Donald hunting more $$$ in SFBC

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, September 10, 2003

MADISON – Luke Donald hopes he has another glorious week in theSouthern Farm Bureau Classic. The native of Great Britain won hisfirst PGA Tour event at the Annandale Golf Club last year andachieved a higher level of status on the Tour.

Donald was recognized as a champion in the rain-plagued eventwhich was reduced to three rounds. Water, water everywhere and noplace for it to go.

If Mississippi is suffering through a drought and watershortage, schedule the SFBC and it is almost guaranteed to rain andrain a lot, too.

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Donald remembered last year when he lunched on the scrumptiousbuffet in the Annandale club house and watched the rain pelt thegreens and turn the bunkers into small ponds. He held a slim onestroke lead over Deane Pappas.

“I think I was the only person out here who was happy it wasrained out,” said Donald, laughing at the memory. He won $468,000after shooting 66-68-67–201.

Pappas shot a 66-66-68–202 and settled for $280,800. Brad Elderwas third at 65-67-71–203 and took home $176,800. Not bad for athree rounds of golf.

Donald said this year has been filled with more lows than highs.He had the opportunity to play the first round of the British Openwith Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia. He missed the 36-hole cut.

“It’s (season) been a mixed bag for me,” said Donald, a25-year-old, lightly built Englishman with curly blond hair. “I’vemade four or five cuts. I think I’m ranked about 100th on theEuropean Tour.

Donald’s main club sponsor is Hogan. He uses Hogan irons and aHogan ball. He prefers a Titleist driver, a Suntech 3-wood and aBernardi putter.

“To win here was important,” Donald pointed out. “I feel a lotmore comfortable on Tour because I won a championship. I havestruggled some.”

Donald conducted a clinic for the media golfers on the drivingrange after lunch. He said stretching before a round was moreimportant than pounding balls on the the range, especially for themiddle-aged golfer. He said he usually spent 20 minutes stretchingbefore swinging at a ball.

Donald said tight quadriceps, the muscles in the back of thethighs, cause a lot of back trouble. “My quads were always tightand my back would get sore after a while. Now they are morelimber.”

He demonstrated his elasticity by bending over and placing hispalms on the top of shoes. The simple exercise of bending over fromthe waist and trying to touch the toes is the best method ofstretching the quads.

The new playing dates for the SFBC, Sept. 29-Oct. 5, are nearlya month earlier than the past few years when it went head-to-headwith the Tour Championship. Officials anticipate the strongestfield in SFBC history because of the new dates, Oct. 2-5. Thepreliminary pro-ams will be played on Monday and Tuesday of thatweek. The SFBC starts Oct. 2 and runs through Sunday.

Topping the list of committed players is 2-time Masters championBernhard Langer. Big John Daly is another fan favorite coming toAnnandale. Mark Brooks and Greenville resident Jim Gallagher, Jr.are two more popular entrants.

Tournament exemptions have been granted to Rett Crowder, thereigning Mississippi State Amateur champion who has decided to turnpro; Ricky Barnes, the 2002 U.S. Amateur Champion; and Hank Kuehne,the longest driver on Tour with an average of 319.6 yards perdrive; and Gallagher.

Robert Morgan, the SFBC’s long-time tournament executivedirector, said the tournament is actively recruiting Greg Normanand Mark O’Meara. “This might be Greg’s last active year onTour.”

Another incentive for the pros is the opportunity to win a largechunk of the $3-million purse. First place takes home $540,000.

Sponsors are critical to the success of the SFBC and tournamentdirector Steve Hutton thanked Entergy, CN (Canadian National), theMississippi Development Authority and Buick for providingadditional financial support. Hutton said CN has more miles ofrailroad track in Mississippi than any other state in thenation.

Buick will provide the 132 pros with courtesy cars and severalmore autos for tournament officials during the busy week ofactivity.

Charity has been a major beneficiary during the SFBC’s years ofexistence. The tournament has raised over $2.6 million for charityin the last 16 years.

Birdies for Charity is a new fund raiser that has enjoyedremarkable success. Prior to the SFBC, pledges are taken fromindividuals. For example, a 1-cent pledge will equal $16.47 forcharity. There were 1,647 birdies made in last year’stournament.

Around 150,000 pledge cards have been distributed in Mississippiand Alabama. People making pledges also can qualify to win a newBuick if he/she correctly guesses the number of birdies in thisyear’s tournament.