St. Jude Classic Winners and History

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imageSt. Jude Classic Winners and History

Now known as the Fedex St. Jude, The St. Jude Classic has been played annually in the Memphis, Tennessee area since 1958. Originally called the Memphis Open, and then the Memphis Invitational, it changed its name starting in 1970 to the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic. As a condition for lending his name to the tournament, the Memphis organizers agreed to make the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital its principal charity. Although it no longer bears Thomas’ name, the tournament continues to support the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Danny Thomas (shown at left) was a popular nightclub entertainer and television star from the 1950s and 1960s, who is perhaps best known for his television sitcom “Make Room For Daddy”, aka “The Danny Thomas Show.” He is the father of actress Marlo Thomas (“That Girl”).

Thomas was born Amos Muzyad Yakhoob Kairouz in Deerfield, Michigan. His parents were Maronite Catholic immigrants from Lebanon. Deerfield is 33 miles southeast of Ann Arbor.

In 1962, Thomas had founded the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. The facility is world renowned for its treatment of childhood cancers. The facility’s founding was the result of a vow Thomas had made as a young actor—that if he found success he would open a hospital dedicated to Saint Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes. It is a moving story:

More than 70 years ago, Danny Thomas, then a struggling young entertainer with a baby on the way, visited a Detroit church and was so moved during the Mass, he placed his last $7 in the collection box. When he realized what he’d done, Danny Thomas prayed for a way to pay the looming hospital bills. The next day, he was offered a small part that would pay 10 times the amount he’d given to the church. Danny Thomas had experienced the power of prayer.

Two years later, Danny Thomas had achieved moderate acting success in Detroit, but he was struggling to take his career to the next level. Once again, he turned to the church. Praying to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes, Danny Thomas asked the saint to “help me find my way in life, and I will build you a shrine.”

His career took a turn for the better, and soon he moved his family to Chicago to pursue career offers. A few years later, at another turning point in his life, Danny Thomas visited a church and remembered his pledge to St. Jude. Again he prayed to St. Jude and repeated his pledge to build a shrine to the saint if he would show him the way.

In the years that followed, Danny Thomas’ career flourished through films and television, and he became an internationally known entertainer. He remembered his pledge to build a shrine to St. Jude.

Memphis based FedEx was the tournament’s name sponsor from 1986 – 2005, before turning it over to Stanford Financial Group. Stanford ran into some financial and legal difficulties, however, and in 2009, FedEx stepped up again. This year, it’s the St. Jude Classic presented by Smith and Nephew.

The tournament originally was played at the Colonial Country Club in Memphis, then at a club in Cordova, Tennessee until 1989. It has been played at the TPC Southwind since 1989.

TPC Southwinds is a par 70 measuring 7,244 yards. The PGA Tour ranks it 20 out of 51 in difficulty. According to the Tour,  the eighteenth is the course’s most difficult:

An excellent finishing hole that places a great demand off the tee. This dogleg left has water that comes into play on the first two shots, as well as fairway bunkers on the right. Spectator mounds surround the medium-sized green.

2009: 0 eagles, 49 birdies, 280 pars, 102 bogeys, 24 double bogeys, 5 others.

The winner of the tournament each year is given a blue and white seersucker jacket.

Al “Mr. 59” Greiberger shot his thirteen under par 59 at the “Danny Thomas St. Jude” in 1977. That same year, Gerald Ford, having just left office, hit a hole in one at the Celebrity Pro-Am.

On a local note, Dave Hill of Jackson, Michigan holds the record with four St. Jude wins.

A list of St. Jude Classic Winners follows:

YearPlayerScoreTo parMargin
FedEx St. Jude Classic
2017Daniel Berger (2)270-101 stroke
2016Daniel Berger267-133 strokes
2015Fabián Gómez267−134 strokes
2014Ben Crane270–101 stroke
2013Harris English268−122 strokes
2012Dustin Johnson271−91 stroke
2011Harrison Frazar267−13Playoff
St. Jude Classic presented by Smith & Nephew
2010Lee Westwood270−10Playoff
St. Jude Classic presented by FedEx
2009Brian Gay262−185 strokes
Stanford St. Jude Championship
2008Justin Leonard (2)276−4Playoff
2007Woody Austin267−135 strokes
FedEx St. Jude Classic
2006Jeff Maggert271−93 strokes
2005Justin Leonard266−141 stroke
2004David Toms (2)268−166 strokes
2003David Toms264−203 strokes
2002Len Mattiace266−181 stroke
2001Bob Estes267−171 stroke
2000Notah Begay III271−131 stroke
1999Ted Tryba265−192 strokes
1998Nick Price (2)268−16Playoff
1997Greg Norman268−161 stroke
1996John Cook258−267 strokes
1995Jim Gallagher, Jr.267−171 stroke
Federal Express St. Jude Classic
1994Dicky Pride267−17Playoff
1993Nick Price266−183 strokes
1992Jay Haas263−213 strokes
1991Fred Couples269−153 strokes
1990Tom Kite269−15Playoff
1989John Mahaffey272−123 strokes
1988Jodie Mudd273−151 stroke
1987Curtis Strange275−131 stroke
1986Mike Hulbert280−81 stroke
St. Jude Memphis Classic
1985Hal Sutton279−9Playoff
Danny Thomas Memphis Classic
1984Bob Eastwood280−82 strokes
1983Larry Mize274−141 stroke
1982Raymond Floyd271−176 strokes
1981Jerry Pate274−142 strokes
1980Lee Trevino (3)272−161 stroke
1979Gil Morgan278−10Playoff
1978Andy Bean277−11Playoff
1977Al Geiberger273−153 strokes
1976Gibby Gilbert273−154 strokes
1975Gene Littler270−185 strokes
1974Gary Player273−152 strokes
1973Dave Hill (4)283−51 stroke
1972Lee Trevino (2)281−74 strokes
1971Lee Trevino268−124 strokes
1970Dave Hill (3)267−131 stroke
Memphis Open Invitational
1969Dave Hill (2)265−152 strokes
1968Bob Lunn268−121 stroke
1967Dave Hill272−82 strokes
1966Bert Yancey265−155 strokes
1965Jack Nicklaus271−9Playoff
1964Mike Souchak270−101 stroke
1963Tony Lema270−10Playoff
1962Lionel Hebert267−13Playoff
1961Cary Middlecoff266−145 strokes
1960Tommy Bolt273−7Playoff
Memphis Open
1959Don Whitt272−8Playoff
1958Billy Maxwell267−131 stroke

3 thoughts on “St. Jude Classic Winners and History”

  1. Last year when Stanford went under, FedEx came back as a “presenting” sponsor instead of the title sponsor, which supposedly was less of a financial obligation – however, I wouldn’t be surprised if FedEx was spending easily as much as it was as when it was the title sponsor.  From what I had heard in circles, there would be a problem if FedEx as the title sponsor of the Cup, also became a title sponsor of a tournament.  I am guessing Finchem would somehow get over that.  What else I had heard was that in the initial deal for the FedEx Cup there were guarantees that the SJC would not be going out of town or be folding up. 

    That last part I don’t know about now, because in last weekends paper there was an article which referenced how necessary it was to get a title sponsor to have the tournament continue.  For this year, FedEx has dropped off again, and instead it is the St. Jude Classic presented by Smith & Nephew.  I wouldn’t be surprised if someone said that FedEx still was providing a significant amount of funds though for the tournament, and if not FedEx itself, that some of the executives were. 

    When it was the Stanford, the talk was rampant that the tournament would be moving to Spring Creek Ranch, a Nicklaus Signature course with a very small private membership, but that Stanford had purchased 51%.  Nobody knew how this would work though, because the course was not set up for galleries, and parking and traffic would be awful in that area.  That is of course over with, after the Stanford crash, the original owner, who still retained 49% was able to buy back Stanfords share at a substantial discount from the courts.  No more talk of the tournament there.

    What I believe is more likely is that if Timberlake can either get Callaway and/or Sony to take over title sponsorship for the tournament with the intention of moving it from Southwind TPC to Timberlake’s Mirimichi course in North Memphis.  Timberlake has not been silent on his desire to be having a tournament there, but most expect that he will do best trying to get a LGPA, Champions or Nationwide event.  I am not sure about that, if he can wrangle a title sponsorship for the SJC, he might pull off getting the PGA there.  While it would pull the event from a TPC venue, the involvement of Timberlake would help the draw and the viewership, and even if Callaway is not the title sponsor, Timberlake and Callaway might do fairly well in pulling the big name Callaway pros to town.  (Timberlake and Callaway have close relationship and a partnership in Mirimichi).

  2. For 2011, FedEx is the title sponsor again, and has signed to be so through at least 2014.  There hasn’t been any talk of moving it lately, and since one of the FedEx companies is headquartered at TPC Southwind, there probably is zero talk behind the scenes as well.  Timberlake’s Mirimichi, BTW, was just flooded out for the second time in two years, and has been closed for about a month now and not expected to fully reopen until early August.

    Last year, the Memphis Golf Assc held one of the rounds for the Mid-Am at Southwind.  I can confirm the 18th’s difficulty.  I hadn’t expected to break 90 myself, but after starting the first six holes on the back 9 with four pars and two bogeys – I was hopeful.  I went double, double on 16,17- and then got to 18, and with my +4 snowman, I finished 92 for the day.  Still really good for me, a few of my buds who all have lower handicaps than I finished higher – but oh – 18.  What a nightmare.

    The drive went a little through the fairway, but the rough wasn’t so bad- but I did go right into a little treeline, but had an opening to the green.  Third shot was on the first quarter of the green landing just short of the flag.  – But the ball had too much momentum and as it rolled up the slope toward the hole, it started turning left and then came back down the slope – then trickled just off the green.  And then it went down the side of the green and into the water.  then chip and 3 putt to an 8.

  3. For the 2013 tournament, look for many confused golfers.  The forecast for this week is just a chance of storms on Thursday and then clear for the weekend – and for temps, 84 on Sunday is the high for the tournament, the other three days should be 78-80 for highs.  Heatwise, this should be unlike any Danny Thomas classic in memory. 

    I am hoping to make it out Thursday just to make sure I can see Phil, Daly, and Snedeker, in case any of them don’t make the weekend.  Will also be trying to make it on Sunday for the finish.  Should be a great week.

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