Friday, May 31, 2013

Legends of Golf in Savannah, Georgia

View of the Savannah River from the Westin

Historic Savannah, Georgia combines the past and present in ways that will even charm the toughest northerner! Until experiencing a visit there in April, 2013, I had only flown in and out of the Savannah Airport in transit to Hilton Head. I had always said that I’d love to spend a little bit of time exploring, and my April visit was far too brief an exposure. That introduction to this small city, with southern charm as sweet as their tea, left me hoping to return in the near future to experience some of its many tour offerings.

We were in town with friends to attend the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf event at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa. It was amazing to see some of the famous players who are now missing the swing fluidity that once made them champions, but guess what? They’ve still got game. They may grunt and groan a bit when they swing or when they bend down to tee up the ball or retrieve a successful putt, but with all of that said, they are still impressive.

Whether one walked the course and followed a favorite player, or chose to sit in one spot and watch every group play one particular hole, it was a thrill to see these true legends. Some seemed very focused and serious, while others made it a point to banter with each other and with the small group of spectators who were present during the early part of the week.

Gary Player made huge points with us when he marched over to adorable, 91 year old Mary Pedigo following one of his tee shots and asked her, “So what was your lowest handicap when you were playing golf?” This sweet little lady was so thrilled, and I just happened to be standing right there to capture the moment of this touching gesture!
Gary Player chatting with Mary Pedigo

According to Mary’s granddaughter, Jessica Pedigo,“Grandmom played golf until she was 82 and still loves the game…especially the Legends players, as that is who she always watched play. Growing up, she taught my brother and me to play. We called it the ‘Rabbit Run’ because we would get on the course at 6 a.m. so we weren’t in anyone’s way, and we would always see rabbits out since it was so early.”

At one point during the tournament, Gary Player drove by in the cart, but he stopped and waved at Mary Pedigo and said, “Hey, pretty lady!” to which she responded without missing a beat, “Hey Gary, how are you?” as though they were old friends and she frequently ran into him.

It is awesome how fit and trim some of these older players are, and Gary is certainly one of those who falls into that category. Kudos to Gary Player for being personable as well!

Doug Sanders charming Mary Pedigo
Then there was Doug Sanders, who wowed the crowd with his colorful golf attire, right down to his purple golf shoes. He also chatted with Mary Pedigo, who was having quite a day out there at the tournament!

Then there was the 80ish player, who will remain nameless because I don’t want to get into trouble for ratting on him, but after his tee shot on one hole, he marched over to me as I observed from the opposite side of the ropes and began telling little jokes. He also said, “This is a tough way to make a living, but I have so many ex-wives that I have to pay alimony to!” Then after two or three more little remarks about his former mates, he looked me right in the eye and said, “So, if you get too tired, you can come to my room and rest!” Then he just marched over and climbed into his golf cart, and away he went. I know it was just part of his comedy routine, and it was rather comical given his age. Perhaps his sense of playfulness is why this anonymous player has so many ex-wives!

We enjoyed the time spent with our friends, Larry and Sharon DeCosmo, as well as Joe Daley, who was caddying for Ed Fiori. It was nice to see Ed and also Blaine McCallister, whom we remember from many years of charity golf events in the Albany, NY area. FYI--Blaine qualifies for that "fit and trim" category that I was mentioning earlier. Just sayin'.

We had the opportunity to watch Tom Watson, Ian Woosnam, Lee Elder, Lee Trevino and the venerable Jack Nicklaus--The Golden Bear in action on a course that was so lush it looked like a flawless grass carpet. One evening at dinner, Roger Maltbie was seated directly across from us and was extremely congenial to us and to fans who asked for a photo with him before he exited the restaurant.

A huge thank you to Mary and Jessica Pedigo for joining us on the blog today! It was a spectacular April day at the Savannah Legends of Golf, and one that will always remain memorable. 

In the next post I’ll fill you in on our mini-visit to the amazing city of Savannah!

Mary Anne Benedetto