyes, “I don’t think that’s going to cover my bar tab.”

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