We asked three area reporters—scott Hanson of the Seattle Times, Todd Milles of the News Tribune, and the Associated Press’s Tim Booth—a few questions about their years covering the tournament.
What been your favorite moment from covering the Boeing Classic?
Hanson: My favorite moments seem to always occur when I am just walking from hole to hole, without any particular agenda. I was lucky enough to be near the first green when Gil Morgan hit an approach shot wide toward the gallery. It bounced into the hoodie of a guy wearing a sweatshirt. Morgan, when he got to the ball, told the guy to be very still, acting as if he was going to play the ball where it lied. Another favorite moment was when Nick Price came out of the ropes after hitting a tee shot to use the restroom. When he emerged, rather than getting right back inside the ropes, he walked with the gallery, asking a guy how he was doing, and was he enjoying the tournament. When Price finally went back on the course, the fan’s friend said, do you realize that was a major champion you were talking with? It’s moments like that which I remember more than putts that win the tournament.
Milles: Definitely covering the big playoff (seven players) that Denis Watson won in 2007 - the largest playoff in Champions Tour history.
Booth: My favorite moment from the tournament without question was the seven-man playoff to decide the 2007 tournament. It was such a unique experience to watch that many players going out to play the 18th hole and decide the champion. I feel lucky to have been there that day and document what happened. Any memorable interviews or player exchanges? Hanson: I’ll never forget Hale Irwin talking about his hole-in-one on No. 9 in the 2011 tournament. He said he would let the ball answer how it happened. “Ball, what happened? Well, you hit a 6-iron and you really had to hit it well because it was at the outer limits and I flew over the bunker but just a little short of the green—about a foot— because that’s where it’s a little softer. I didn’t know that at the time. I bounced up on the green and I rolled right into the hole. And my interview highlights have been speaking to Nick Price and Ben Crenshaw, two great champions, and two men who treat both reporters and fans so warmly and with great respect.
Milles: After Jay Don Blake won the 2012 tournament, Craig Smith of the Times asked him about the 85 he shot in a PGA Tour event (2004 Booz Allen Classic) in memory of his mother, who had died earlier in the day. Blake gave such a detailed and heartbroken account of that day, it stopped us all in our tracks.
Booth: I think the great thing about the Champions Tour is that all the players are very approachable and appreciative of the coverage they receive. Some of the intensity that may have accompanied them during their PGA Tour careers has dissipated – they still want to win – but they are all very easy to talk to and tell stories about.
How has the Boeing Classic evolved over the years? Hanson: The tournament went to another level when Seattle native Fred Couples turned 50 and began playing in it. It would be great to see him win one of these. I believe while the PGA Tour Champions players are more accessible and more likely to sign autographs that PGA Tour
players, I think the differences have become less pronounced.
Milles: I would actually use the word ‘sustained’, because many big names continue to come to this event, even when it was stuck between Champions Tour majors.
Booth: It has definitely solidified its place as part of the summer culture in the Seattle area. Consider that in 2010 the U.S. Senior Open at Sahalee took place just a few weeks before the Boeing Classic and yet the crowds were just as strong. Same in 2015 when the U.S. Open was at Chambers and 2016 when the Women’s PGA was at Sahalee. The Boeing Classic has done an excellent job of finding its niche in the Seattle sports marketplace and maximizing the opportunity.
How big a deal is the Boeing Classic for the Seattle sports fan, and the Seattle sports scene?
Hanson: I think it’s a big deal to a lot of area golf fans. I am not sure it’s captured the attention of people who mainly focus on football, baseball, basketball and watch golf when the majors come around. I think the key is getting people out just once, because it really is a great experience, walking a course as beautiful as TPC Snoqualmie Ridge and seeing golf that is still at a very high level.
Milles: On a scale from 1-10, I would say a 6. There is no PGA or LPGA Tour stop in WA. This is it. My only complaint is that it comes at a time of year (August) when it competes with lots of other things, such as Seahawks and Huskies.
Booth: This ties in with my previous answer. It will never be as big as the professional sporting events here (Seahawks, Mariners), but it is the region’s connection to professional golf and to me it is a big event. It would be interesting knowing how much attention the Boeing Classic would receive if the PGA Tour could ever get itself into the Seattle marketplace.