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Gallagher dreams of winning SFBC

MADISON — Oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful!

Jim Gallagher, Jr., smiled brightly as he talked about winningthe Southern Farm Bureau Classic. The Greenwood resident andfavorite son of every Magnolia State golfer was present forMonday’s SFBC Media Day gathering at the Annandale Golf Club.

Gallagher, 43, expressed a strong desire to win a PGA Tour eventon his home turf. Yes, it would be wonderful to see him walking upthe 18th fairway on Sunday, Oct. 3. A cool, late afternoon breezewould blow across the lake bordering the fairway. Imagine sunlightdancing on the water and a roaring, partisan crowd greetinghim.

Flashing that boyish grin, the 6-foot, 200-pound Gallagher wouldwave appreciatively to the crowd and tip his cap. He would smile athis wife, Cissye, and their three children, James, Kathleen andElizabeth, who stood near the side of the green, glowing withpride.

Oh, what a glorious day it would be.

Gallagher would putt out, win by two strokes and embrace wifeand family. Yes, that $540,000 paycheck would be appreciated,too.

Returning to reality, Monday was overcast. The course was stillsoaked in some areas by weekend rainfall.

“I want to win here again,” said Gallagher. The last time was1985, when he captured the old Magnolia Classic at the HattiesburgCountry Club. The first place prize was a mere $27,000.

“It is amazing, my journey here,” said Gallagher. “Southern Farmhas been good to me. This is my home.”

Gallagher spoke to the media about the SFBC’s economic impact onMississippi. An ambassador for the Magnolia State, Gallagherrecites the litany of hospitality, good food and an outstandingcourse to fellow pros, wherever he travels.

“This tournament is a springboard for many careers,” Gallagherpointed out. Luke Donald, the 2002 champion, is a member of theEuropean Ryder Cup team this year. Defending SFBC champion JohnHuston looks forward to returning for a title defense.

Gallagher, whose main Tour sponsor is Cleveland, provided aclinic after lunch. Blessed with a sense of humor, Gallagher keptthe group of golfers laughing as he demonstrated some of his skillsand how he warms up on the driving range.

“Start out with your pitching wedge and hit about 40 balls,”said Gallagher. “Get your rhythm and tempo in your swing. Thenstarting hitting your longer clubs.”

This year Gallagher has competed in five events. His best finishwas 10th in the B.C. Open. He was in the title hunt for theMilwaukee Open when he made the weekend cut. Then the wheels cameoff.

“I pushed it too hard in Milwaukee,” Gallagher admitted. “Itried to make things happen and forced some shots. The key for meis to relax.”

He has earned over $5 million on the Tour. Golf has been good tohim.

Asked about his clubs, Gallagher said he uses Cleveland irons, aTaylormade driver, a sentimental favorite Olimar 17-degree 3-woodand an Odyssey II putter. He hits a Callaway ball.

Annandale pleases pros, public

Gallagher said Annandale is a great course. “It is one of thebetter ones we play.”

The lush, 7,199-yard layout was designed by Jack Nicklaus.Carved out of the rolling hills of Madison County, the fairways areframed by beautiful homes and woodlands.

“Jack spent a lot of time designing this course,” saidGallagher. “It has matured into a wonderful golf course. It wasmade with the land that’s out here; no tricks.

“The course is appealing to the eye,” Gallagher continued. “Itfits anyone’s game. I have never heard anyone walk away, sayingthey were unhappy about the course.”

According to Robert Morgan, the tournament’s executive directorsince it began in 1968, a talented field of pros is anticipated.They’ll chase a $3-million purse, the week of Sept. 27-Oct. 3.

“We are 30 days out and the best is yet to come,” said Morgan.”We have 153 commitments for a 132-man field. We have 16 tournamentwinners from the past two years and eight this year.”

The SFBC returns to the Golf Channel this year and that’s a bigplus. Mississippi will be on the map and on the sports pages aroundthe nation and the world during the first weekend of October.

For information on ticket packages and pro-ams, call601-898-GOLF (4653).