"Golf is a good walk spoiled," Mark Twain once famously said. But for Phil Cannon, tournament director of the Stanford St. Jude Championship golf tournament, golf is a good walk, period — especially when it benefits St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. A volunteer with the tournament since 1968, Cannon became tournament director in 2000. Last week, the Flyer spoke with Cannon during the tournament's 50th anniversary. — by Rachel Stinson
Flyer: What is your favorite memory from the tournament?
Cannon: Working with the volunteers has generated hundreds of memories for me because they're donating their time and raising money for children. For every five years of volunteering, we award the Volunteer Year Pin. After someone has volunteered for 25 years, we give the gold pin. This year, Gertie Tribo was the first volunteer to get the diamond pin for 50 years of volunteering.
On a more personal level, I've loved the opportunity to make friends with Bill Murray; he came to play in the pro-am in 2005. He is the most generous, down-to-earth celebrity in the world. Every once in a while, my cell phone rings, and it's Bill Murray.
What about the tornado in 1986?
That was FedEx's first year as title sponsor, and it was then that we really saw FedEx's "can-do" spirit. The storm came in about 6 p.m. the night before, and it blew down trees everywhere. The PGA tour accessed everything and said we were in jeopardy of not being able to have the tournament. Either we were going to need hundreds of people to clean up, or we were not going to have it.
The next morning at 5 a.m., there were 250 people out there working as human vacuums. They weren't even trained volunteers; they were just hard workers. That really was an indicator of FedEx and the local community.
Which hole is the most difficult?
The 14th hole is the most challenging. It's over water, and [with the wind blowing] 15 to 20 mph, it's difficult.
The slogan for the tournament used to be "Hush, Y'all," but it changed this year. Why?
Early on in conversations with Stanford, we came to the realization that this was much more global for them than for FedEx; certain things that translated well in the Mid-South didn't translate well globally. "Hush, Y'all" may have fit the Mid-South and been endearing here, but it wasn't global. Our new slogan is "Desire Knows No Bounds."
How long does it take to plan the tournament?
We have 1,850 volunteers this year, and they've worked a combined 22,500 hours. They love the family atmosphere, and they love the chance to combine effectively into big teams to raise money for St. Jude children. We also have six full-time staff members year-round. On Monday, June 11th, we start planning the next tournament.