It doesn’t suck to be Kirk Elmquist.
Elmquist is the tournament director for the Champions Tour’s Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf, one of the most unique events in pro golf. It’s the one that, in 1978, inspired the formation of the 50-plus tour, and, after a few years of subsisting with an uncertain future, the one that was saved by becoming the first — and currently only — major pro golf event contested on a par-3 course. It’s one of a rare few events where you’ll see the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player competing.
“I have the greatest job in the world,” Elmquist said in an interview last week. Full stop.
The cherry on top for Elmquist is that the event is played at Missouri’s Big Cedar Lodge, which is quickly becoming the Greenbrier or Pinehurst of the Ozarks. Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris owns the resort and has been pouring millions of dollars into making the resort a must-visit for sportsmen and golfers alike.
“With all of the TV exposure, we hope people will see this is a great place to come and vacation, get outdoors, get your kids off the couch,” Elmquist said in an interview last week. “Building Big Cedar Lodge as a golf destination is a huge addition to our lake, fishing, shooting, nature trails and what the lodge offers.”
This was the second go-round for this event, with Elmquist and his team offering a better fan experience in Year 2. From better parking to a fan-friendly mobile app, there’s always another little touch a tournament director can add. However, he’s not left wanting in the way of golf facilities.
The property already boasts a pair of courses, on which the two-man Legends of Golf is played. There’s the Top of the Rock course, the Jack Nicklaus-designed, nine-hole par-3 course that hosts two of three tournament rounds. The Buffalo Ridge Springs course, designed by Tom Fazio, is the second course for the event.
There’s more on the way.
Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore have signed on to design an 18-hole course, the Ridge course. Soon, a Gary Player-designed, 9-hole executive-style course, dubbed the Mountain Top course, premieres. The Crenshaw-Coore course is meant to bolster the resort’s championship credentials, but the Player course is designed wholly for the likes of juniors who are new to the game and executives who would like to play golf but don’t have the time for a five-hour round.
“Four hours now is just different than it was in the 1970s or ’80s,” Elmquist said.
They’ll complement the massive, Arnold Palmer-designed practice facility and the putting course concocted by Tom Watson. That’s a lot of name dropping. Mix in the golf with breathtaking views, anything an outdoors enthusiast would love and a world-class spa, and Big Cedar Lodge is a getaway that blends rustic and rugged and with lavish luxury.
No wonder Elmquist is so happy with his job. He earned his stripes as associate executive director of the Web.com’s Price Cutter Charity Championship and the TD Waterhouse Championship in Kansas City, a former Champions Tour event.
After observing young, developing pros on the Web.com Tour and now in a second stint at the front lines of a Champions Tour event, Elmquist sides with the perspective of so many of the older players who spend less time grinding and more time soaking it in. His advice to younger players is a simple touch-base with reality that can put the thousands of hours of hard work into perspective.
“Always appreciate when someone wants your autograph,” Elmquist said. “You never know when someone won’t want it anymore.”