Only Top of the Rock owner Johnny Morris --- who has a net worth of a cool $4.2 billion --- can take a sinkhole and turn it into a sculpture, a work of art, and a money-making project. It even leaves Tom Watson in awe.
RIDGEDALE, Mo. --- Tom Watson has lived a life we can only dream of.
He gets to play a game. And he gets paid for it.
Unless you don't consider a career worth $30 million a lot.
Watson's still popular, too, as evidenced by the numerous autograph hounds --- and hound-ettes --- he regularly faces at golf tournaments. Even though he's past his prime and playing on the Champions Tour.
But even the great Watson has reality checks. Not that he needs them or wants them, but he gets them, anyway.
"You sign a lot of autographs out there," Watson said. "Every now and then, you get a really attractive 24-, 25-year-old girl come up to you and ask you for your autograph."
Dreamy stuff, indeed ... at age 66, no less. But reality has a way of creeping in, doesn't it?
"Then she says, 'You know, my grandmother loves you. Not my mom, my grandmother loves you.'"
Take that, $30 million dollar man. Age gets us all, that's elementary, my dear Watson.
Andy North then chimes in: "That wasn't exactly what he had in mind, but it is the truth."
Watson and North are teammates at this weekend's Bass Pro Legends of Golf at Top of the Rock and Buffalo Ridge, a unique stop on the Champions Tour. Not only is Top of the Rock only a nine-hole course, it's a nine-hole par-3 course. This, however, is hardly your typical par-3 golf course --- it's the first of its kind to host a PGA Tour-sanctioned event.
"It's a whole lot of fun and the venues are just spectacular," Watson said. "Johnny Morris and Jack Nicklaus have done a fantastic job with this property, it's first-class all the way."
Nicklaus is the course designer of Top of the Rock; Morris is the founder of Bass Pro Shops, Big Cedar Lodge and most recently, the breathtaking 462-acre spread that is Top of the Rock, which overlooks Table Rock Lake with jaw-dropping views that make even the most hardened soul shake your head.
The Legends is the oldest event for the 50-and-older set, long before the tour was known as the Champions Tour --- and even before it was known as the Seniors Tour. The Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf started it all in 1978 and it was such a hit, it spawned the start of the Senior Tour two years later.
This event lives up to its name --- Legends. Because the format includes a division for players 70 and older, it draws players like Nicklaus and Gary Player and Lee Trevino.
They would classify as Legends, along with guys like Watson, of course.
"Look at Jack and Gary playing here, that's the premier pairing of the week, promise you," Watson said. "I'm an old guy, but they're playing against the older guys. People still want to see that. It's not so much golf, but they just want to see them in competition again."
Call this delaying reality.
"It's fun to see the guys that aren't out here every week, like Jack and Gary and Chi Chi (Rodriguez)," North said. "It's beautiful when we can put a week like this together."
Top of the Rock is unique for another reason, its sinkhole. And this is not a sinkhole they're trying to fix, it's a sinkhole they're celebrating.
Only Johnny Morris --- who has a net worth of a cool $4.2 billion --- can take a sinkhole and turn it into a sculpture, a work of art, and a money-making project. It was originally 80 feet wide by 35 deep when this "disaster" happened last May, but it's now 12 times that size, on purpose, as they've moved 25,000 truckloads of dirt and rock.
It's become a treasure hunt, as geologists search for new caverns and passageways and "new wonders below," said Martin McDonald, a spokesman for Morris.
It makes Watson shake his head in wonder.
"That's typical Johnny, that's the beauty of Johnny ... making lemonade out of lemons," Watson said. "I can just imagine him getting that phone call: 'Mr. Morris, we have a a slight problem out here at Top of the Rock ...'
"He sees it and he said: 'Wow, we can make something out of this thing.' He has things going on in his head most people can't see."
That's the reality of Johnny Morris. And that's why his reality has nine zeroes in it.
AFTER SATURDAY'S SECOND ROUND, the team of Michael Allen and Woody Austin sit at 17-under to lead the main portion of the tournament by one shot over the teams of David Frost-Roger Chapman and Kenny Perry-Scott Hoch.
Lurking two shots back is the team that includes the clear-cut leader of the pack on the Champions Tour, Bernhard Langer. Langer and Tom Lehman are at 15-under along with the defending tournament champions, Billy Andrade-Joe Durant.
Watson and North --- who've drawn the second-largest galleries this weekend, as they've been paired with Colin Montgomerie and Mark O'Meara --- are tied for 13th at 10-under.
The largest galleries of the weekend have belonged to the foursome of Nicklaus-Player and Trevino-Mike Hill, a pair of Legends teams. Nicklaus-Player are tied for sixth at 4-under, which lags 11 shots behind leaders Larry Nelson-Bruce Fleisher.
For questions, comments or story ideas, contact Tom at email@example.com.
Top of the Rock reality checks:
Tom Watson and the sinkhole