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Like Watson, many of today’s tour stars are easy to root for

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John Mabry - From the Rough

John Mabry writes the "From the Rough" golf column for L Magazine. Here he searches for his ball in the rough at the Highlands Golf Club.

In May and June, I was fortunate enough to see some of the game’s biggest stars in person -- first at the PGA Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and then at the Tom Watson Challenge in Mission Hills, Kansas.

Watson has continued a great tradition of hosting a tournament to raise funds for First Tee junior golf clinics and to determine the top player in the Kansas City area (amateur or pro). My brother, Chris, is an annual participant, which is a cool deal in itself. Watson is no longer a threat to win the event – he used to win just about every year – but no matter. He shows up every time as someone who all golfers should view as a role model, not just because of his golf game but because of his character.

The good news is that I think many of the top pros on tour – Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Scottie Scheffler and Cameron Smith, to name a few – are doing Watson proud with the way they carry themselves. Same for Minjee Lee and Lydia Ko and Lexi Thompson and the top women.

At Southern Hills for the PGA, I was impressed by the caliber of golf, of course, but also by the star players’ etiquette, interaction with fans, all of it. Tommy Fleetwood, for one, was always quick to share thanks for any applause or greeting with spectators. Despite the mega attention, I thought Tiger Woods did the same.

I loved everything about that Friday at Southern Hills except the $18 Michelob Ultras.

Tips for planning an event

If you are planning a golf event, I can share from experience that they know how to do it right at Woodland Hills in Eagle. PGA pro Tom Erlandson and his crew are good at it, and here is part of the Why.

“My keys to a successful outing starts with communication with both the organizer and the participants. ‘No surprises’ could be my motto when it comes to events,” Erlandson said. “Next, make it fun. Most of our players are not out to win gift certificates (even though it is nice). They are here to have fun. Is the tournament going to be a serious one? Or are we looking for an enjoyable day for all levels of players? For the latter, having a few ‘different’ and maybe even a little ‘goofy’ flag prizes and/or on-course games makes the day more interesting. Mulligans, throws, gimme string, moving up a tee box are all examples of ways to keep this fun for all.

“And finally, take the onus of setting everything up off the organizer. It is what we get paid to do. They recruit players, decide how they want the event run and we do the rest. Making the day perfect and fun for all is our goal.”

Chip shots

• I added another small-town Nebraska course to my list recently: Classic Club 8 in Falls City. Fun course in excellent shape and reasonably priced. A great stop on a Sunday drive home from Kansas City. Visit www.classicclub8.com for course information and fees.

• I remember writing about Michelle Wie West when she played in an event at Firethorn when she was 12. She is retiring from the tour. I am old. Actually, I think it’s great that Wie is retiring the way she is, at 32, to focus on being a mom and her business interests. Good for her.

• I also remember writing about Beth Anne Cherry when she was winning state titles at Lincoln Southeast. Now her son, Travis Bryson, is doing the same. That is cool. I am old. Congratulations to the whole Bryson crew, including Dad Kevin, a former Husker, like Beth Anne.

John Mabry, who is happy to play 18 but not pay $18 for a beer, can be reached at johnmabry47@gmail.com.

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