By Ken MacLeod
BRANSON, Mo. – Scott Verplank had never played golf in Branson before last weekend’s Bass Pro Legends of Golf event. Nor had he met Bass Pro owner and tournament host Johnny Morris.
All that has changed now, and look for Veplank to become an enthusiastic regular as long as Morris continues to bring the PGA Tour Champions event to Branson each spring.
"This is amazing," said Verplank, who teamed with Davis Love III in the two-man event held at both Buffalo Ridge and Top of the Rock golf courses. "I met Johnny and he’s a great guy. A really good guy. He’s had us do whatever we want to do (fishing, shooting) and he’s been around to meet everyone. What he’s done up here is pretty special.
"I didn’t know you could do all this selling plastic worms."
Verplank is now committed to fully embracing the PGA Tour Champions, which he was not when he turned 50 just prior to the 2014 U.S. Senior Open at Oak Tree. He plans to play 18 to 20 events this summer. Of course, being Verplank, he is battling a new injury, this one a nagging shoulder in injury that has limited his swing.
"I’ve had two cortisone shots in the last three weeks," Verplank said. "Never had a big problem with my shoulder, but lost some function and strength right now. Hopefully we’ll get past this soon."
Verplank was one of four Oklahomans enjoying Morris hospitality last week. Also competing were Gil Morgan, who paired with Tom Kite, Bob Tway, paired with Tom Pernice Jr., and Doug Tewell, who played in the Legends Division for those 65 and older with Jim Thorpe. That duo finished tied for third at 15 under.
Verplank may have given up on his hopes of still competing on the regular PGA Tour, but he’s not finding the Champions Tour to be a picnic. He has played in a total of 20 events thus far with only two top-10 finishes.
"The guys out here can really play," Verplank said. "Look at Bernhard Langer, playing in the next-to-last group of The Masters at 58. Davis, my partner here, won on the regular tour last year. So there’s no doubt, guys out here can still play."
"This tour is not as much of a grind and it shouldn’t be. A 52-year-old shouldn’t have to grind like a 25-year-old. It’s going to be fun."