SAVANNAH -- Jim Ferree, his white shirt and cap matching his hair, lined up yet another birdie putt Tuesday, this one on the 18th hole at The Club at Savannah Harbor.
During two rounds at the Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf, the 80-year-old Hilton Head Island resident had missed one green. But the putts didn't fall.
Friend and fellow Long Cove Club member Geoff Lyon maintained hope, telling Ferree's wife, Karen, that her husband would have a putt drop on one of the final holes.
"I told you," Lyon said, when Jim Ferree's birdie fell on 18.
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Ferree, the first director of golf at Long Cove and a winner on both the PGA Tour and Champions Tour, made the putt to send he and partner Miller Barber to 9 under for the event, good enough for 11th place of 18 teams in the Demaret Division, for those 70 and older. The team shot 5-under-par 67 on Monday and was still at 5 under when it made the turn Tuesday.
But Barber rolled in birdie putts at No. 10 and 11 and holed out from off the green on No. 13 to give the pairing a pulse. Ferree enjoyed a number of good looks, including makeable putts at No. 15, 16 and 17, before finding the cup on the last.
Ferree. a North Carolina native and former Tar Heels golfer, has long been known for his ballstriking. But one of the earliest adopters of the long putter was asked by his caddie Tuesday to retire the particular model.
"From tee to green, he is probably better than anyone 80 years old in the world," Lyon said. "And he's a real gentleman."
Ferree learned the game from his father, Purvis, a professional at Old Town Club in Winston-Salem, where Ferree is still a member and where he plays each year in the Purvis Ferree Cup, which attracts some of the area's top amateurs and professionals.
Outside of his father's tournament, Ferree plays four times each year in the Champions Tour's Great Grand Champions Pro-Am, which brings together some of the game's oldest and most-recognizable names. Ferree joked that he was one of the only participants not yet in the World Golf Hall of Fame and bemoaned the group's declining numbers, from more than 40 playing to now fewer than 20.
"Everybody's old," Ferree said. "I'm young. I'm 80.'
Ferree, reveling in his youth, plays a few times a week at Long Cove. Each year the club hosts the Old Hickory tournament, where participants dress up in period garb and play with hickory clubs.
The event gives Ferree the opportunity to play in his once trademark knickers, which helped him secure his role as model for the original Senior Tour logo. This past June marked Ferree's 30th anniversary of joining the Senior Tour. After signing his scorecard Tuesday and heading to lunch with his wife, Ferree reflected on his time in the game.
"We're lucky to be this old and still can go out and play golf," he said. "Very fortunate group of guys."
SNEAD & GILBERT WIN DEMARET AGAIN
The team of J.C. Snead and Gibby Gilbert defended their Demaret Division title at the Legends of Golf on Tuesday when Snead sank a 6-inch birdie putt on the first playoff hole to defeat the team of Larry Ziegler and Frank Beard. The two teams had finished tied at 21-under-par 123 at the conclusion of the 36-hole, two-day event for Champions Tour players age 70 and over.
Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf
Monday-Tuesday, at Savannah Harbor Golf Resort
(*won on first playoff hole)
*Gilbert/Snead, $120,000 64-59--123 -21
Beard/Ziegler, $68,000 63-60--123 -21
Hill/Trevino, $45,000 61-64--125 -19
Albus/Dent, $31,000 65-63--128 -16
Hobday/Player, $24,000 68-61--129 -15
Baird/Laoretti, 20,250 65-65--130 -14
Geiberger/Powell, 20,250 66-64--130 -14
Devlin/Mowry, 19,000 65-66--131 -13
Bies/Shaw, 18,250 65-67--132 -12
Coody/Douglass, 18,250 66-66--132 -12
Barber/Ferree, 17,500 67-68--135 -9
Aaron/Graham, 17,000 68-69--137 -7
January/Littler, 16,600 69-70--139 -5
Jacobs/Pott, 16,300 72-70--142 -2
Blancas/Nichols, 16,000 71-73--144 E
Finsterwald/Goalby, 15,800 77-73--150 +6
Casper/Still, 15,600 79-75--154 +10
Ford/Maxwell, 15,400 78-78--156 +12
Elder/Sifford, 15,000 NS
Fleck/Toski, 15,000 NS
Hawkins/Johnson, 15,000 NS
Besselink/Sanders, 15,000 NS