Greg Vara is covering this week's Champions Tour stop, the 3M Championship, for Devil Ball Golf.
BLAINE, Minn. -- The year was 2011 and the loyal fans that attend the 3M Championship on an annual basis were finally able to show their appreciation for the “hometown kid” in person.
Though eligible to play the 3M Championship since 2009, Tom Lehman, like many top PGA Tour professionals before him, still had some life in his game at the age of 50 -- enough to linger on the PGA Tour past the half-century mark. His refusal to give up on the PGA Tour and a hectic schedule made it nearly impossible to get back to the 3M Championship for his first couple of years on the Champions Tour, but when he finally got his chance to pay-back the golf fans of Minnesota, he didn’t disappoint.
Lehman opened with a 65 in 2011 and though he played well throughout the week, he fell just short of Jay Haas, who simply was not to be denied that year. Those in attendance that year figured it was only a matter of time before Lehman captured this title, but, due in large part to illness the past two years here, it’s been largely a struggle for Lehman at the 3M Championship…until this year.
Though annual attendance figures at the 3M Championship are very strong, there aren’t many fans that are willing to put in the time and effort to follow their favorite player all day. It may sound strange, but walking under the heat of the August sun for four to five hours is actually quite the commitment, but it’s a commitment that Lehman’s followers are willing to make. While sitting near the seventh green at the TPC Twin Cities, it’s not uncommon to overhear a conversation about which players are walking up the fairway, but no such conversations are needed when Lehman pierces the horizon. The horde that follows Lehman around this course is unmistakable, he is, without question the No. 1 draw here.
The love affair between Lehman and the Minnesota fans goes both ways. When asked what winning this event would mean, he responded, “It would mean a lot, I’ve won most of the biggest tourneys in this state and this would be a nice way to cap it off."
Even after posting an impressive opening-round 64, Lehman knows there is still plenty of work left. When asked if his experience in 2011 will make him more aggressive on the weekend this time around he said, “There’s no room for getting conservative out here."
If the wind continues to howl this weekend as it did all day Friday, Lehman may have to adjust his thinking and dial it back just a bit. However, no matter how fiercely the wind blows, the fans will be here all weekend, cheering aggressively for one of their own.