CHAMPIONS TOUR INSIDER
Insider: Colbert, Thorpe continue to be kindred spirits
June 11, 2014
By Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM
- Jim Colbert and Jim Thorpe won the Legends Division of the Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
During his Champions Tour years, Jim Colbert never had to look too far or too hard for a practice partner.
“When I was getting a little older I might show up at three in the afternoon on a Tuesday for a practice round and he's sitting in the clubhouse waiting on me,” Colbert said. “He would say, ‘Oh, are we going to play?’ ”
Yes, Colbert and Jim Thorpe did play on those many occasions and money did change hands. The wagers were mandatory. At the inaugural Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf presented by Bass Pro Shops, the cash – a lot of it – ended up in both their hands.
Colbert and Thorpe, kindred spirits in many ways, won the Legends Division in the historic event which featured for the first time PGA TOUR-sanctioned competition on the par-3 Top of the Rock at the Ridgedale, Missouri, resort owned by John Morris.
“We've been playing a long time, Jim and I,” Thorpe said. “We've had our $10 Nassaus and we've battled one another for a long time over the years. I couldn't ask for a better partner because I know he's a fighter.
“The guy just doesn't shake, man. I'll tell you what, that was beautiful golf.”
Colbert and Thorpe won with an 11-under-par total. For Colbert, it was a repeat performance. He won in 2013 with Bob Murphy as his partner. Larry Nelson and Bruce Fleisher finished three shots behind the winners. Sunday’s final round was a nine-hole better ball format at the Top of the Rock.
Colbert, 73, won eight times on the PGA Tour, including twice in 1983 when he finished a career best 15th on the money list. He flourished on the Champions Tour, where he won 20 times in 11 seasons beginning with the 1991 Southwest Bell Classic. His final win came at the SBC Senior Classic in 2001.
Colbert’s finest moment was a victory at the 1993 SENIOR Players Championship, where he was one stroke better than Raymond Floyd.
Thorpe, 65, won three times on the PGA TOUR. In 1985, he won twice at the Greater Milwaukee Open and the Seiko-Tucson Match Play Championship. He repeated the match play victory in 1986.
Thorpe won 13 tournaments on the Champions Tour from 2000 to 2007, including a major, the Regions Tradition. His last two victories came back-to-back at the Charles Schwab Championship in 2006 and 2007.
“We kind of know each other, each other's game,” Thorpe said. “I know (Colbert) is a stronger player. I'm a longer ball hitter, Jim is a stronger putter, but we both are pretty decent in short irons.”
The fun factor was high for both men.
“I felt real comfortable playing with Jim,” said Colbert, who got a kick out of Thorpe’s comment about those $10 Nassau bets.
“He won't walk out the door for $10 and neither will I.”
While golf is the headliner in the Legends event, it is also an opportunity to remember and cherish the good times.
“Just reminiscing over the years what golf has done for us,” Thorpe said “On the Champions Tour, you gave us a mulligan that is probably the greatest mulligan in life. Especially for me. My career on the PGA TOUR was OK. I made a living and supported my family, but the Champions Tour gave me something I never thought I would have.”
In Colbert’s case, he won $14 million on the Champions Tour after winning $1.6 on the PGA TOUR.
“(The Champions Tour) had Nicklaus and Player and Trevino and Raymond and Hale, Murphy, me,” Colbert said. “I mean, we were the show for 12 years, between Nicklaus and Tiger coming on. The endorsement income because of Jack and Arnie and everything, and we were the TV show. We hit the circuit at the perfect time. It was a lot of fun.
“We had big crowds. And it’s making a rebound now and this (the par 3 addition to the Legends of Golf) is really good for the game of golf because you can play nine holes and have fun. You can play it twice, and not beat yourself up, not lose a dozen golf balls. This venue will really show really, really well and it's good for the game of golf that people see this.”
The final word goes to Thorpe.
“It's great to be part of the Legends,” he said. “I've watched these guys for a long time and now to be able to compete and play with them and rub elbows, tell some stories, I'll tell you what, it's a dream come true.”