If you were scripting the ‘most St. Louis way possible’ for welcoming the 100th PGA Championship to town, it might look something like Ozzie Smith cradling the Wanamaker Trophy while riding the Budweiser Clydesdales into Bellerive Country Club.
And this is exactly what Monday morning’s Bellerive crowd got, followed by the Wizard handing over the Wanamaker to tournament chairman Mike DeCola and exiting the Bud carriage for photo-ops and chats with media and fans, including a quick catch-up with PGA legend John Daly:
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Smith is president of Gateway PGA REACH, a philanthropic group aimed at “improving lives through golf.” The Cardinal legend talked Monday about the ‘long game’ he and the rest of the group have had in mind since 2013, when Bellerive hosted the Senior PGA Championship.
“My goal when I joined PGA Reach back nine or 10 years ago, was to expose kids in the inner city to not only the game of golf, but the business of golf and let them realize there are other options,” Smith said.
“The long range goal is to hopefully build a nine-hole multi-recreational facility in the inner city, which we’ve kind of gotten started on that will expose those kids to the business and the game of golf itself and hopefully keep them in school,” he added. “The longer we keep them in school, the better citizens we hopefully will produce and make the area in which we live a better area to live.”
Smith, along with many others who’ve descended upon Bellerive already, were in awe of the transformation from a top notch country club to the sight of a world-wide sporting event site. Indeed, it’s not the Bellerive locals are used to seeing.
“When we had the Senior Championship here, our goal was to reach where we are right now. And to see the changes that have gone on here at this golf course, it’s really fascinating…It’s just unbelievable. I’m looking forward to coming out here and watching guys hit golf balls and trying to learn as much as I can.”
Like most golfers the Wizard may be looking for tips, but he’s not ready to pick a favorite from this year’s field.
“I don’t think we have the dominating player like Tiger Woods was 10 or 15 years ago and a lot of different players have the ability to win. What it boils down to is who gets hot with the putter this week. So we’ll have a chance to see who does that.”
Stay connected with 101 ESPN and 101Sports.com for plenty of PGA Championship coverage throughout the week, as we broadcast and report from Bellerive.