The man who is credited with making the FedEx St. Jude Classic what it is today, Phil Cannon, died Wednesday at the age of 63.
Cannon, who had been battling lung cancer since April 2014, served as tournament director for the Memphis-based PGA Tour event from 1999 to 2015. Last November, he stepped down from that position but stayed on as a consultant to new director Darrell Smith for the 2016 event.
“Then I’ll sort of kick back and enjoy life and help wherever I can,” Cannon told The Commercial Appeal in 2015. “I wanted to step aside while I still have my sealegs and travel some and enjoy time with my new wife, Cindy.”
Cannon indeed enjoyed life to the fullest, according to his friends, and a lot of that joy came from his involvement with the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
“He was a wonderful guy,” Cannon’s friend and former college roommate Jimmy Ogle told the Appeal. “He loved his work and poured himself into everything he did.”
Said PGA Tour golfer Luke Guthrie: “He gave me my first pro start. It meant the world to me then and always will. He treated my family and I so well always, but especially that first year. He made us all feel comfortable and welcome. A great man.”
Said Tour player Harris English: “His positiveness and unwavering determination will certainly be missed.”
Cannon, who also was a longtime public address announcer for football games at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, was involved with the FedEx St. Jude Classic for nearly 50 years. He began his work with the tournament in 1968 as a 14-year-old volunteer and before being hired full-time in 1990, he used to use his vacation time each year to volunteer for the event.
“I learned so much from him as far as organizational skills, management skills, people skills,” Bob Winn, another one of Cannon’s friends and a longtime volunteer for the Memphis tour event, told the Appeal. “He was such a mentor because he had a way of never offending anyone. Of the 44-plus years I knew him I don’t recall anyone ever saying a bad word about him. He was such a people person.”
And what a person Memphis and the entire golf community lost Wednesday.