When this column goes up on Bassmaster.com, I'll be on my way to Chickamauga Lake and BASSfest. But this week I want to tell you about where I've been rather than where I'm going.
I got to spend part of this past week at one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen — Big Cedar Lodge in Ridgedale, Mo., right on the shores of Table Rock Lake. I've been going to Big Cedar for more than 20 years, but I'm always impressed by the facilities there and the natural beauty that surrounds it.
If you're not familiar with Big Cedar Lodge, it's the creation of Johnny Morris — yes, the same man who created Bass Pro Shops back in the early 1970s. Big Cedar is a marvel of outdoor opportunities and gorgeous scenery. I was there this week to play a small part in a PGA Tour event called the Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf presented by Bass Pro Shops. The tournament part of the event starts today (June 6). I got to participate in the Pro-Am and Outdoor Experience. It was a lot of fun, and I met some great people.
The Pro-Am involved golf at the Top of the Rock course. I was stationed on the 9th green and got to putt with the teams in the scramble (where all the players on a multi-player team tee off and then select the best shot and hit again from that spot and repeat until they finish the hole). My golf skills are not up to those of Mark O'Meara or Fuzzy Zoeller or any of the other great pros I met, but I had a blast and was really excited to find that many of the golfing legends love fishing. O'Meara, in particular, is a very avid bass fisherman.
In addition to the Pro-Am, there were lots of outdoors activities that the participants could choose from, like fishing (trout or bass), archery or sporting clays. By the way, the fishing on Table Rock was just as good as when the Elites were here two months ago.
And that's one of the cool things about the event. You probably know already that Johnny Morris is a great ambassador for outdoor sports, but you may not know about the many ways he brings outdoor activities to the mainstream stick and ball sports and motor sports. His efforts are groundbreaking.
Part of that could be seen at this PGA event. In addition to golfing greats like O'Meara, Zoeller, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson and too many more to mention, there were NASCAR giants like Richard Childress and a couple of his drivers — Austin and Ty Dillon — and a lot of the Nitro and Bass Pro Shops team members, including Bill Dance, Roland Martin, Rick Clunn, Edwin Evers, Ott DeFoe, Tim Horton, Matt Reed and Casey Scanlon.
Not only do events like this help to bring our sport to a bigger audience, but they raise much-needed funds to protect our outdoor traditions. The list of sponsors for the event is way too long to list here, but their efforts and contributions will benefit the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and that helps us all.
Earlier I mentioned that my golf skills are not quite up to "par." I had that brought home to me in a big way as I stood near the 9th green of the gorgeous Buffalo Ridge Golf Course and watched the pros hit their approach shots. It was humbling, and it reminded of what it must be like for a casual angler to watch Tommy Biffle pitch a jig or Dean Rojas skip a frog.
It takes practice and commitment to be that good.
And, as always, it's all about the attitude.