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    • Legends see similarities between their sports, golf

    • Kevin VanDam (left), Bill Dance (center) and Richard Childress all have a love of the outdoors. (Courtesy of Stephen Slavick) Kevin VanDam (left), Bill Dance (center) and Richard Childress all have a love of the outdoors. (Courtesy of Stephen Slavick)

    BIG CEDAR LODGE LEGENDS OF GOLF: Tee times | Power Rankings | Tour Insider | New strategy

    It would be hard to imagine holding an event at Big Cedar Lodge without incorporating a taste of the great outdoors. The Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf presented by Bass Pro Shops is being held at the spectacular rustic lodge this week, and outdoor activities are a major theme.

    Both Big Cedar and Bass Pro Shops are owned by John L. “Johnny” Morris. Morris began his well-documented rise to prominence when he began selling fishing tackle out of the back room of his father’s Brown Derby liquor store in Springfield, Missouri. By 1974, the name Bass Pro Shops had stuck, and the company mailed its first mail order catalog to fill consumer demand generated by the way Morris did business. That small enterprise soon became the largest mail order sporting goods store in the world. Bass Pro Shops, still a world leader in mail order sporting goods, now has some 70 stores throughout the United States and Canada.

    “I’ve been with Bass Pro Shops my entire career,” said bass fishing superstar Kevin VanDam, seven-time B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year and four-time Bassmaster Classic Champion. “To see where Johnny has come from that first store in Springfield to where things are now is incredible. You want to be on a winning team, and this is the team you want to be on. That’s why these guys are here.”

    The guys VanDam were referencing go way beyond the Champions Tour players here this week. VanDam joined racing legend Richard Childress and fishing legend and television host Bill Dance for a joint press conference at Top of the Rock on Thursday. All three see many similarities between their respective sport and golf.

    “I think a lot of people would be very surprised and how big of an overlap there is between the outdoors, golf, and racing,” said Childress. “I walk into one of my race trailers at a race and they will be watching golf, racing and outdoor stuff, all on different televisions. When I’m in my private coach, I’m usually in there watching the Golf Chanel. I’m trying to learn how to play golf all over again.”

    Childress, who has an impressive racing empire in the world of NASCAR, starting playing golf in the 1980s but found he didn’t have time to play much. He recently purchased a golf course in North Carolina near his race shop and his vineyard – Childress Vineyards.

    Bill Dance doesn’t play golf, although he’s tried it, but he understands how the two compare.

    “Golfing, like fishing, takes total concentration,” Dance said. “The effort and the time you need to put into it is very similar. The way golfers analyze a putt and totally focus on in it is much like a fisherman focusing on his casts. Golf and fishing are a lot alike in many respects.”

    Many professional golfers are also avid outdoorsmen and spend much of their leisure time fishing. Champions Tour player Andy Bean is known to say he plays golf to support his fishing.

    VanDam is good friends with Davis Love III who turned 50 in April and is now eligible for the Champions Tour.

    “I’ve been down to his place in Sea Island (Georgia). Davis is a pretty good fisherman. He loves to hunt and fish,” VanDam said. “When I went down he set me all up with nice clubs and clothes and everything. I really looked good, but I’m not a good golfer.

    "A few years back, when the Ryder Cup was at Oakland Hills in Michigan where I live, Davis was nice enough to get me some passes and one of the best things I got to do was watch those guys warm up on the range before playing. It’s amazing what professional golfers can do, especially inside 100 yards.”

    Part of the uniqueness of the Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf event was an option for Wednesday and Thursday pro-am participants to fish with legendary anglers such as VanDam and Dance, or go to the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor Academy adjacent to Big Cedar Lodge to shoot clay targets with television personality Allen Treadwell.

    In true Johnny Morris fashion, the man with a plan has brought together people from varied walks of life to share experiences, raise money for charity, and enjoy a little Ozarks hospitality.

    “The things that Johnny Morris has done over the years has touched so many lives, and so many lives that will, I say probably for centuries, not just decades, that enjoy and receive from the great things he has built.” Childress added.

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