FEDEX ST. JUDE CLASSIC
The FedEx St. Jude Classic is a popular event on the PGA Tour that enjoys a storied history in the world of professional golf. The tournament began as a business venture by seven Memphis, Tennessee, investors that was originally called the Memphis Open. The event was a trailblazer in sports, as it combined sponsorship of youth-oriented charities with a world-class event that would attract professional golfers from all over the world. The event's initial purse was an impressive $20,000, but the FedEx St. Jude Classic has now grown into a $5.2 million tournament that is a major stop on the PGA calendar.
The event gained its affiliation with St. Jude Children's Hospital in 1969, when entertainer Danny Thomas promised to lend his name to the tournament in exchange for adopting the St. Jude's sponsorship. At its inception, the FedEx St. Jude Classic was played at the Colonial Country Club in Memphis, but moved to the glittering new TPC at Southwind in the late 1980s. The current course is a par-70 and one of the largest on the professional tour, which offers expansive fairways and tough obstacles that have befuddled many pro golfers.
In the event's early years, it was dominated by golfer Dave Hill, who would win top honors four times in the tournament's early years. The battles between Hill and Lee Trevino would help to expand the profile of the classic and establish larger sponsors. The Celebrity Pro-Am portion of the event in 1977 featured one of the great moments in the history of golf. Less than a year after leaving the White House, President Gerald Ford hit a hole-in-one on the fifth hole in what the media called "the shot heard round the world." While this was a major milestone for the tournament, veteran Al Geiberger set the PGA Tour record by shooting a 59 during a round of the tournament that same year.
Today, the FedEx St. Jude Classic has grown exponentially to become one of the largest sporting events in the state of Tennessee. The event plays an enormous role in raising funds for St. Jude's Children's Hospital, which has received nearly $40 million from donations and sponsorship from Federal Express. The tournament attracts many of the biggest names in professional golf and is a major stepping stone on the PGA calendar.