The Tournament of Champions is on right now in Grand Central. It is the twenty-fifth time it has been held there. Thirty years ago, the ToC was also in New York, just a few miles down the island of Manhattan from Grand Central—the tournament was at the Winter Garden, the palm-tree studded atrium at the World Trade Center. The cover of the 1993 hardcopy tournament program, not findable with a QR code, featured a gorgeous painting.
Will Davies painted it. Davies was a legendary Ontario illustrator and painter, famous for stamps, ads, posters, book covers (he illustrated five hundred romance novel covers) and magazine illustrations. He died in September 2016 at the age of ninety-two.
In 1991, the men’s North American pro tour, just before the merger with the men’s international pro tour, commissioned Davies to create an illustration from a photograph (now unknown, possibly taken by Hugh McClean?). Thirty years later, the painting evokes an earlier era, with the hardball service lines and both men wearing Action Eyes goggles.
The Hall of Fame subjects were Ned Edwards in the background and Kenton Jernigan about to strike the ball. Ned jokes that “unless Kenton hit a very soft, highish roll corner, it looks like I’m in quite a bad spot.”
What of the original painting? For decades it hung in the Dallas home of Tom Plaskett. The CEO of Continental Airlines, Pan Am Airlines and Greyhound, Plaskett was a friend of Jack Herrick and a supporter of the ToC when it was in the Winter Garden. Plaskett died in June 2021 at the age of seventy-seven.