Pictured: LPGA rising star Emma Talley and the first woman to play in the Irvin Cobb Championships
Paxton Park Golf Course and Course Map
It’s not by chance that one of the most prestigious and historic golf tournaments in the state of Kentucky was named after American author, humorist, editor and columnist, Irvin S. Cobb. Cobb, a native of Paducah, was an accomplished author of 60 books, a high-paid journalist, a radio star, and motion picture celebrity. In fact, his writing is so prolific that he has been compared to Mark Twain. With that kind of resume, respect and admiration was earned and deserved.
‘Respect and Admiration’ doesn’t stop at Cobb, it continues in this year’s field of contenders at the 84th Annual Irvin Cobb Championships. There’s no other tournament, in recent memory, that has such an array of star-quality talent.
The three winners from 2019 are back. John B. Williams of Danville, KY. who won the Professional Division shooting 134 (eight under par). He has a 1:15 pm tee time at the Pro-Am today.
Aaron Ingalls of Jackson, TN is defending his title as the Amateur Division Champion shooting 135 (five under par). And Jay Nimmo of Benton, KY is defending his Junior Division Champion title with a 145 (three under par).
The Cochran's are playing. Russ Cochran, aka ‘Dad’ or ‘Uncle Russ,’ joined the PGA Tour in 1979. He’s had numerous PGA victories and has won the Irvin Cobb Golf Tournament five times as a professional and once as an amateur in 1979. Cochran’s nephew Rick Cochran III started his professional career in 2009. Case Cochran, Russ’ son, turned professional in 2013. Case Cochran and his group will tee-off at 10 am today. Right behind him is his dad, Russ Cochran, teeing-off at 10:15.
Lest not forget one of the true highlights of the tournament. Along with these Paducah legends is the first woman to play in the Irvin Cobb Championships, Emma Talley. It’s a history-making tournament. In the midst of the turmoil and chaos of the pandemic, a bright beacon of light is shining from above onto the greens and fairways at Paxton Park.
The Princeton, KY native, University of Alabama star player, and a 2013 title of NCAA Division 1 Women’s Championship, Talley turned professional and joined the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) in 2018 and has ranked in several tournaments. She will play on Saturday.
The Irvin Cobb Golf Championships is a two-day Saturday/Sunday tournament with the Pro-Am played on Friday. It’s always been played the third full weekend of July and will remain so this year.
Before the tournament was played at Paxton Park in 1940, it originated at Lake View Golf Course in 1937. Lake View Golf Course later became known as Rolling Hills Country Club.
In addition to a different location, the tournament bore a different name, ‘The Tri-State Amateur Tournament.’ The name changed four years later to the Irvin Cobb Championships.
This year’s event will host 44 professionals and 88 amateurs. As mentioned, the Pro-Am is played on the Friday before the two-day tournament. This year, changes have been made to the tournament’s structure in order to keep participants and fans safe.
Changes such as more dispersed tee times to discourage large fan gatherings. There are 102 golfer’s this year, and fan expectations are high. Even though there are fewer players than previous year’s play (as of Tuesday, there were 30 golfers on a waiting list), the tournament is expected to draw a crowd.
Danny Mullen, PGA Golf Professional and Director of Golf at Paxton Park Golf Course said the course isn’t in as good of shape as he had hoped. COVID-19 has played a major role in staff restrictions. There’s not been much activity, March through May, resulting in a budget crunch. There have been equipment issues and without a staff, normal protocol has been hampered leading up to the event.
The weather for the tournament should be much like every other tournament held in July. Hot with a possibility of rain. Mullen said that if the rain holds off, the greens and fairways should be hard and fast. The rough is another story. Several weeks ago, the city experienced tumultuous rain leaving the rough thicker and more challenging.
The 84th Irvin Cobb Championships are rolling into western Kentucky at the perfect time. Kentucky is known for its sports enthusiasts and the pandemic has caused some withdrawal. Golf is a strong, socially-distanced sport that’s played outdoors with plenty of ventilation. The only drawback is human behavior. If fans maintain social distancing and wear a mask if necessary, it should be an incredible three days.