Tom McKnight said it was a moment that could never be taken away from him.
Who is Tom McKnight, you might ask.
Bonus points if you answered he’s the man who split the fairway on the first shot in the first Boeing Classic on Aug. 19, 2005 at 9 a.m.
Fast-forward nine years and the Champions Tour event at Snoqualmie Ridge is getting ready to celebrate its 10th year. Much has happened at the event since McKnight’s first shot.
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Hall of Famers have won and virtual no-names have also won. It has become a must-play event for Fred Couples, the Seattle native who is the greatest golfer in the history of the state. And it’s become a fixture on the local sporting scene.
So in honor of the 10th year, here are moments to remember from each of the first nine years.
2005: Screaming Eagle has claws
Peter Jacobsen was near the lead in the second round when he reached the 207-yard ninth hole, named Screaming Eagle because players have to hit their tee shots over Eagle Lake.
Jacobsen promptly hit his tee shot in the water and took a double bogey. But he had plenty of company. Bob Murphy, playing in the second group of the day, hit it into the water twice and took a triple bogey. Two groups later, Norm Jarvis came to the hole as the hottest player on the course. He hit his tee shot into the water and made double bogey.
Seven balls in the first five groups hit the water and 11 balls found the water during the round.
2006: Paging Bill Murray
Scott Simpson shot a course- and personal-record 61 that remains tied as the tournament record. In addition to winning the 1987 U.S. Open, Simpson was also known for being the longtime partner of Bill Murray at the annual AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. “I’m guessing I’ll get a call from him,” Simpson said.
2007: Pain before record playoff
Ray Stewart from Abbottsford, B.C., qualified to play in the event a few days before it began, then took a four-shot lead entering the final round. The no-name player looked like he would cruise to a win after a solid opening nine in the final round, but he had a four-putt double bogey on the 15th hole, then hit a ball into the water on the 17th hole that led to another double bogey.
Stewart missed the seven-man playoff, the most ever in a Champions Tour or PGA Tour event, by one shot. Stewart was so distraught he talked about quitting the game. He didn’t quit, but he has not played in the Boeing Classic since.
2008: Kite does it again
The Hall of Famer had not won since the 2006 Boeing Classic — a total of 56 events — and was wondering if he would ever win again. But he surged past Simpson for a two-shot win, making him the oldest winner of the event. Kite, who is scheduled to play this week, hasn’t won since.
2009: A tip from a legend
Gary Player played in his third and final Boeing Classic. In the final round, a young boy watched Player hit his tee shot and said, ‘Dad, look how he hit it.’ Player walked outside the ropes and gave the boy some advice. “Son, don’t worry about driving the ball, work on your short game. That’s what will help you the most.”
Honorable mention: Gil Morgan’s approach shot on the first hole bounced well right of the fairway and landed inside the jacket hood of a fan sitting on the bank. “Be very careful and don’t move,” said Morgan, joking that he had to hit it where it lay. Mercifully for the fan, Morgan got a free drop.
2010: Freddy and Fuzzy
Fred Couples, fresh off his second-place finish to Bernhard Langer in the U.S. Senior Open the month before at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, finished third in his first try at the Boeing Classic, with Langer winning again. “This week was just as much fun as Sahalee,” said Couples, who had turned 50 the previous October and drew huge galleries.
Meanwhile, Fuzzy Zoeller did what he does best: entertain. When he hit into the pond in front of the 17th green, Zoeller swore and then jokingly said, “I never did like this game — it’s too hard.” When he birdied No. 14 by sinking a 20-footer, a fan said, “Nice putt, Fuzzy.” Zoeller replied: “No one was more shocked by it than I was.” Zoeller finished 73rd.
2011: Irwin’s ace and the talking ball
Hale Irwin, 66, electrified fans on the ninth hole in the first round with a hole-in-one. When asked about the shot, Irwin answered from the ball’s perspective. “Ball, what happened? Well, you hit a 6-iron, and you really had to hit it well because it was at the outer limits. And I flew over the bunker but just a little short of the green about a foot because that’s where it’s a little softer. I didn’t know that at the time. I bounced up on the green and I rolled right into the hole.”
2012: These guys aren’t always good
It took Fred Funk 13 shots and five balls to get through the par-3 13th hole. His first tee shot went right over the flag, over the green and couldn’t be found. It got much worse from there. His next tee shot was left of the green and was lost. His third tee shot went in the front bunker. He airmailed his shot out of the bunker and it couldn’t be found. Then he hit a screaming low shot out of the bunker and it, too, was lost.
He blasted another ball to the middle of the green and two-putted. “There’s nothing to say about it,” he said. “It’s embarrassing.”
2013: Couples returns, makes a charge
After a back injury forced Couples to withdraw after his opening shot of the 2012 event, big crowds greeted him for his return. He made a late charge in the final round, with birdies on four of his final five holes. He was the clubhouse leader when he finished, and although John Riegger and John Cook passed him, he gave the gallery a thrill. “Today was a nice finish,” Couples said after tying for the low round of the day. “That’s about as good as I could have shot.”
Scott Hanson: 206-464-2943 or email@example.com