The history behind “The Legends.”
The history behind “The Legends.”
Only a hand full of people know the history behind the origins of The Legends at Chateau Elan. Its course was named for Gene Sarazen, Kathy Whitworth and Sam Snead. The name of the course was conceived in the cozy upstairs office of Don Panoz in the Chateau Elan clubhouse. It was the first clubhouse built on the property, prior to The Legends having its very own clubhouse. You can find a magnificent view of several holes of The Legends from its very own clubhouse dining room. The Legends clubhouse is centered around beautiful forestry and astonishing lots. Chateau Elan Estates agents have the distinct privilege of representing home-buyers and sellers in a community so rich with unique history.
On the Friday of Masters week in 1990, owner Don Panoz held a private meeting upstairs in the Chateau Clubhouse with his director of golf, Mike Bishop. At the time, Don was traveling a lot and was rarely in town, so this meeting was important. Mike walked into Don’s office and asked if there was something he could do for him. He replied, “Mike, we are going to build a second course and it’s going to be a private club. Now, we need a name for this course. Do you have any ideas?” Mike thought for a minute and said “May I give it some thought?” Lying on Don’s desk was the Friday Sports section of the Atlanta Journal – Constitution newspaper. On the front page of the Sports was the photo of Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson. The heading under the picture read “The Legends of Golf”. These famous Legends had the honor of hitting the ceremonial opening tee shots at the Masters each year. Without hesitation, Don said “Mike, we are going to name our private club “The Legends.” Now we have to go out there and find us some Legends and get them involved with this project.”
Don Panoz wanted to ensure the prestige of The Legends property for everyone by bringing in the most widely known people in the golf business. Big names were considered, like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player to name a few. After a few minutes of careful consideration, Don decided to bring in a different generation of legends, just like the ones found in the Atlanta Journal on his desk. Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson were ideal choices for The Legends’ first media event. The plan was developing, but a lady Legend would also be added, replacing Byron Nelson. Both Don and Mike uttered the name “Kathy Whitworth” as they came up with the idea, followed by laughter. She was the most successful women golfer of all time, winning 88 professional events. It was a no brainer and an honor to have Kathy as one of the original Legends.
Within a matter of months Gene, Kathy and Sam signed on to participate in the design of the Legends course, along with Architect Denis Griffiths. They were all there for the ceremonial ground breaking of “The Legends golf course” in 1991. The Legends clubhouse opened in 1993 with the Sarazen World Open Championship debuting in 1994.
All three Legends lent their expertise during the construction of the course, but Gene took a very special interest in the design. He provided his talents more than the other two, according to Don Panoz. As a matter of fact, in the years 1991, 1992 and 1993, Gene would hit his opening tee shot at the Masters and would come directly to the Legends within hours of the events. After arriving at The Legends, Gene wanted to ride all 18 holes of his self proclaimed golf course, as he would often jokingly claim. One of the ways Don honored Gene for his involvement was by creating an S-Shaped bunker on the left side of #3 green.
The Legends was the site of the Sarazen World Open Championship from 1994-1998. It was an annual gathering of champions where the past two winners of all National Open Championships were invited. Gene Sarazen served as Chairman Emeritus of the events’ executive committee. Others included Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Jim Awtrey (CEO, PGA of America), Furman Bisher, Lou Holtz, and Robert Trent Jones Jr.
Next time you are playing at The Legends, come see the S-shaped bunker on the left side of #3 green and the signature #15 hole, both inspired by Gene Sarazen. And don’t forget to visit The Legends Clubhouse and golf shop! The history of The Legends is on full display inside the traditionally inspired clubhouse. Chateau Elan Estates agents are eager to show prospective home buyers a true representation of Southern comfort behind our Legendary gates. Come and experience the perfect symmetry that surrounds The Legends as part of your new way of life. Welcome home.