At Annandale, an amateur should just take a seat

Published 12:09 am Sunday, August 29, 2010

ANNANDALE — Standing over the 6th tee, a warm breeze made the water down the right side of the fairway dance with spring-like ripples. The manicured fairway — smoother than many putting greens — expanded for an inviting landing.

The home of Mississippi’s only Professional Golfers Association tournament, the Viking Classic, is a picture of manicured beauty.

The man holding the driver will never make the PGA Tour, nor the AGP Tour. He is a twice-a-year golfer out of shape using clubs purchased from the fine folks at River City Rescue Mission. The ball sits stationary as the three others stand at a short distance.

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During the Viking Classic, these fairways would be jam-packed with visitors. Last year’s tournament was a rain-out, but this year the field will include seven former major champions. A major champion has won either the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and the PGA Championship. Former Vicksburg resident Heath Slocum will be among four Mississippians in the tournament, which runs from Sept. 27-Oct. 3.

Since 1968, the tournament has raised nearly $6 million for Mississippi charities, including raising more than $560,000 last year even though the tournament was washed out after getting 22 inches of rain. The festivities will include a junior pro-am, a ladies day on the Saturday before the final round and several cooking demonstrations, including one by Emeril Lagasse.

The primetime event, though, will be the golfers. Anyone who has picked up a club and tried to hit a stationary ball, even with one person looking at you knows it is a difficult endeavor. Trying to imagine hundreds, even thousands of eyes staring is enough to dunk the first drive into the rippling pond.

It’s a special quality golfers possess that sets them apart from any other athlete. A professional golfer — with several exceptions — could dress in street clothes and walk around and very little physically screams “athlete.”

What the best golfers in the world have is mettle, the strength of temperament.

The worst possess neither the mettle nor the talent for this game. The worst will pack clubs and take a few whacks to the tune of 54 over par at a championship course where he has no business even mowing the grass.

Sean P. Murphy is web editor. He can be reached at