First Ginn Championship Start of Something BIG

Keith Fergus said he was inspired watching the movie “The Rookie” the night before he won the inaugural Ginn Championship at Hammock Beach. In the movie, high school baseball coach Jim Morris (played by Dennis Quaid), takes one last whirl at the big eagues with his 95 mile-an-hour fastball.

Fergus, who coached golf at the University of Houston, and is called “coach” by everyone he knows, just channel-surfed and caught the movie right when one of the players said, “Coach, it’s your time.” It was his time, for Fergus in winning his first Champions Tour event, and for developer Bobby Ginn, who’d dreamed of hosting an event on the First Coast since his arrival in the early ‘90s.

For a man used to “start-ups”, the first Ginn Championship came off like a tournament that had been 10 years in the making, not one that had been announced less than 10 months before. Because of infrastructure delays, Ginn Sports Entertainment had to move the tourney from the Tom Watsondesigned Conservatory at Hammock Beach next door to the Jack Nicklaus-designed Ocean Hammock Resort (both Ginn properties) just two months before the tournament. Yet it all came off without a hitch for the 54-thousand fans, hundreds of pro-am participants, and the many companies in Flagler County and the First Coast who entertained clients and guests in the sold-out hospitality areas. And especially for the Flagler County charities that will receive the tourney’s proceeds.

Watson, who has designed three courses for Ginn, spoke to the developer’s “vision” in carrying out his dream of more than a decade ago to host an event that featured the 2nd largest non-major payout on the Champions Tour, a $2.5-million purse. “He’s wanted new things that most people don’t think they can do,” said the World Golf Hall of Famer. “And he’s been pretty successful at doing them.” Watson was one of seven Hall of Famers who teed it up in the inaugural Ginn Championship. Another, Champions Tour “rookie” Nick Price, raved about the entire package, from the Resort to the Nicklaus-design, to the operation of the tourney.

Bobby Ginn“I’m just so impressed with it. This is a gem of an area, I’ve seen some of Bobby Ginn’s other projects, and he does things first class.” Price added, in reference to the “feel” of the tournament being much like that of the PLAYERS up A1A in Ponte Vedra Beach, “Whatever they want to make this championship to be, they can do, because the facility and the golf course, and then just having a look at the organization that they’ve put into this with the tents and the hospitality that they have here, this is strong.”

From Raymond Floyd’s almost-age-shooting opening round (the 64-year-old shot 68 with bogeys on the final two holes) to Tom Purtzer’s second round 66, despite 3 balls in the water, to Fergus’ wild final round, the tournament had more than its share of excitement.

After hitting his 7-iron into the water at the par-3 fourth, he made his drop and then sank the chip shot for par. He also eagled the 10th hole with a chip-in from a greenside bunker, and then survived bogeying two of the final three holes to claim the victory, becoming only the second pro ever to win on all three major American tours.

“You get the wind conditions blowing out there and the pin placements,” said Fergus after receiving the $375,000 first place check. “And then you get the choke factor when you’re trying to win your first tournament. All those things add up.” One other line from Fergus might be Ginn’s mantra as the tournament moves forward. “That’s why we compete is for moments like this. Because there’s not enough of them. There are very few. Unless you’re Tiger, I guess.” Or maybe Bobby Ginn.


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