Imagine sitting at a local barbeque and enjoying a large serving of pulled pork and slaw when one of the world’s most famous golfers comes by and introduces himself.
At the Collierville Commissary, reigning PGA Championship winner Phil Mickelson did just that. And by the time he finished eating, the three-time Masters champion left more than 800% tip for his server, according to owner Walker Taylor.
Like many golfers who stop by for a barbecue before or after the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational Tournament, Taylor said Mickelson was coming to the restaurant all the time (but now he thinks Mickelson is making an effort to eat healthier).
The Commissary will return to TPC Southwind along with three other Memphis grill restaurants including Central BBQ, Hog Wild and The Rendezvous. The four spots will be part of “The Pit”, a showcase that started at the tournament in 2019 but was not present in 2020 due to COVID-19.
The showcase will be set up between the eighth and ninth holes at TPC Southwind.
Partnerships and Benefits
The restaurants were selected based on prior participation in the tournament or its main beneficiary, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Three of the stores – The Commissary, The Rendezvous and Hog Wild – volunteered for the tournament prior to 2019, helping to cater to media members, tournament volunteers and golfers before the first tee.
The rendezvous developed its own feature, “Rendezvous on the Range”, through which the restaurant fed both players and caddies.
When asked why they partnered with the tournament, each restaurant had the same opinion. For one thing, it’s good for business, but all four restaurants cited St. Jude as the main motivator for their work at TPC Southwind.
With this common goal in mind, the four shops get along well and enjoy working together. Taylor and The Rendezvous co-owner John Vergos emphasized that they help each other when they can, even with pandemic-related delivery bottlenecks that hit the restaurant industry.
Since the attraction lasts for several days, fans have the opportunity to try out each option. Hog Wild owner Ernie Mellor said the only thing that wins fans when you stand next to “the three biggest competitors in the grill business” is a smiling face. Even so, he said, the four stores at The Pit don’t really compete for business. In 2019, all four restaurants did well, and the gap between them was narrow.
“The four of us were next to each other, so we literally sold within $ 1,000 of each other for the same amount all week. … Much of it goes back to St. Jude, ”Mellor said.
MORE: See a photo gallery of “The Pit” at the 2019 event.
When the tournament at TPC Southwind was converted into a World Golf Championship, one of the organizers’ key initiatives was “more Memphis,” said Darrell Smith, executive director of the tournament. (It was announced on Tuesday that the event will return to the PGA Tour and become part of the FedEx Cup playoffs.)
Smith stated that the tournament already had a large presence in Memphis with FedEx and St. Jude. It was only natural to add what Memphis is best known for: its grill.
The Pit will contain all of the Memphis classics. From the typical Vergos family dry rub ribs to grilled nachos (there are multiple claims about who invented this dish, don’t ask) and catfish quesadillas.
According to these four restaurants, fans at WGC-FedEx St. Jude will not only be surrounded by the world’s best golfers, but also by the world’s best barbecue.
So if you smell the smell of pulled pork, follow it – and find yourself between the eighth and ninth holes as The Pit returns to TPC Southwind.
Claire Kuwana is an intern in sports coverage with the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Contact her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @clairekuwana.