Monday, July 30, 2018

Reflections on the 3M Championship in its final year

One of the first major events I ever covered in my sports writing career was the 3M Championship on the Senior PGA Tour located close to home in Blaine, Minn. First, I was a college-aged intern with the local newspaper in Blaine covering community events for the summer. Among the 5K runs and profiles on local high school athletes, I was sent to a pretty big stage for someone still learning the ropes of covering sports.

As with many things that early in a career, the 2007 and 2008 3M Championships were put right into the "good experience" pocket of my early journalism career. Now in 2018, it was recently made official that this year's event - which has been free to the public for many years - will be the last in order to make way for the PGA Tour event coming Fourth of July in 2019.

The 3M Open is down for a seven-year agreement for a tournament at the TPC course in Blaine.

I hadn't covered golf before, let alone a major event. I realized a lot of the day was spent in the air-conditioned media tent looking over the scores that were posted and keeping track of the leaders. Sometimes I'd venture across the way to the practice green or the first tee box, or more commonly see players finish off their rounds on the 18th green before the leaders headed over to the media tent for news conferences.

I took it in stride and tried to act like I knew exactly what I was doing, even though I soaked everything up and tried to learn like a sponge. Looking back on that first story I wrote for the Sun Focus, here are some of the things I recalled:

D.A. Weibring won in 2007 over Jay Haas with a 65-66-67--198. Weibring said after the win that he would donate $10,000 of his winnings to the 35W bridge collapse relief. Thirteen people were killed Aug. 1, 2007 when the 35W bridge collapsed into the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.

The 3M Championship has always been about giving back to charities as well. The tournament also provided more funding to the local Red Cross in response to the 35W bridge tragedy, above the money it already raised for local hospitals in the Twin Cities.

Fans get an up-close-and personal experience with the players, including legends of the game like Chi Chi Rodriguez and TPC golf course co-designer, the late Arnold Palmer. Other than the three-day tournament on the weekend, fans can come out to the course all week to see players hit the driving range and see other celebrities and athletes play in the pro-am.

The next year, I was back again and it was a different player with initials who won the event: R.W. Eaks with a 65-63-65--193.

The past few years, I've gone back as a spectator with my parents on one of the less-crowded days earlier in the week. We've walked around the course a bit, watching players tee off for the pro-am. If nothing else, it's fun to just get outside on a warm summer day and watch guys hit the ball better and farther than I could ever imagine.

It will be a little disappointing to see the casual nature of the senior PGA Tour go away with this event in exchange for the regular PGA Tour, but I'll definitely look back on the 3M Championship with fond memories as one of my first ventures in sports coverage.