A hollow Toshiba without Premer

Golf imitates life. There are hazards everywhere, but great surprises at every turn.

For the Toshiba Senior Classic, celebrating its 10th anniversary — an eon for the PGA Champions Tour — this year represents change.

A year ago at this time, we were hailing Hale Irwin as the defending champion again of the Toshiba Classic, yours truly was a sportswriter covering the tournament for the ninth straight March and Chris Premer was the best public relations director anywhere on the PGA Tour.

Today, Australian Rodger Davis will try to repeat at Newport Beach Country Club, it is my first crack as sports editor of the Daily Pilot's Toshiba Senior Classic special section, and, tragically, Chris Premer is no longer with us.

Change is good, but never when it involves the loss of a good friend.

The countless hours working on the annual Toshiba Senior Classic special section as a reporter always had its greatest reward when Premer would call the morning of its Friday publication and leave a voice message, saying something uplifting and encouraging to make my day. It was always from the heart with Chris. "You guys have outdone yourselves again," he'd say.

But we said goodbye to Chris in October. A longtime friend of the Daily Pilot and one of my favorite golfing buddies, Chris died in a plane crash on Oct. 1, 11 days before his 31st birthday.

"It's tough this year. It's very emotional," tournament director Jeff Purser said.

A special celebration to honor Chris is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Toshiba Senior Classic media center at Newport Beach Country Club.

The media director of the Toshiba Classic since Hoag Hospital took over as managing operator in September 1997, Chris served as the media coordinator and liaison for the former Newport Classic Pro-Am, which was also played at Newport Beach Country Club. That was when I first met Chris.

A talented writer and excellent communicator, Chris could always reason with people. He carried himself with dignity. He was witty. His personality could "carry a crowd," his father, Ted, said. But what I remember and cherish most are the relaxing, joyful moments on the golf course when we'd play and talk about life. Talk about girlfriends and family. Talk about sports.

On Oct. 1, Chris boarded a twin-engine aircraft with his friend and pilot, Paul Mumford Jr., for an afternoon excursion to Oakland to watch a baseball playoff game between the Boston Red Sox and Oakland A's in the American League Division Series.

The plane crashed shortly after take off, about three miles from Ontario Airport in the Norco area.

This will be a tough week indeed for many members of the Hoag and Toshiba family. While Chris Premer can never be replaced, his spirit will always live.