At some point, you would think someone among Kansas City's best professional or amateur golfers would have the game to beat the city's greatest golfer of all time, Tom Watson, at his own game.
It's happened once, the first year of the Watson Challenge in 2007, but not since, and the winner of 39 PGA Tour events and eight major professional golf championships is giving the best golfers in the metropolitan area yet another chance to step up to the challenge. Watson will host the sixth annual Watson Challenge June 8-10 at Indian Hills Country Club. The annual tournament benefits The First Tee of Greater Kansas City.
The first year of the Watson Challenge, in 2007, Blake Graham, head golf professional at Hallbrook Country Club, playing on his home course, defeated Watson. Watson has prevailed since, however, beating the best Kansas City could throw at him for four years running. Sean Dougherty, head professional at Milburn Country Club, has given the 62-year-old Watson a run for his money the last several years but wasn't able to quite get over the top.
Daugherty tied for eighth a year ago at the PGA Club Pro Championship and also qualified for the PGA Championship, but missed the cut.
"Once again, I'll lay down the gauntlet," Watson said recently at the press conference announcing this year's Challenge. "Can't you beat this old guy? Good God. What's going on here? You should be able to beat this old guy like a drum."
Daugherty quickly responded to Watson's goading with, "Wait until you hit 70."
"We'll see about that," Watson shot back.
The Watson Challenge is a 54-hole tournament that the legendary pro golfer and Kansas City native son started in 2007 to help the sport prosper in the Kansas City area, he said, and to determine the best golfer in the area. Typically, the tournament is held the weekend before the U.S. Open, the PGA Tour's second major golf championship of the year.
Watson has sponsored charitable golf events in Kansas City for over 25 years, beginning in the 1980s with the Children's Mercy Golf Classic, from which he raised $12 million for Children's Mercy Hospital.
The tournament field of 48 for the Watson Challenge is composed of 18 top club golf professionals from the Kansas City area, 18 local amateurs, eight players granted special invitations and four final spots that are awarded from a qualifying 18-hole tournament.
The beneficiary of the Watson Challenge, First Tee of Kansas City, has received $245,000 in donations in the five years of the tournament. The First Tee organization provided educational programs that build character and instill life-enhancing values in young people and promote healthy choices through the game of golf.
Last year's tournament was held at Blue Hills Country Club. Indian Hills Country Club's golf course is heavily tree-lined and plays to par 70, 6,474 yards. The course was designed by acclaimed American golf course architect A.W. Tillinghast, whose course designs include Baltusrol in Springfield, N.J. and Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y.
"It (Indian Hills GC), is not the longest course, but you better hit it straight," Watson said.
Watson Challenge officials say tickets can be obtained (single tickets for a $25 donation and two tickets for a $40 donation) from the Kansas City Golf Association office or kansascitygolfer.org.
Follow the daily tournament action or receive news about the Watson Challenge from the Kansas City Golf Association.