O.Henry Ending

Journey of a Lifetime

Fond memories of our hometown golf tournament

 

By Bailey Jordan

This month the Wyndham Championship returns to Greensboro. Founded in 1938 as the Greater Greensboro Open, or as locals came to call it, the GGO, this professional golf tournament has brought the game’s greatest players right into our backyard. This year’s contest (August 14–20), returns to Sedgefield Country Club for the 10th consecutive year. Sedgefield, where the tournament was played several other times over the years, was designed by legendary golf course architect Donald Ross.

Each and every year, the tournament brings back fond memories of different stages in my life. My parents moved to Greensboro in 1962 in a package deal. My dad (William) would be the new minister of music at West Market Street United Methodist Church downtown. My mom (Rose Marie) would be its new organist. My dad took up the game in his early 30s and got hooked. I came along in 1963 and under Dad’s tutelage, I was holding a club by the time I was 8. Mom still says I learned to read in order to study the sports page of the Greensboro Daily News and discuss it with Dad at night.

My first recollection of the GGO was in the early ’70s. The likes of Sam Snead, Billy Casper, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player were still tournament regulars. My on-course hangout was the Par-3, 12th hole (now played as the third). One of Dad’s choir members was Helen Alspaugh. She and her husband Laurence lived on the 12th hole, so Dad had a coveted “residence pass” to park at their house. The Alspaughs were wonderful hosts. Their house was a constant buzz of people coming and going, but cleared out when someone would shout, “Here come’s Arnie’s Army!” referring to the crowd that followed Arnold Palmer.

A standout year was 1973, when a Puerto Rican golfer named Juan Antonio “Chi-Chi” Rodriguez won the tournament trophy. He was one of my favorites. I especially rooted for his putts to roll in, whereupon he would go into his “bullfighting dance” and “sword show,” using his putter. Chi-Chi was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1992.

I also distinctly remember the year 1975. Joe Inman, Grimsley High School and Wake Forest University graduate and three-time All-American, was playing the 12th hole when his tee shot landed left of the green — right at my feet. When he arrived at his ball, he asked, “Is everyone OK?” Someone spoke up and said, “You splashed mud on that kid.” After making a tricky up-and-down for par, he walked over, apologized and gave me the ball. What a nice gesture and what a thrill! I carried that ball in my golf bag for a while, but during a round while visiting my grandmother over the summer in southeast Missouri, I thought I needed some good luck. So I put Joe’s ball in play. It didn’t take long before my newfound luck ran out: I sliced that ball deep into a soybean field (Sorry about that, Joe!). I also remember when Don Knotts invited me inside the ropes in 1975 to walk up the first fairway with him. What a treat. I still have his autograph.

When the GGO moved to Forest Oaks Country Club in 1977, I was quick to volunteer for the gallery control. Sitting up close to the world’s greatest players and eating Maid-Rite sandwiches for free was a pretty good deal for a 14-year-old. I continued volunteering and attending the GGO over the years. My big break came in 1994 when my friend Mitchell Paul introduced me to the assistant general chairman of the tournament, Stanhope Johnson. Stanhope needed a treasurer for his upcoming year as general chairman. I joined the Greensboro Jaycees and served on the GGO executive committee for five years. I was proud of the work we did, funds we raised and charity dollars we gave back to the community. The best part of it all through was meeting my future wife, Cathy. She was a Jaycee and tournament volunteer.

While it was sad tearing down the course for the final time at Forest Oaks in 2007, a new door opened . . . the GGO returning to Sedgefield. The past three years have been a family affair. My wife heard about the need for volunteers for The First Tee of the Triad, an organization that uses the game of golf to teach kids (ages 7–18) essential character traits and valuable life skills. She contacted Mike Barber, president and CEO, and asked how we could help. It was an opportunity for our son, Nathan, who recently took up the game, to volunteer with the Tesori Family Foundation All-Star Kids Clinic at Grandover resort during the week of the Wyndham Championship. Started by Paul Tesori, the foundation helps those in need, with a particular focus on children with special needs. Paul’s full-time job is caddying for Webb Simpson on the PGA Tour. Nathan’s involvement over the past three years has been a rewarding experience that has resulted in a friendship with Paul and his family.

As my family looks ahead to this year’s Wyndham Championship and All-Star Kids Clinic, I can truly say it has been — and continues to be — the journey of a lifetime. I’ve gained far more out of my relationship with the wonderful event than I’ve put into it. It’s been worth every moment.

See you on-course.  OH

Bailey Jordan is a Greensboro native and lifelong GGO fan.

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