Chris Bitticks explains how he was able to put together the PGA, Northern California Section, Inaugural Legends Championship here at Haggin Oaks.
“I went to Mike Woods (PGA, Director Of Golf). and I said, look, I want to do this golf tournament, and I want the participants to be 70 years old and up. and I think this is the perfect place.”
Chris Bitticks, Haggin Oaks, Pro Shop
It worked. On May 11, 2022, over thirty-three, golf pros over the age of 70 got together for an 18-hole golf tournament on the Allister MacKenzie course here at Haggin Oaks. The energy was high and the stories were endless.
The only nonagenarian in the bunch was Ken Towns, a 94-year-old who could take as much as he could dish when roasting the other golfers during brunch right before the first tee.
This group of PGA pros and champions had 1,500 combined years of experience as PGA professionals under their collective belts. They shared stories of golf legends who mentored them and gentle riffs about playing against each other in past pro golf tournaments, some dating back to the 1950s.
(Pictured To Left) Ken Towns, Ken Morton Sr., Chris Bittick, Steve Menchinella, George Buzzini Jr.
One story, in particular, came from Dick Lotz, a veteran golfer for over six decades.
“It was around the 1960s and my brother John and I always wanted to play at the State Fair. We were from the Bay Area. We didn’t have a room or anything, so we asked Mr. Lo Presti ( (Haggin Oaks Golf Complex Head Golf Professional from 1932 to 1994) if we could camp out on the MacKenzie course and he agreed” — Dick Lotz,, Veteran Golfer (pictured right)
It was 1961, to be exact. The two brothers camped out the night before the State Fair Golf tournament on the Allister MacKenzie course until a Delta wind storm interrupted their sleep. Fortunately for them, Ken Morton Sr., Tom Lo Presti’s assistant at the time, happened to see them and encouraged the golfers to take refuge in his apartment. The brothers played the next day at The California State Fair Golf Tournament, and Dick Lotz took first place, winning the tournament. His brother John came in second. Dick went on to win many more golf championships. And by the late 90s, Ken Morton Sr. became the owner of Morton Golf LLC, which manages Haggin Oaks Golf Complex, William Land Golf Course, Bing Maloney Golf Course, and Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course. Who knew that 61 years later, they would still be pals competing in an 18-hole tournament against each other.
“These golfers represent years of PGA mentorship, tour players, mentors and leaders of the game for all of this time. They brought so many of us along with them.”—– Len Dumas, Executive Director/Chief Operating Officer at Northern California Section PGA of America (pictures right)
The first tee began at 1:00 pm, and Ken Townes hit the ceremonial first shot. Then the real fun began. It seemed natural for these golfers, even those who had not been on the course in years. They are still inspiring to golfers of all levels.
This year Chris Bitticks won with a score of 146 (71/75), Frank Panetta came in 2nd with a score of 152 (76/76), Glenn Stubblefield (72/82) and Dave Bingham (77/77) tied for 3rd with a score of 154.
Many participants expressed gratitude to the Morton Family for sponsoring the tournament. The Haggin Oaks Golf Complex looks forward to next year’s 2023 PGA, Northern California Section, 2nd annual Legends Championship.
To learn more about planning tournaments here at Haggin Oaks click here.