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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Others always first for Bolt

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Always a special event for a great cause, this year's Fountain Place/Tommy Bolt Classic was extra-special, as it marked the 50th anniversary of its namesake, Tommy Bolt, grabbing worldwide attention by winning the 1958 U.S. Open.

But one thing was missing from the 2008 golf tournament at the South Course in Cherokee Village that raises funds for Fountain Place -- Tommy Bolt.

"This past July was the fifth annual tournament and the only time Mr. Bolt was unable to be with us because of his failing health," Tournament Chairman Oral Henderson said. "Otherwise, he generously donated his time in order to make himself available every year to have his picture taken with the foursomes as they made the turn."

Despite Bolt's absence, the tournament was once again a success, raising over $10,000 for the Christian living center in Cherokee Village.

The first thing Bolt would do when presented with his appearance fee for showing up at the Fountain Place/Tommy Bolt Classic, would be to turn the check over and endorse it back to Fountain Place, not taking a dime for his time.

But Henderson knows that in addition to Fountain Place losing a great patron, he has lost a great friend, as well.

"He will be direly missed as far as Fountain Place is concerned, and to me personally," he said. "Tommy was very generous. He's been known as Terrible Tommy and Lightning Bolt and all that stuff, but although he had a gruff persona, he was really a pussycat at heart. He will be missed."

Bolt did make money playing the sport he loved and even finished in the top 10 money list on the PGA Tour three times (1954, 1955, 1958).

But consider this: His best year of earnings was 1958 when he cashed in for $26, 941.

But that's nothing compared to the huge money today's PGA and LPGA players earn. They can earn that much in a couple of day's time.

"One of the sad things about people of his age group in the golfing fraternity is the fact that the purses back then were nothing like they are now," Henderson said. "So, for all practical purposes during his retirement years, Tommy Bolt was living off his endorsements and his ability to hold clinics or make appearances around the region -- wherever he could -- in order to make some money. And so, I felt very fortunate in the conversation we had for not only Fountain Place, but Ozarka College, that he would agree to give up an appearance fee in order to benefit a senior living center. And he was also a patron of the golf program at Highland High School. And in my view of Tommy Bolt, that all comes together. He was a champion of youth, a champion of education and of Christian giving as it pertains to seniors in the area."

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