SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Melanie Hauser was old enough to appreciate the first Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf 32 years ago. And young enough to question the concept of a tournament specifically for over-50 professionals presumed to be well past their primes.
"Most of them had been out of the game since 40 or 42 years old,'' said Hauser, who covered the first six Legends tournaments as lead golf writer for the Austin American Statesman in Texas. "There were a lot of questions in my mind. Who's going to come watch these guys? Is this going to be competitive in the least?''
Those answers came quickly and convincingly for Hauser in the Legends' early days, a time that provided one of the great surprises and satisfactions of her 35 years covering the golf.
"That was a time when 50 seemed old,'' said Hauser, who now works for pgatour.com. "And then you have a good first one and that six hole playoff (in the second year), that was just amazing golf no matter what age you are.
"And it just it took off from there. And we were going, gosh, these guys can still play. And the guys behind them are going, o.k., get out the clubs, let's go. And, you know, the Senior Tour was born.''
But, as was the case for fans in those early years, Hauser's enjoyment came as much from the camaraderie as the competition at the Legends, the personalities every bit as appealing as the play.
"Watching them come together as a group for the first time, tease each other, tell stories,'' she says. "You heard Sam Snead talking about putting side-saddle. And Plus-4s came back into vogue. And I remember sitting with Ken Venturi and him talking about having a stutter and hadn't really talked about it much.''
Those stories worked their way into Hauser's. And became the early momentum for the entire tour.
"Oh, it was fun,'' Hauser said. "I mean, they were telling them on each other and we're going, um, would you repeat that one. There was just a lot of things that happened when it caught on, everyone wanted to be 50 suddenly. And things like Bob Goalby lying about his age and he had to get his driver's license to be able to play in it.''
More than three decades later, Hauser is still covering golf. And still holding onto those memories of the legends earliest days in Austin.
"I don't know, it was nostalgia, but it turned into, gosh, these guys can still play,'' said Hauser, who took the job in Austin believing she would mostly be covering Texas locals Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite but was soon surrounded by the game's biggest names. "Just to have that sense that you were there for the start of something. I don't know, I look back on it and go, yeah, i didn't really believe it was going to work. But once you got them together, you saw the golf actually being played, you were going, yeah this has a chance.''