Media receive SFBC preview

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, October 2, 2001

MADISON – On a beautiful, sun-kissed Monday that God must havemade especially for outdoor activities, members of the mediagathered at the Annandale Golf Club. They received a preview ofthis year’s Southern Farm Bureau Classic, set Nov. 1-4 A series ofpro-am tournaments will start the busy week on Monday, Oct. 29.

Golf was the major topic on the agenda. Defending SFBC championSteve Lowery was present to field questions from the media. Loweryhas been so successful since winning last year, that he wasqualified for the PGA Tour Championship in Houston, Texas, held thesame week as the SFBC.

“Winning here gave me a lot more confidence,” said Lowery. “Ithas carried over to this year.”

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Lowery, a muscular 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, has won $1,617,579this year, ranking him 22nd on the Tour. He has had six top 10finishes this year. Born in Birmingham, Ala., on Oct. 12, 1960, heis a University of Alabama graduate.

Lowery and his wife, Kathryn, have three children, two daughtersand a son. Kristen Branch is 9 years old, Lauren Elizabeth 6 andStephen Brent, Jr., 3.

Their home in Orlando, Fla., was destroyed by fire in 1999 andthey decided to move back home. Their former residence was locatedjust off the fourth fairway at Bay Hill.

A family man, Lowery enjoys spending time with his wife andchildren when he’s not on tour. For hobbies, he likes hunting andfishing.

What does Lowery carry in his his golf bag?

He uses a Taylormade driver, Hogan irons, Olimar fairway woods,Cleveland wedges and a Ping putter. That putter was in Lowery’shands when he won a playoff with Skip Kendall last year atAnnandale. Lowery rolled in a birdie putt from the fringe of the18th green to secure the SFBC title and take home $396,000.

Like every American, Lowery was affected by the terroristattacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. It changed the nationand changed the perspective on life.

“People don’t realize the freedoms we take for granted,” saidLowery. Overseas, Americans are not loved in all foreign countries.They are targets of terrorist groups in many places.

Lowery said a lot of PGA Tour players had elected to skip thisyear’s World Match Play Tournament in Buenos Aires, Argentina.”Hopefully, this is just a short term decision and it won’t belong-term.”

His success on Tour had made Lowery a candidate for the U.S.Ryder Cup Team but he was left on the bubble. The much-anticipatedshowdown was canceled due to the terrorist attacks.

“Newspapers were calling it The War on the Shores,” said Loweryin reference to the Ryder Cup match. “But it doesn’t compare to thewar against terrorism our country is fighting.”

Lowery had the opportunity to visit the University ofMississippi Medical Center’s children hospital Monday morning.Having three children of his own, Lowery was deeply moved by theexperience.

“Visiting the hospital puts things in perspective,” said Lowery.”Golf doesn’t seem nearly as important.”

Robert Morgan, the tournament’s executive director since it wasfounded in 1968, said this should be the strongest field on record.Two former PGA Championship winners, John Daly and Mark Brooks,will participate. Kirk Triplet, the 1999 SFBC champ, willreturn.

“We will have 14 PGA Tour winners from the last two years,” saidMorgan. “We’ll get the marquee players the last two weeks.”

The SFBC prize money has increased this year. The total purse is$2.4 million with the winner getting a check for $432,000.

“For any guy who ranks 32-35 on the PGA Tour, this is a musttournament,” said Morgan. “The top 40 (money winners) will qualifyfor the Masters.”

Morgan said a few skyboxes are still available. There are placesto be filled in the pro-ams which start Oct. 29, with the Coca-ColaPro-Am. There will be a Wednesday Oct. 31, Cellular SouthPro-Am.

On Tuesday, an O’Doul’s Shootout for Charity is scheduled thatafternoon. It also is recognized as a practice day for thepros.

Charity is a big winner in this PGA Tour event. Since 1986, thePGA has donated $500 million. Century Charities of Mississippi hasreceived $1.5 million during that span. The SFMC has also raised$1.5 million.

Tournament coordinator Steve Hutton said a new fund-raiser is inplace this year and it involves the general public. “Birdies forCharity,” will provide extra funds for the 118 charities inMississippi.

There are approximately 1,800 birdies scored each year in theSFBC. People are seeking pledges from individuals and groups in thecommunities. For example, a one-cent pledge for a birdie (onestroke below par) would result in approximately $18 forcharity.

Hutton said 175,000 pledge cards have been distributed acrossthe Magnolia State. Hopefully, the pros will produce an aboveaverage amount of birdies at Annandale next month.