First played in 1978, the Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf sparked the creation of the Champions Tour, formerly known as the Senior PGA Tour, which was launched in 1980. The Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf, called Savannah home since 2003, celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2012.
The Legends of Golf made its debut, with NBC televising the event. Sam Snead and his partner, Gardner Dickinson, stole all the headlines. Snead birdied the 16th and 17th holes at Onion Creek Country Club in Austin, TX, to tie the Australian team of Peter Thomson and Kel Nagle. Then, on 18, Snead’s sensational wedge shot from the fairway stopped just short of the cup, leaving Snead only a four-foot putt for the win. After Nagle missed his birdie attempt, Snead sank his third consecutive birdie, giving him and Dickinson the first Legends of Golf title and $50,000 each.
The final day provided fireworks and pure competitive spirit. Birdies on the last two holes of regulation by Roberto De Vicenzo and Julius Boros forced a sudden-death playoff with Tommy Bolt and Art Wall. The playoff resulted in one par and five birdies over six holes, with De Vicenzo and Bolt teasing each other in their friendly manner after each birdie. After six holes, De Vicenzo and Boros walked off the winners. The tournament again was telecast by NBC, and the playoff ran into prime time. It has been said before, but it certainly bears repeating, that on April 30, 1979 the Champions Tour was born.
Already established as an artistic success, the Legends of Golf became a solid financial success with the strong support of its newly found sponsor, the Liberty Mutual Group, which has sponsored every Legends event since. The 1980 tournament gave senior golf another lift when the “odd couple” of the game, Tommy Bolt and Art Wall, fired a 6-under-par 64 on the final day for a then-Legends-record 23-under-par 187 total and the first-place check.
The Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, as it became known, again was played at Onion Creek Country Club, its home since its inception. This was the year Gene Littler and his partner, Bob Rosburg, recorded a 23-under-par score of 257 as the event became a four-day tournament. On Saturday, Littler and Rosburg shot a sizzling 62 for a four-stroke lead they never relinquished.
The ageless Sam Snead and his 50-year-old partner, Don January, shot an incredible 27-under-par 183 in a rain-shortened, three-day tournament. Amazingly, Snead and January averaged a birdie every other hole they played. Snead became the Legends’ first two-time winner.
Roberto De Vicenzo lost his playing partner, Bob Goalby, early in the week. Goalby suffered a back injury and had to withdraw from the tournament. His replacement was a newcomer to the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, Rod Funseth. On Sunday, the team of De Vicenzo and Funseth held onto a tight two-stroke lead over the determined duo of Jackie Burke and Paul Harney. Birdies on 17 and 18 made De Vicenzo and Funseth the winners, and De Vicenzo became the second two-time Legends winner.
The teams of Miller Barber/Julius Boros and Billy Casper/Gay Brewer moved away from the field as they traded birdies on the last day. After 15 holes, Casper and Brewer held a slim one-stroke lead. On 17, after a bogey by Barber/Boros, Brewer made his sixth birdie of the day to wrap up the competition.
The big news was the announcement that two legendary members of the Ladies’ Professional Golf Association, Mickey Wright and Kathy Whitworth, would compete as a team in that year’s field. Wright almost made a hole-in-one on the 17th hole, and Whitworth chipped in from off the green on 18 as they were among the leading contenders after the first two rounds. But Don January and Gene Littler pulled away on Saturday and Sunday to capture the win.
Some of NBC’s cameras and a good portion of the mammoth gallery were rushing back to the 15th hole in anticipation of an unprecedented four-team playoff. However, on 18, Gene Littler sank a 30-foot birdie putt for the win. The downhill, left-to-right putt shocked the gallery and millions of TV viewers as Littler and January won their second consecutive title.
A new team of winners arrived on the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf scene, consisting of Bruce Crampton, and the “Ol’ Sarge,” Orville Moody. Crampton, who earned the title of “Ironman” long before he participated in every Champions Tour event in 1986, and Moody set an 18-hole record of 59 on Saturday. The duo then made 11 consecutive birdies on Sunday as they distanced themselves from the rest of the field and won their first Legends tournament.
Arnold Palmer and Miller Barber led the Legends after three rounds. But by the time Palmer and Barber began play on Sunday, the momentum had swung to the teams of Bruce Crampton/Orville Moody, Bob Charles/Bruce Devlin, Harold Henning/Peter Thomson and Tommy Aaron/Lou Graham. The day’s most exciting shot occurred on 16, where Aaron’s iron shot from under the limb of a fairway tree flew into the cup for a 2 that propelled him and Graham into a one-stroke lead. But then, on 18, Moody made his putt, and the Legends had the second tie in its 11-year history. The ensuing playoff duplicated the stirring six-hole 1979 classic as the two teams matched one another over the Onion Creek course. On the sixth extra hole, Moody’s birdie putt made him and Crampton the Legends’ second consecutive two-time winners.
A new team consisting of Al Geiberger and Harold Henning threatened to run away with the title after shooting consecutive 61s the first two days. Bob Charles and Bruce Devlin made a run at Geiberger and Henning on Saturday, firing a 61 of their own to trail by two. But Geiberger and Henning prevailed on Sunday, shooting a 67 to hold off the red-hot Dale Douglass and Charles Coody, who posted a 60 to finish second.
The Legends moved across Austin to the Barton Creek Country Club, where Charles Coody and Dale Douglass ran away from the field. Coody and Douglass shot a record 39-under-par 249, including a 59 on the first day.
ABC Sports took over the contract from NBC to telecast the event. Mike Hill and a new Legend, Lee Trevino, threatened another runaway victory at Barton Creek. But on Sunday, Al Geiberger and Harold Henning closed the gap by breaking another Legends record, shooting a sensational 58. However, Trevino and Hill finished at 36-under-par 252, good for a two-stroke win at the 14th Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf.
Lee Trevino and Mike Hill combined for a 37-under-par 251 as they won their second consecutive Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf. In the third round, Trevino and Hill posted a back-nine 28 for an 18-hole total of 60. The team of Jim Colbert and Tommy Aaron finished second, three strokes behind Trevino and Hill.
For the first and only time, the Legends changed its format to individual play. A three-way tie resulted, featuring Don January, Harold Henning and Legends “rookie” Tom Weiskopf. Weiskopf was eliminated when he bogeyed the first extra hole. On the second extra hole, a par-3, Henning’s tee shot landed in a bunker and January missed the green to the left. January’s second shot left him with a long putt, which he missed to bogey the hole. Henning played a magnificent shot out of the bunker, leaving him with him with a short putt for par, which he sank to walk off with the $250,000 first prize, the largest in senior golf to that point
The par-3 17th hole at Barton Creek decided the 1994 Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf on the tournament’s final day, when Dale Douglass and Charles Coody nailed down their second win. On 17, Bob Murphy and Jim Colbert bogeyed to finish in a tie for second with Chi Chi Rodriquez and Jim Dent, who shot three consecutive 63s. Both teams finished at 189, one stroke behind Douglass and Coody.
After 17 years in Austin, TX, the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf moved to La Quinta, CA, and the Stadium Course at PGA West. Billed as a challenge between golf’s legends and the Stadium Course, the Legends won, tearing up the course with birdies and eagles. Mike Hill, with 12 birdies in two rounds despite a bad back, helped lead the Trevino/Hill team to a 21-under-par 195 and their third Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf title.
Wind was the big story Friday and Saturday, and scores reflected the tough conditions. Jimmy Powell and Orville Moody, who led the field Friday with a 7-under-par 65, followed with a 66 to win the Legendary Division. Sunday brought ideal conditions, and with the great weather came great scoring. Bob Murphy and Jim Colbert set the early pace, firing a 10-under-par 62 to get to 14-under, but it would not be enough. Lee Trevino and Mike Hill caught fire on the back nine, shooting a 63 to win their fourth Legends title. Art Wall and Doug Ford won the Demaret Division.
The setting was the same, but the venue changed from the Stadium Course to the Palmer Course at PGA West. John Bland and Graham Marsh shared the first-round lead with Gene Littler/Don January after opening with a 9-under-par 63. A second-round 64 gave Bland/Marsh a one-stroke lead over Dave Stockton/Al Geiberger, Hubert Green/Gil Morgan, Gibby Gilbert/J.C. Snead and Don January/Gene Littler. A closing 65 brought Bland and Marsh their first Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf title. January and Littler won the Legendary Division, while George Bayer and Howie Johnson captured the Demaret Division.
After three years in California, the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf moved to Florida and the Golf Club of Amelia Island at Summer Beach. Despite the 3,000-mile change of location, the final result found some familiar names at the top of the leaderboard. Dale Douglass and Charles Coody won their third Legends title, defeating Hugh Baiocchi and David Graham in a playoff. Douglass ended the event with a 20-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole after Baiocchi had made a 30-footer on the final hole of regulation to send the tournament to a playoff. Coody and Douglass also captured the Legendary Division. Joe Jimenez and Charlie Sifford won the title in the Demaret Division, which was shortened to 27 holes due to chilly weather and gusting winds on Saturday.
The event made its debut at The Slammer & Squire at World Golf Village in St. Augustine, FL. The team of Hubert Green and Gil Morgan shot a better-ball score of 22-under-par 194 and recorded a wire-to-wire victory over Tom Wargo and John Mahaffey. The virtually flawless Green/Morgan team did not record a bogey and became the sixth team to win wire-to-wire. In the Legendary Division, Orville Moody and Jimmy Powell won with a birdie on the third extra hole over Butch Baird/Homero Blancas, Don January/Gene Littler and Al Geiberger/Tom Shaw. Charlie Sifford and Joe Jimenez birdied the second extra hole to win the Demaret Division title over Fred Haas/Fred Hawkins and Roberto de Vicenzo/Mike Fetchick.
As The Slammer & Squire continued as tournament venue, Jim Colbert and Andy North gave themselves a belated shared-birthday present. The two, who blow their candles out on March 9, came home 10 days later as the seventh (and second consecutive) wire-to-wire winners in Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf history. The victory was the first for North, the “newly minted 50-year-old,” on the Champions Tour. The Colbert/North edge over Bruce Fleisher/David Graham was one stroke, the same margin by which Mike Hill and Lee Trevino captured the Legendary Division. Hill/Trevino previously won the Legends Division in 1991-92 and 1995-96. Joe Jimenez/Charlie Sifford earned their third consecutive Demaret Division title.
The King & Bear was the new venue for the event and Jim Colbert and Andy North defended their title with a three-stroke victory over the team of Bruce Fleisher and David Graham, the 2000 runners-up. The event was shortened to 36 holes when Friday’s round was canceled due to inclement weather. Colbert and North fired a 13-under-par 59 on Saturday which included a run of nine consecutive birdies on holes 5-12. After a par, they ran off four more birdies to open a three-stroke margin. Fleisher and Graham trailed by six strokes after the opening round and cut that to just one stroke after nine holes on Sunday, but a bogey at the 10th hole ended their momentum as Colbert-North closed with a final-round 65. In the Legendary Division, Jim Albus and Simon Hobday were one-stroke victors. Don January and Gene Littler became the first team to triumph in all three divisions when they won the Demaret Division crown.
The last tournament at The King & Bear became an official-money Champions Tour event for the first time and returned to an individual stroke-play format. Doug Tewell played well in winning his sixth Tour title by one stroke over Bobby Wadkins. In the Raphael Division, Texans Bruce Lietzke and Bill Rogers teamed to win by a whopping nine strokes. Miller Barber and Jim Ferree won the Demaret Division by one stroke.
The tournament moved to the Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa in Savannah, GA, and Bruce Lietzke won the title by one stroke over David Eger and Dana Quigley. Lietzke fired a first-round 70, leaving him three strokes behind Vicente Fernandez. But a second-round 65, a score that tied him with Bobby Wadkins for the tournament’s low 18-hole round, gave Lietzke a one-stroke advantage. On Sunday, he hung on for the win despite shooting his worst score of the tournament, a 1-under 71. In the Raphael Division, Gary Koch and Roger Maltbie, two NBC broadcasters, teamed to win by two strokes, while Miller Barber and Jim Ferree won the Demaret Division, successfully defending their 2002 title.
In the tournament’s second year at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa, Hale Irwin put his name in the win column for the first time with his one-stroke win over Gary Koch and Gil Morgan. Irwin had taken a four-week break from the Tour prior to the tournament, but his game showed no rust. Playing the last hole Sunday, Irwin and Morgan were tied for the lead. While the Champions Tour’s all-time leading money winner was able to par the 54th hole, Morgan had to settle for a two-putt bogey, leaving him in a tie for second. Bob Charles and Stewart Ginn had just enough to get past the team of Frank Beard and Jimmy Powell and Mike Hill and Lee Trevino to win the Raphael Division. In the Demaret Division, Don January and Gene Littler teamed up for their sixth title as a team in this tournament. They edged 2003 champs Miller Barber and Jim Ferree by a stroke.
During the final round, with temperatures only reaching the low 60s and winds gusting to 20 mph, Des Smyth felt right at home, shooting a 1-under 71 to carve out a two-stroke win over Tom Jenkins. It was the Irishman’s second Champions Tour title in three starts, having won the SBC Classic a month earlier. Smyth was the only player in the field to shoot a final-round, under-par score in conditions that reminded him of his home in Drogheda, Ireland. In the Raphael Division, Andy North and Tom Watson shot consecutive 64s to cruise to the Raphael Division title, while Orville Moody and Jimmy Powell took the Demaret Division honors with their seven-stroke win over Joe Jimenez and Charlie Sifford.
At the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, Jay Haas began a hot streak that eventually led to Champions Tour Player of the Year honors. After winning at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa, he won the following week at the FedEx Kinko’s Classic, skipped the next two events and then made it three wins in a row with a win at the Senior PGA Championship. In Savannah, Haas led from start to finish, opening a one-stroke lead after the first round and a two-stroke cushion through 36 holes. His five-stroke victory was the largest since the Legends Division adopted a stroke-play format in 2002. In the Raphael Division, Andy North and Tom Watson successfully defended their title, as did the team of Orville Moody and Jimmy Powell in the Demaret Division.
Jay Haas didn’t blow the field away like he did in 2006 when he set the lowest score in tournament history at 15-under par and a five-stroke victory. Instead, Haas came from behind, making a critical up and down from the sand on the final hole of regulation to force, and eventually win, a playoff over Tom Kite. He also moved to 24-under par on his last 108 holes at Westin Savannah Harbor Golf and Resort Spa course and 21-under par on the back nine. Haas went on to win four events in 2007 and finish the season No. 1 on the money list and second in the Charles Schwab Cup. The Raphael Division, a 36-hole, two-man better-ball competition for players 50 and older, was conducted Friday and Saturday. Tom Watson and Andy North won their third consecutive title. North and Watson defeated the NBC broadcasting tag team of Gary Koch and Roger Maltbie by one stroke. In the Demaret Division, played Monday and Tuesday as a 36-hole, two-man better-ball competition for players 70 and older, Butch Baird and Bobby Nichols shot 65-64–129 for a four-stroke victory over Jimmy Powell and Orville Moody.
In the first year since 2001 that all three divisions—Legends, Raphael and Demaret—used a better-ball format, Andy North and Tom Watson continued their dominant play, winning a team title for the fourth consecutive year. North and Watson outlasted Craig Stadler and Jeff Sluman by a stroke. The Raphael Division was also a close affair, with Gary Koch and Roger Maltbie making up for two second-place finishes in 2006 and 2007 by edging Bob Charles and Stewart Ginn by a stroke. In the Demaret Division, which ended Tuesday, Jimmy Powell teamed with Al Geiberger for the first time to take a five-stroke win. Powell hooked up with Geiberger after Powell’s long-time partner Orville Moody missed the event because of illness (he passed away later in the season). Powell had paired with Moody for the previous three tournaments, winning twice (2005 and 2006) and placing second in 2007.
For the second consecutive year, it was a close call for the team of Jeff Sluman and Craig Stadler. After losing the title by a stroke to the team of Andy North and Tom Watson in 2008, Sluman and Stadler fell in a two-hole playoff to Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman. The Langer-Lehman team looked like it had won the tournament on the first extra hole when Langer made a 45-foot birdie putt. Stadler, unfazed, made a similar-distance putt, causing the crowd to erupt in applause again. Langer and Lehman decided things on the second playoff hole when they made par to the Sluman/Stadler bogey. In the Raphael Division, the team of Gary Koch/Roger Maltbie successfully defended their 2009 title with a two-stroke win over Mike Hill/Lee Trevino. World Golf Hall of Fame members Bob Charles and Gary Player teamed for the first time to edge defending champions Al Geiberger/Jimmy Powell by a stroke in the 70-and-older division.
The win by Mark O’Meara and Nick Price was significant because it gave O’Meara his first victory in a Champions Tour event in 58 starts and ended a streak of 238 events without a win (181 on PGA TOUR; 57 on Champions Tour) since his victory at the 1998 British Open. The victory was Price’s second on the Champions Tour. Runners-up John Cook and Joey Sindelar, who were defeated at the second extra hole of a sudden death playoff, earned their third consecutive top-5 finish in this event. Later in the year, O’Meara and Price each captured additional Champions Tour titles - Price at the Principal Charity Classic in Des Moines, Iowa and O’Meara at the year’s final major championship, the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship at TPC Potomac. Ken Green made his first start since losing part of his right leg in an accident the previous June while returning from the Triton Financial Classic in Austin, TX. Green and his partner Mike Reid finished T29. John Bland and Graham Marsh posted their first win in the Raphael Division since 1997 when they claimed a one-stroke victory over Bruce Lietzke and Bill Rogers. Bland and Marsh ended the two-year reign of Gary Koch and Roger Maltbie, who finished third. In the Demaret Division, World Golf Hall of Fame members Sir Bob Charles and Gary Player defended their title in 2009, beating Tom Shaw and Don Bies by two strokes.
Kenny Perry and Scott Hoch both missed short par putts on the second playoff hole, handing the Legends Division title at the 2011 Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf to Mark McNulty/David Eger. McNulty and Eger teamed for a final-round 11-under 61 to post a 27-under-par score, but Perry almost holed a birdie putt on the final hole of regulation that would have won the tournament outright, lipping out from 25 feet. After both teams made par on the first extra hole, all four players missed the 18th green with their approach shots on the second extra hole. McNulty first saved his par from just left of the green, chipping to within three feet of the hole and converting the par save. Hoch then missed his par bid from the same distance and just when it looked as if the playoff would be extended to a third extra hole, Perry pulled his putt from three feet giving McNulty and Eger the win. It marked the eighth official title for McNulty and his first win on the Champions Tour since the 2009 Principal Charity Classic. For Eger, it was his fourth victory on the circuit and first since the previous year’s Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic. For the third consecutive year, a team came from off the pace to win, and it was also the third consecutive year that a playoff was required to decide the title. Mark James and Des Smyth fired a back-to-back 63s to finish 18-under and win the Raphael Division by one stroke over the teams of Gary Koch and Roger Maltbie and Ben Crenshaw and Curtis Strange. Smyth from Ireland and James from England become the second consecutive international team to claim the Raphael Division, following the team of Australia’s Graham Marsh and South Africa’s John Bland in 2010. Gibby Gilbert and J.C. Snead fired back-to-back 10-under-par 62s to win the Demaret Division by five strokes over the teams of Mike Hill/Lee Trevino and Jim Albus/Jim Dent. Their two-day, better-ball winning score of 20-under 124 was the lowest in the 18-year history of the Demaret Division competition, eclipsing the previous record of 19-under 125 set by Bob Charles/Gary Player in 2010.
Michael Allen and teammate David Frost played near-flawless golf, leading to a one-stroke victory in the Legends Division of the Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf. The duo beat John Cook and Joey Sindelar, who finished runners-up for the second time in this tournament having lost a playoff in 2010. Allen and Frost finished with a 54-hole, bogey-free, 29-under-par 187. The key shot came at No. 14 in the final round when Frost chipped in from 40 feet for eagle on the par-4, which gave them a lead they never relinquished. Allen had also captured the previous week’s Encompass Insurance Pro-Am of Tampa Bay. Mark James and Des Smyth defended their title in the Raphael Division with a one-stroke victory over the teams of Denis Watson and Steve Jones and Mark McCumber and Wayne Grady. James dropped in a 45-foot birdie on the final hole to give the pair the win. They finished with a 36-hole total of 19-under-par 125. In the Demaret Division, Gibby Gilbert and J.C. Snead teamed to successfully defend their title, defeating the team of Frank Beard and Larry Ziegler on the first playoff hole when Snead made a six-inch birdie putt. The two teams finished with a 36-hole score of 21-under-par 123. The duo’s 10-stroke margin of victory also surpassed the previous largest margin of seven strokes held by Orville Moody and Jimmy Powell in 2005.