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Breezy Point

Local Golf
September 24, 2017

The 3M Championship Turns 25
ChiChi Rodriguez was the biggest star and winner at the first tournament in 1993. (Pioneer Press file photo)
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ChiChi Rodriguez was the biggest star and winner at the first tournament in 1993. (Pioneer Press file photo)
A poster of the first tournament 20 years ago, the Burnet Senior Classic, signed by all the players, hangs from the wall of the 3M Championship golf tournament offices in Blaine
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A poster of the first tournament 20 years ago, the Burnet Senior Classic, signed by all the players, hangs from the wall of the 3M Championship golf tournament offices in Blaine
By Jim McNaney

The 3M Championship presented by Post-it Products turns 25 this year. The event has come a long way from its inception as the Burnett Senior Classic in 1993.

The Burnett/Coldwell Banker Burnett Classic spent their first eight years in existence calling Bunker Hills Golf Club in Coon Rapids home. In 2001, 3M took over the sponsorship of the tournament and moved the competition to the TPC Twin Cities.

Since it's inception, the 3M Championship has been known for three main aspects: charitable donations, top-notch fields and exciting finishes.

This year the 3M Championship will donate $1.3 million in support of healthcare programs at Allina Health. Since the event was first played back in 1993, it has donated more than $25 million to charity. What makes that number more impressive is the event has been free for the public for the last several years. That means that individuals and corporations have provided all of the dollars for these charities.

From 1993-1998 proceeds benefited cancer care programs at Abbott and United Hospitals. In 2001, Mercy Hospital and Unity Hospital were added as additional beneficiaries. Proceeds from the last few years have benefited Allina Health programs. Mercy Hospital has used its proceeds to build the Mother Baby Center and expand the Level II Special Care Nursery. Unity Hospital has used their funds to support their Birth Center. Abbott Northwestern proceeds have gone towards their Critical Care Campaign, which is helping them renovate, enhance and expand its Emergency Department and Neurological ICU. United Hospital proceeds have gone towards their Mother Baby Center.

In addition the tournament has supported many local charities including the Fairway Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Junior Achievement through ticket and TPC foursome donations.

Top Notch Fields
From the beginning, this tournament has attracted some of the best non-major fields on the PGA TOUR Champions. Back in 1993, Chi-Chi Rodriquez used his swashbuckling style and great ball striking to finish at -15 under par and claim the inaugural event. Over the years, the biggest names in golf have graced Minnesota with their presence.

The winner's list looks more like the roster of World Golf Hall of Fame members. Raymond Floyd, Dave Stockton, Bruce Lietzke, Tom Kite, David Frost and Jay Haas a have all enjoyed the taste of victory. Three players are multiple winners. Kenny Perry became the tournament's only back-to-back champion in 2014-2015. Bernhard Langer won twice as well in 2009 and 2012 although he has been close almost every year including trying to chase down Perry in his two wins. Hale Irwin is the only three-time winner of the 3M Championship in 1997, 1999 and 2002.

If the number of multiple time winners over 25 years makes you think the fields are generally weak, think again. Year after year the players will tell you this is one of the toughest fields all year. Last year's tournament for instance saw names like Miguel Angel Jimenez, Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie, Mark O'Meara, Lee Jansen, Jay Haas, Rocco Mediate and even John Daly.

Previous years have seen Tom Watson, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer all participate.

Exciting Finishes
Anytime you get fields of the caliber the 3M Championship has hosted, amazing finishes generally follow. In the 24 previous tournaments, 20 times the winning margin was two shots or less including two playoffs. Since the move to TPC Twin Cities in 2001, the Championship was decided on the final hole 12 times. Not surprising since the 18th is a reachable par 5 that requires a go for broke shot over water. While eagle is the goal, bogie or worse is always in play meaning anyone within two shots of the lead has a legitimate shot at winning. Expect this year to be no exception.

Push For The PGA TOUR
All good things however must end. The 2017 3M Championship may be the penultimate event for the PGA TOUR Champions players. Executive Tournament Director, Hollis Cavner has been in negotiations with the PGA TOUR to replace the PGA TOUR Champions event with a PGA TOUR tournament. As soon as 2019, players like Langer and Lehman could be replaced by names like Spieth, Day and McIlroy. The plan is to retain 3M as a sponsor.

"We'v got a great event already, but this town and 3M both deserve bigger and better, and that's the next step," Cavner commented recently. "We feel very comfortable that the TOUR is working on our behalf. I've talked to the commissioner about that, and he is definitely working in our favor. We're just waiting. We can't push them because they're waiting for other people to make decisions. But they've stated that they want Minneapolis on the TOUR," He continued.

The "decisions" they are waiting on are possible date changes of existing tournaments. The TOUR would like to hold the event in Minnesota in June, July or August but it already has a tight summer tour so someone would have to move their event to make room.

So if you are thinking about attending, this might be one of the last chances you have to watch great golf... for free.

But the tournament is not forgetting the present for the future. To celebrate the 25th anniversary, they will be handing out Arnie's Army pins to spectators and will rename the Pro Am Tent the Palmer Pavilion. Radio giant and longtime sponsor KQRS will be running a contest to give away tickets to the Palmer Pavilion during Saturday's round. The winner will spend Saturday in the Palmer Pavilion enjoying free food, beverages and hospitality seating at one of the best parties of the week.

Things To Remember
Off site parking is again free this year. Shuttle buses will take spectators directly to the course. Grounds tickets are again free of charge. Pro Am events take place Monday through Thursday with the actual tournament taking place Friday through Sunday. The Great of Golf Challenge, featuring Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Lee Trevino along with stars from the LPGA will begin immediately after the final group of the actual tournament tees off on Saturday afternoon.

But remember if you plan on going on Sunday, plan to stay late. Given the talent in the field and a course that lends itself to wild finishes you don't want to miss out.

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