Johnny Owens' stature as a Lexington golf legend is based primarily on back-to-back state high school titles, a Southeastern Conference championship, a pair of State Amateur crowns and what he considers his highest achievement — a British Senior Amateur title.
But Owens' local prominence is also due in large part to the 10 city golf championships he won between 1944 and 1966.
Owens' dominance of the city tournament was one of the main topics of discussion during an inaugural city champions dinner at Gay Brewer Jr. Picadome Course Tuesday night.
Eighteen former champs were there, including four-time winner Buddy Bryant, three-time titlist Wally Rose and two-time winners Jim Halfhill, Danny Miller and Tim Philpot.
Philpot helped Mike Fields, director of golf operations for Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, organize the gathering. This year's city tournament will be played Thursday through Sunday.
Owens, 84, wasn't the oldest former champ in attendance Tuesday night. That distinction belonged to Rose, 88, who said he always measured himself against Owens.
"I looked to Johnny Owens and how close I came to him in a tournament," Rose said. "That's how I rated how well I was doing."
Owens said the city tournament was always highlighted on his golf calendar "because there were so many good players and I loved the competition. We had a lot of fun with it in those days."
Owens' main rivals included Ermal Allen, Marvin Lear and Rose. Those four golfers combined to win 18 of 25 city titles starting in 1943.
Bill Lear, son of the late Marvin Lear, who caddied for his father when he won the city in 1960 and 1963, called Owens "the gold standard."
Philpot has been trying to put together a champions dinner for a few years, and he and Fields finally pulled it off.
"I really wanted to do it for the older guys, like Wally, Johnny and Mac (Alton McPherson)," Philpot said. "We had a fantastic turnout for this first one, and I think it'll be even bigger and better going forward."