Rainy morning brings ‘flood’ of Magnolia golf memories

Cleveland
Cleveland

It’s raining out here at the Country Club of Jackson for what should be the second round of the Sanderson Farms Championship. The course is saturated, this after a summer-long drought in mid-Mississippi.

This is the 48th version of this tournament, which has been played at the Hattiesburg Country Club, Annandale and now CCJ. It has been called the Magnolia Classic, the Deposit Guaranty Classic, the Southern Farm Bureau Classic, the Viking Classic and now, for the third year, the Sanderson Farms Championship

It has been played in spring, summer and fall.

The one constant: rain.

Need to end a drought? Bring the PGA Tour to Mississippi.

Since there’s no golf right now, how about a rain story?

This was 1979, the year of the Easter Flood in Jackson. It rained all week in Hattiesburg, too, but somehow they got in four rounds — well, most folks got in four rounds.

Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer Ken Lindsay, then the club pro at the Colonial Country Club in Jackson, was very much in contention, four shots out of the lead in Saturday’s third round. After putting out on the 15th green, Lindsay was confronted by PGA Tour official Wade Cagle.

“Ken, somebody just called us from your club in Jackson,” Cagle told him. “Your house is about to flood.”

Lindsay played the final three holes, signed his card and withdrew from the tournament, thus sacrificing a sure paycheck. I remember interviewing him about his decision.

“I got no choice,” he said. “My house is about to be under water. My clubhouse might go under, too.”

Colonial did not. Lindsay’s house did. The next day, fellow Jackson-area club pros Ben Nelson, Arvin Ginn and Robbie Webb borrowed a boat and, with Lindsay, motored out to Lindsay’s house where they found six feet of water and salvaged what they could.

Bobby Walzel won that Magnolia Classic; Ken Lindsay lost all his furniture, scrap books, trophies and a whole lot more.

Move forward to the 1980 Magnolia Classic and lots more rain. Roger Maltbie, the future TV commentator and star of Michelob commercials, shot a first-round 65. Lindsay was three shots back at 68.

And then it rained so hard for three days, they just gave up.

Said Lindsay, “It took me two years but I finally got in four rounds of the Magnolia Classic.”

Lindsay won $1,500 for his one round and tie for third place.

Maltbie won $4,500 for his one-round victory.

I interviewed Maltbie in his motel room while he packed on Sunday afternoon. I remember telling him that $4,500 wasn’t bad for one round of golf.

Said Maltbie, “Hell, that won’t even cover my bar tabs.”

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Visit the Sanderson Farms Championship exhibit at your Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.

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