On a dense-fog, overcast morning in the Ozark Mountains, the sun burned through around 10:30 AM, proving Mother Nature's timing impeccable. Just as the sun peaked, Bass Pro Shops founder and noted conservationist Johnny Morris hosted a press conference draped in intrigue and surprise
It was billed as an announcement with “international significance” to everyone in attendance. It didn't disappoint.
The big surprise? Tiger Woods. Yes, that Tiger Woods.
Woods, along with his former PGA champion contemporary Tom Lehman, joined Morris to announce plans for a new TGR-designed golf course in the middle of what has become America's great golf destination, Big Cedar Lodge.
As an added surprise, the partnership includes the family of Payne Stewart. Stewart died in a plane crash October 1999, mere months after winning his third major championship. Stewart was born in Springfield. He and his father Bill were instrumental in the growth of golf both in the region and nationally.
Photos: Tiger Woods to design new golf course at Big Cedar Lodge
Stewart's widow Tracey was on hand at the press conference Tuesday morning in a display of gratitude, strength and support. Through her partnership with TGR and the Bass Pro Shops family, the newly-designed golf course will be called “Payne's Valley” - to pay special tribute to the legacy of Stewart.
To further honor Stewart's legacy, Morris is creating The Payne Stewart Learning Facility with the help of PGA legend Ben Crenshaw and course designer Bill Coore. The first-class, state-of-the-art practice facility with breathtaking views will promote the game of golf to kids and will also contain a tribute museum displaying Stewart's personal trophies, scorecards, apparel and equipment.
The expansion of the Stewart legacy also includes a focus on his charitable causes and Big Cedar Lodge will host the American Junior Golf Association for the Bass Pro Shops Payne Stewart Junior Championship for the third year in a row, later this year.
If you like surprises, you'll be happy to know there's one more: “Payne's Valley” is the first TGR-designed course that is open to the public.
As Woods jokingly stated at the press conference, he grew up “hitting it in the woods” so choosing Big Cedar Lodge in the Ozark Mountains was a natural selection for the location of his first public-access golf course in the world.
“Payne's Valley” is scheduled to open to the public in 2019. It will mark the fifth world-class golf course at Big Cedar Lodge, a golf mecca with courses also designed by Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Ben Crenshaw, in addition to Woods.
Nicklaus, Crenshaw and Player will be competing at Big Cedar Lodge later this week at The Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf Tournament. We will have tournament coverage throughout the week right here on KSDK.com.
Pat Imig is on-site at Big Cedar Lodge. Stay tuned to KSDK.com for more Legends of Golf updates throughout the week. Follow Pat on Twitter @patrickimig, Instagram @p_imig or reach him by email at ImigCommunications@gmail.com.