HOLLISTER – Standing a few feet away from Tracey Stewart, the widow of the late Springfield native and World Golf Hall of Famer Payne Stewart, Tiger Woods said Tuesday he has a simple job ahead of him.
“I have to make sure I don’t screw this up,” Woods said in announcing “Payne’s Valley,” a new 18-hole course adjacent to the Buffalo Ridge site and the newest part of the Big Cedar Lodge stable of courses south of Branson.
Woods made the trip to the Ozarks on Tuesday to make the announcement, and was joined by Bass Pro Shops founder and CEO Johnny Morris, and a group of big names in the world of golf, tourism and the state of Missouri.
Woods said it was an easy sell to get him involved in this project.
“Yeah, I have opportunities to do things on a global level,” Woods said. “I’ve traveled all around the world and played all around the world, but when it comes down to it, it’s about working with the people you want to work with.
“Johnny and I go way back. I like spending time around people I like spending time with.”
The 14-time major champion’s design firm, TGR Design, is handling the course, which is public and scheduled to open in 2019. It is the first public course that TGR Design has handled.
Morris said greens fees for the new course have not been determined, but said “for the quality of the course we’re providing, we will certainly want it to be a good value.”
Morris said Woods has been a hands-on partner in the project, joking that “it seems like he’s driving his guys nuts, I know that. … I think he feels very strongly about the beauty of the land he has to work with here.”
Woods also will design a par-3 course at the nearby Big Cedar Lodge, with a similar goal of getting families together to enjoy nature and the game of golf together.
”This is a place where families can come out here, one with nature, with different options,” Woods said.
The course honors Stewart, Springfield's beloved son who was raised here and won three majors on the PGA Tour. His career was cut short when he died in a 1999 plane accident.
Payne’s Valley is at the former site of the Murder Rock Golf Club, a John Daly course that has been closed since it was purchased by Morris in October 2013.
Woods shared a long embrace and chat with Tracey Stewart before the announcement began, and spoke of how much having Stewart’s name on the course means to him.
“It’s an honor,” Woods said simply.
Woods and Morris have had a relationship since shortly after Woods won the 1997 Masters, when the 21-year-old used some of his winnings to invest in a Bass Tracker boat from Bass Pro Shops.
Morris, along with his son and a friend of his son’s, personally delivered the boat. That led to a fishing trip and a relationship that has endured.
Payne’s Valley will sit between two courses owned by Morris and Big Cedar Lodge – The Springs Course at Buffalo Ridge to the north, and The Gary Player Mountaintop Course, a 13-hole, par-3 course to the south, and adjacent to a third that is in the works.
To the east of The Springs course is The Ozarks, an 18-hole course that is the work of the renowned golf architecture firm of Coore & Crenshaw. That course is slated to open later this fall or early in 2018.
Morris also owns the Top of the Rock par-3 course a couple of miles away in Ridgedale, and he has talked recently of helping Branson become a golf destination site on a national and international scale.
The driving force of it all, Morris said, is being able to showcase the natural beauty of the Ozarks.
“We are so blessed to live where we live,” Morris said. “Tiger and I were talking today as we were driving around. Tiger talked about kids on their phones, and how great it is, whether you’re playing golf, or hunting or fishing, to get out in nature, and especially with people you care about, your parents and grandparents. Your own kids, your best friends.
“This land is going to get people from all over connected to our land and what’s special about the Ozarks. The tie-in with Payne Stewart and the Stewart family – everything that he stood for, his character his values, he was a true champion.”
Woods, 41, is arguably the most famous golf figure of all time. He has won 79 PGA Tour events (second all-time) and 40 titles on the European Tour. He has won four Masters championships, three U.S. Opens, three British Opens and four PGA Championships.
The 14 major titles are second only to the 18 won by Jack Nicklaus – who coincidentally is in the area for this week’s Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge.
Woods hasn’t won since the Bridgestone Invitational in August 2013, and injuries have limited him in recent years – to seven tournaments in 2014, 11 in 2015, one in December of 2016 and one in January.
He has been more active in other endeavors under his TGR Ventures umbrella. That includes the Tiger Woods Foundation, an upscale restaurant in his hometown of Jupiter, Florida, and TGR Design.
The photo with his official Twitter account shows Woods not on a golf course with a club in hand, but sitting at a table and looking over designs for a golf course.
The TGR Design firm has four courses open worldwide, with Bluejack National in Montgomery, Texas; El Cardonal at Diamante in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; The Oasis Short Course in Cabo San Lucas and Jack’s Bay in Rock Sound, Bahamas. All are private courses.
Courses in various stages of construction are The Oasis Course, a third offering in Cabo San Lucas, Trump World Golf Club in Dubai, Pacific Links National Golf Club in Beijing, and the restoration of two courses in Chicago – the South Shore Golf Course and Jackson Park Golf Course.
And now there's another one under construction – in the Ozarks.
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