Cover Story – Total Madness

Cover Story – Total Madness

As AVIDGOLFER celebrates its silver anniversary in 2023, one of its original staffers takes a look back at some of her favorite moments – and, in particular, what she deems as its “one shining moment” – during the magazine’s first year. 

You have to understand that Google was in its infancy in early 1999, the year I moved to Texas to become the first editor of a new publication called AVIDGOLFER Magazine. 

Since I was moving from Birmingham, Alabama, and had no knowledge of the local media outlets – not to mention the fact that the internet (and, specifically, search engines) wasn’t quite as developed as it is today – I had no idea who was who among the Metroplex’s sports media personalities … much less, what they looked like.  

So, when I called The Ticket’s George Dunham to set up a lunch meeting to interview him for a cover story for the magazine, I had to ask how I would be able to recognize him among the patrons at the restaurant that day. 

“I look like a chubby Glenn Campbell,” Dunham replied with a chuckle, referencing the “Rhinestone Cowboy” singer. 

While it was not an entirely accurate description of his physique, I did recognize George as soon as I walked in the restaurant’s door. 

What followed was an entertaining conversation about his golden teenage summers at Brookhaven Country Club, playing golf all day with friends/high school teammates/future PGA TOUR players Scott Verplank and Brian Watts (including the unfortunate time Dunham was laid flat after being hit in the temple by an errant golf shot, then knocked down again after being accidentally coldcocked by a teammate’s sand wedge … all within a five-minute span during a qualifying round of a high school tournament).

Thus began my first day on the job, for a new regional golf magazine that had already published its first issue a couple of months before (but clearly needed my journalistic and publishing expertise). 

Over the next few issues, I was delighted to write features on the likes of Dallas businessman Lamar Hunt, who, perhaps, is better known as the founder of major sports entities such as the American Football League, Major League Soccer and the Kansas City Chiefs; legendary Dallas Cowboys Bob Lilly, Cliff Harris, Charlie Waters, LeRoy Jordan, Jethro Pugh and D.D. Lewis; and hometown hero Justin Leonard, whose dramatic, late-match putt secured the Ryder Cup for the U.S. team at Brookline in 1999. 

But, undoubtedly, the most fun I had in my first year at AVIDGOLFER was in the coordination of the Media Madness Golf Challenge. 

It was a genius marketing ploy, one that effectively put AVIDGOLFER on the map …and consistently on the airways. I mean, what better publicity for an upstart publication than to have 16 DFW media members talk about golf – and themselves – on a daily basis over the next four months? And every time attribute it to AVIDGOLFER. 

Side note: I have to hand it to AVIDGOLFER President Craig Rosengarden for coming up with the idea for the match-play tournament. But, despite what he thinks, I actually came up with the name, as a play on NCAA basketball’s March Madness.

For an upcoming tournament preview issue, I traveled around the Metroplex to interview some of the media participants, who encompassed print, radio and television and included the likes of Babe Laufenberg, Scott Murray, Tim Colishaw and Chuck Cooperstein, among others, in the field. 

One of my first stops was at WFAA, where the always loquacious Dale Hansen regaled me with story after story of his humble (um, can we even use that word with Hansen?) golf beginnings in his home state of Iowa, as well as his lifelong obsession with the game. 

As much as I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation, though, after about an hour I had to interrupt Hansen, when I glanced at my watch and saw that it was 5:15 p.m. 

“Don’t you have to be on the air right now?” I asked the longtime WFAA sports director. 

“Oh, you’re right, Susan,” Hansen said as he finally looked at the clock, rising from his chair to put his suit jacket on. “But it’s all your fault, because you got me talking about my two favorite things … golf and myself.”

Due to injury, DFW radio sports talk legend Norm Hitzges (then with KLIF, then of Ticket fame) wasn’t able to participate in the tournament. But for entertainment purposes alone, we just had to include him in the preview magazine. As usual, Hitzges didn’t disappoint, enthralling me (and, ultimately, AVIDGOLFER readers) with an elaborate tale of the time his golf ball accidentally hit a wild rooster on a course in Hawaii, only to be “heckled” by the rest of the angry flock during the duration of his round. 

With the Media Madness preview issue hot off the presses – and with heavy favorites Hansen and Dunham gracing the cover – it was finally time for the action to commence. Over the span of four months, history (and, sometimes, hilarity) was in the making, as the inaugural Media Madness competitors waged fierce battles on the Four Seasons’ TPC and Cottonwood Valley courses. 

Some people lost more than their match, however, as The Ticket’s Corby Davidson decided to put his most prized possession on the line in a bravado bet with Hansen. The Snake’s luscious locks were shed (and, perhaps, a few tears, too) after he lost his heavily advertised match to Dale. 

Side note: Corby originally wasn’t among the competitors in the field, despite his co-hosting duties on the Metroplex’s only golf radio show at the time. But, hey, I was just going off the list Craig gave me—since I had just moved to Dallas and didn’t know the media footprint at the time. We added Corby to the field after he and his Ticket TeeBox co-host Rick Arnett called to ask why they had been excluded, and to invite someone from AVIDGOLFER on the air to explain the omission. Who knew how that would ultimately turn out in the not-too-distant future … with Craig and Rick teaming up a couple of years later to become the longtime hosts of the TeeBox, and Rick joining AVIDGOLFER as vice president?

As for Media Madness, well, it played out exactly as we had so boldly predicted on AVIDGOLFER’s April 1999 cover, with prohibitive favorites (and cover boys) Dunham and Hansen advancing through the bracket to the championship match. These media stalwarts had diligently battled through the ranks to prove they not only could talk a good game, but play one, too. 

The championship match itself couldn’t have been scripted any better, either. And from a publicity standpoint, it was golden. 

With the WFAA cameras rolling, Hansen pulled up to the gates of Cottonwood Valley in a limousine, wearing a tux and with a martini glass in hand – Walter Hagen style. The Ticket provided more than four hours of live tournament coverage, with Dunham’s Musers’ co-host Craig “Junior” Miller relaying all the on-course action back to the studio commentators. 

As a result, the Ticket P-1s came out in droves, and there was even a celebrity sighting when Cowboys’ great Charlie Waters joined the growing gallery as play commenced (which is when we were inspired to do the aforementioned Cowboys feature for an upcoming issue). 

The excitement was palpable as the championship-round competitors teed off, and despite Craig Rosengarden accidentally running over George’s ball with his golf cart during the course of the action-packed match, Dunham prevailed over Hansen to become the inaugural champion of the inaugural AVIDGOLFER Media Madness Golf Challenge. 

All these years later, I really can’t remember what he actually won, though … whether it was a plaque, trophy or one of those oversized checks like you see presented to the winner at other sporting events. But I do know the bragging rights alone had to be worth it, as Dunham battled through four grueling months of competition to ascend to the top of the media mountain. 

And for an up-and-coming regional golf publication called AVIDGOLFER Magazine, the rewards were just as priceless.

Cheers to 25 years!