RIDGEDALE — Striving to be America’s next great golf destination, Bass Pro Shops founder and CEO Johnny Morris brought the game’s No. 1 ambassador to the Ozarks Tuesday to announce plans for a Tiger Woods-designed Payne’s Valley Golf Course at Big Cedar Lodge.
The 19-hole course will be located directly to the east of Morris’ Buffalo Ridge Golf Course, surround the Gary Player’s Par-3 Course and on land formerly used for Murder Rock Golf Course.
Woods, 41, related his motivation to choose the Ozarks to design only his second course in the U.S. was Morris. They have known each other since Woods was in his 20s and in 1997 Morris and his son delivered a Bass Tracker fishing boat to Woods’ home.
“I have opportunities do things on a global level,” Woods said. “But when it comes down to it, it’s about working with the people you want to work with. Johnny and I go way back. I like spending time around people I want to spend time with. To be able to have the opportunity to come to this amazing piece of property, it means so much to me to have this opportunity.
“It’s going to be a fun experience and great working with this team creating a golf course and to do it in Payne’s honor, I’m very lucky and very privileged.”
Likewise, Morris was inspired to hire Woods as a designer, after previously working with Jack Nicklaus to design Top Of The Rock and Ben Crenshaw at what will be The Ozarks.
“The name — Tiger Woods. He’s known outside of Greene County,” Morris said with a laugh when asked why he chose Woods to design the course. “I mean he’s known all over the world. It’s helped shed the spotlight (on Payne’s Valley).”
Media from as far away as China and Canada and all across the U.S. were on hand for the announcement.
The course will represent a collaborative partnership with Woods, Morris and the Payne Stewart family.
“I know it’s going to be a wonderful tribute to Payne and especially in this area I know it would mean so much to him,” said Tracy Stewart, Payne’s widow.
Payne’s Valley will be the first public-access golf course designed by Woods’ design company, TGR Design. Plans call for the course to be ready for play in 2019.
Woods vows to treat the property as if it was his own.
“To have a piece of property like this, my job is not to screw it up,” Woods said. “I’m going to give it my best. I’m going to give it my all. Everyone knows I’m pretty dedicated to the things I care about and this is one of them.”
“He’s passionate about it and doesn’t mind to voice his opinions,” Morris said. “I think Tiger feels strongly about the beauty of the land he has to work with here.”
Woods added he’s attracted to the natural beauty surrounding Payne’s Valley.
“This is a place families can come and be one with nature,” Woods said. “You have so many different options. One thing I truly miss hearing the birds chirp in the morning and seeing (animals) come out in the evening as I play until darkness. So many of my best childhood memories are playing late in the evening with my Dad.
“Payne’s Valley will be reflection of our resort and the region,” Morris said. “We’re very proud of it and very fired up.
A unique feature of the course will be a 19th hole, dubbed ‘The Rock’
Woods previously designed Bluejack National in Houston and has multiple projects in the works.
Woods will also design a recreational par-3 course on Big Cedar Lodge’s grounds.
There are no current plans for Payne’s Valley to serve as a destination for the PGA Tour.
“That is not our intent,” Woods said. “I don’t know if Johnny intended to have a Champions Tour event here as a staple event when he first created the property. Sometimes, (things) evolve into something like that. Maybe this course will hold a PGA Tour event down the road. But that’s not our goal. Our goal is to create an environment we think people will enjoy.
“Once people play Payne’s Valley, I want them to want to play it again. To me, that determines success.”
Morris followed up Woods’ comments by adding he hopes Payne’s Valley would reach the quality of a PGA Tour stop.
“It’s going to be the quality (of course), once it’s all said and done, that it may give us the opportunity to host something real grand here,” Morris said. “You wouldn’t be opposed to that Tiger?
“I’ve never been opposed to that,” Woods answered with a broad smile.