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50 years at En-Joie and the connection to a famous comic

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50 years at En-Joie and the connection to a famous comic

    Written by Bob McClellan @ChampionsTour

    This year marks the 50th anniversary of a PGA TOUR-sanctioned event at the En-Joie Golf Course in Endicott, New York.

    From 1973-2006 it was the B.C. Open on the PGA TOUR. In 2007 it became the DICK’S Sporting Goods Open on PGA TOUR Champions.

    Either way it has brought the greats of the game to this tiny village in upstate New York for half a century.

    It also uniquely brought the greats of the comic strip game to the area thanks to the participation of Johnny Hart. Hart was a native of Endicott and the cartoonist behind “B.C.,” one of the most popular comic strips of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. The PGA TOUR event was named after the comic, and Hart provided a logo for the event for free.

    Hart also invited the best cartoonists of the day to come for the tournament and to play in a pro-am. The likes of “Garfield” creator Jim Davis and “Shoe” creator Jeff MacNelly were among Hart’s contemporaries who visited to swap stories, talk artwork and play golf.

    “I feel as though I grew up with the B.C. Open,” said Patti Hart, the daughter of Johnny Hart, who died at the drawing board in 2007 at the age of 76. “I was 15 the first year and it was so exciting to have a PGA tournament taking place in our small town on the golf course that my friends grew up playing. Over the years I met so many amazing people. Arnold Palmer, Alan Shepard and Lee Trevino to name a few.

    “My dad would host a group of cartoonists in the pro-am every year, and they would do a meet-and-greet autograph session. I played ‘Phil Donahue,’ running from row to row with a microphone to get questions for the cartoonists from the crowd.”

    Hart’s influence dotted the tournament landscape. His original logo for the event was a classic, and it also became the trophy. Because it was so different it once was voted as the best trophy on TOUR by the players. It was hoisted by such winners as Tom Kite, Fred Couples, John Daly, Jay Haas and Fred Funk.

    With the event sponsorship and tour switch, obviously the logo changed to reflect the involvement of DICK’S Sporting Goods. But for this year a special logo was created by Mason Mastroianni, a grandson of Johnny Hart who took over drawing B.C. after his grandfather’s passing. It’s sure to be a hit with players, too.

    “Some of my earliest and most-cherished memories are of the early years of the tournament, watching golf alongside cartoonists and family,” Mastroianni said. “It’s a pleasure to be able to relive so many of those memories every year, both through the legacy of this tournament, and with my own little contributions to it.

    “This year, drawing this special tournament art feels like coming full circle for me, and it’s such a pleasure to be able to add something special to our hometown legacy.”

    Interestingly, no player who won the B.C. Open has won the DICK’s Sporting Goods Open. Funk, who is in the field again this year and for the 25th overall time at En-Joie, has come the closest, with two runner-up finishes in the PGA TOUR Champions event.

    “It’s a very underrated tournament. The golf course gets better and better every year,” Funk said. “It’s very neat it rolled over from the PGA TOUR to the Champions Tour and we’re playing the same venue. … Guys love going to these old venues and classic golf courses. I’m looking forward to it.”

    Other past winners of the B.C. Open in the field for this week’s DICK’S Sporting Goods Open are Joey Sindelar and Jeff Sluman. The defending champion is 2019 holdover Doug Barron as the event was a pandemic casualty in 2020.

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