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Dan Jenkins was right – at least regarding the Texas Swing

Being confined to a hospital bed for a few days will really get you thinking. And reminiscing.

Throw in watching the AT&T Byron Nelson on the small analog feed on the hospital TV and my memories went back to March 28, 1992, the night Duke’s Christian Laettner hit “The Shot” against Duke.

I was in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida at the time. Back then, The Players Championship was played in March.

After a day of watching golf, my host Ruffin Beckwith, asked me to accompany him to a reception at TPS Sawgrass and then to a friend’s dinner party.

“Is the friend hosting the dinner party anyone I’d know?” I asked.

“Dan Jenkins,” Ruffin replied.

Wow. I’d only read possibly everything that Jenkins ever wrote. This was a “bucket list” item before anyone ever thought of the term.

After arriving and being introduced, the main things I remember vividly from that night were:

  1. The Duke vs Kentucky game and everyone croweded around the biggest television I’d ever seen in a home and the place literally erupting when Laettner hit the shot.
  2. The guest list – Dan’s daughter SI writer Sally Jenkins, Rick Reilly, Jaime Diaz.  Holy crap, I’ve landed in sportswriter heaven!
  3. Dan’s office, more specifically, the manual typewriter on his desk, the keys covered in White Out/Liquid Paper from all of the corrections.
  4. Overhearing a conversation where Mr. Jenkins was resolved that the tour was too commercialized. “Too many damn sponsors with naming rights,” or something to that effect.The guest list. A who’s who of sports writers. Sally Jenkins, Jaime Diaz and Rick Reilly to name a few.

As we were driving out on our way to a party hosted by PGA Tour Productions (very much in their infancy stage), I couldn’t let Dan’s comments die. Ruffin and I talked at length about it, where the tour was and where it was going.

The days of the Andy Williams San Diego Open, the Bob Hope Desert Classic, etc. were all things in a distant memory or about to be. Jenkins thought not only was the commercialization too much, but the reverence that should be shown to those few who gave so much, should never be cheapened.

This man from Fort Worth was clearly talking about Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson. And their tournaments, The Colonial and The Byron Nelson.

Back to my hospital bed watching the AT&T Byron Nelson, which is 1 of 2 tournaments sponsored by AT&T each season. Yes, the name Byron Nelson is there, but it’s a subtitle. His statue is shown a couple of times by CBS and Jim Nantz pays the best tributes that he can, but for an event where Byron put on for so long, it’s not enough.

And the week before at the Crown Plaza Invitational, the word Colonial (i.e. Hogan’s Alley) is a footnote.

I understand naming rights, sponsorships and the dollars that they generate. But, for these 2 greats of the game, and perhaps the greatest golf writer of all time, for crying out loud wouldn’t the sponsor maybe consider taking, not the back seat, but the passenger seat for these two events.

  • The Colonial presented by Crowne Plaza
  • The Byron Nelson Classic by AT&T

Memo to AT&T, you’re already the lead sponsor at The Crosby….uh, excuse me, the AT&T National Pro-Am.

Can’t Mr. Nelson have first billing on the event he created?

It wouldn’t be a first.

Arnold’s tournament is the Arnold Palmer Invitational by MasterCard.

Jack’s is the Memorial presented by Nationwide.

Even the “Tour Championship by Coca-Cola” the sponsor takes the second seat at the table, not the other way around.

Dan Jenkins was right in my mind. Well partially, at least for those 2 weeks each year in Texas.

Can’t we give Mr. Hogan and Lord Byron that bit of respect?