Golf Legends Start with Big Dreams

The final round of the 2011 Masters offered some of the most exciting play we’ve seen in years.  In fact, it reminded us of the day a little known golfer from the Idea Capital of the World made golfing history, more than thirty years ago.

Playing in the rain on the fifteenth hole of the final day of the 1979 Masters Tournament, four strokes back and 235 yards from the green, Masters Rookie Frank Urban Zoeller, Jr. had an idea.  He decided that he would drive the ball, over water, straight into the wind, and onto the green.  He needed to do it if he was going to get back into contention to grab the win.   And winning is why he was there.

With the club he was using, in perfect conditions, 235 yards was about the best he could hope for.  That day he would have to deliver a perfect shot, under great pressure and with horrible conditions.  Could he do it?

Where most golfers would have played it safe, “Fuzzy” went for broke.  He hit the ball hard and straight, and the gallery cheered when it landed safely on the green.  From there, he charged into a tie and won the Masters with a birdie on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff.  Anybody who knows golf understands what winning the Masters means to a player’s career, and they also know that many golfers would have played it safe and settled for a top five finish.  But not Fuzzy, who understood that winning big meant dreaming big.

In the Idea Capital of the World, big dreams are encouraged.  And while not all big dreamers end up winning the Masters, all of their stories inspire us.

Today, golf fans in the Idea Capital region all know about “The Fuz.”  A New Albany native, he learned his craft on the courses near his home and became a professional golfer in 1973.  That day he won the Masters, at just 27, he became one of only three golfers to win The Masters in their first appearance.

The rest is history.

Thanks to his skills on a golf course, Fuzzy got the opportunity to lend his considerable golf knowledge to the design of championship golf courses.  In fact, Fuzzy has designed 19 courses across the country, three of which are part of the PGA Tour.  And locally, Covered Bridge and Champions Pointe are considered to be among the best courses in the region.  Both feature lakes and bunkers that challenge the skill of any golfer.

While golf has been his career, Fuzzy has used his celebrity for many good causes, to include children’s charities throughout the region. He created “Fuzzy’s Charity for Kids” and for the last 13 years “The Magnolia Health Systems Wolf Challenge” golf event has raised over $1.6 million.  Professional golfers and celebrities have participated in the tournament; to include Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman, Bill Murray, Kevin Costner and more.

Tickets are not yet on sale for this year’s event, but they sell out fast so keep your eyes and ears open if you want to attend “the most popular event in pro golf.”

And Fuzzy hasn’t stopped dreaming.  His latest idea is Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka, distilled right here in Indiana. In a region known for its bourbon, Fuzzy is taking a chance on a new tradition with his signature spirit.

If he’d have played it safe back in ’79, would Fuzzy be lending his world-famous name to charities, products, sports events and recreational venues today?  Who knows?   But it doesn’t take a legendary figure to be a catalyst for change. Our region is ripe with opportunity for new ideas and big dreams.

What’s yours?

Who is your biggest inspiration from the region?  And did you know that this year’s Senior PGA Championship will be played at Valhalla 26-29 May?