May 22, 2014 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports EditorRiverton golfers Al Ward and Mel Fausset are preparing this week to play in their 40th straight Saltwater Classic at the Riverton Country Club.
Club pro Steve Johnson and Riverton High School golf coach Lars Flanagan both suggested the pair would make a great story idea.
They were right.
The 54-hole Saltwater Classic gets rolling Saturday.
I met ward Tuesday night when he was at the driving range.
The tournament "has been good if you like the game of golf," Ward said.
My visit with Fausset happened Wednesday morning before he played 18 holes in the weekly men's day.
Ward is 81, Fausset 75
"It just got started, and I kept it up," Fausset said. "I like the game a lot."
Fausset said one year the Saltwater Classic was held in Jackson, and he came close to missing it.
"The year must have been 1980," Fausset said. "That is when we were building the new golf course here," referring to the expansion from nine to 18 holes.
Ward and Fausset are both longtime members of the club.
"I hit the ball well and scored well backed then," Ward said. "I have looked forward to every one one of them."
Both center their Memorial Day weekend on the Saltwater.
Ward said really enjoys hosting the pro golfers.
"I sure have found out they like other sports," Ward said.
Two famous golfers who stayed at Ward's house are Steve Jones and Tom Lehman.
Jones won the U.S. Open title in 1996, defeating Lehman and Davis Love III by one stroke. The U.S. Open was held at Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Jones won the Saltwater in 1983 and went on to eight PGA tour victories.
Lehman never won the Saltwater, but he became one of the best-known players on the PGA tour in the 1990s, winning five tournaments. He is a major championship winner as well, winning the 1996 British Open. He led the tour in money that year and has since won seven Champions Tour events. Lehman was the 2006 U.S. Ryder Cup captain.
Ward was at the U.S. Open the year Jones won.
"I went out and talked to them on the driving range," Ward said. "They were just everyday guys."
Ward and Fausset have seen scores improves through the years.
In the tournament's early days, "the best amateur player could win with two 75s or three 75s," Ward said. "You now have to shoot around par."
Ward has won the amateur title several times.
"I like to say that I have gone from 64 to 84," Ward said.
The two are not surprised how big the Saltwater has grown.
"A lot of golfers are trying to make a living," Ward said. "A lot of them would like to go on the PGA tour. They play these tournaments to get practice and a little bit of money on a good course. This is a terrific course. The greens are really good."
Fausset said he has nailed five holes-in-one. He hasn't had one yet in the Saltwater.
He has three in Riverton, one in Worland and one in Basin.
"It was pretty exciting getting those," Fausset said. "The last one was three or four years ago in Worland."
The die-hard golfers are counting down the days until the Saltwater, where they will tee it up again for the 40th time.
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