The 18 Most Important Moments in Golf ( P2 )

 The 18 Most Important Moments in Golf ( P2 )

  • 1961

REMOVING A STAIN

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The PGA of America's Caucasian-only clause is perhaps the greatest historical stain on the game ofgolf. That it existed at all was bad enough, but the time it took to repeal was even worse.

Adopted in 1943 as professional golfers in the predominantly black United Golf Association began to aspire to play in PGA-sanctioned tournaments, the bylaw asserted that only members of the Caucasian race older than 18 who resided in North or South America were eligible for PGA membership. The policy was stubbornly retained for nearly two decades despite publicly documented discrimination against outstanding black pros such as Ted Rhodes and Bill Spiller. In 1948 Spiller sued the PGA when he was kept out of the Richmond (Calif.) Open. He dropped the suit after the PGA assured him that tournaments would be integrated. Instead, in 1952, more tournaments became "invitationals," which effectively allowed sponsors not to invite blacks.

 

Prominent black sports figures such as Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson took active stands against the PGA's policy. Charlie Sifford drew more attention when he won the 1957 Long Beach Open, becoming the first black professional to defeat a full field of mostly white professionals. Finally, in 1960 California attorney general Stanley Mosk threatened to block the PGA from playing tournaments in the state unless it eliminated "this obnoxious restriction" and encouraged other state attorneys general to join him. The PGA tried to avoid a legal battle by moving the 1962 PGA Championship from Brentwood CC in California to Aronimink near Philadelphia, but the association finally relented to the pressure in 1961 and repealed the Caucasian-only clause. By that time Bill Spiller and Ted Rhodes were both 48.

  • 1965

JACK'S GREAT ROUND

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This was the Golden Bear's Secretariat moment, when his golf became clearly bigger and better than any ever seen. Tied after two rounds of the 1965 Masters with fellow Big Three members Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, Nicklaus seemingly miniaturized Augusta National the next day with an awesome power matched by equal precision. Three of his drives went at least 320 yards. He effectively hit 18 greensjust missing the 11th in the right fringeand three par 5s in two (one of them in the fringe) with no more than a 3-iron. He had no bogeys and no 5s. His longest holed putt was 25 feet. After Nicklaus won by nine, Bobby Jones called it a level of golf with which he was unfamiliar. The man himself now calls his 64 at age 25 his finest round in a record major career.

  • 1968

BREAKING AWAY

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For decades, from the founding of the PGA of America in 1916, club pros and tour prosoften the same entity in pro golf's formative yearswere under the same tent. But after World War II, those on the circuit began to feel they had different issues from their teaching- and equipment-selling brethren. During a decade of turmoil in the larger world, the tour pros' angst turned to action in 1968. As Golf World reported: "Amid bitter exchanges in New York City on Aug. 14, player attorney Sam Gates announced that, with the 1969 season, the players would run their own tour."

The American Professional Golfers (APG) was created, but at the last minute the PGA created the separate Tournament Players Division with Joe Dey, longtime USGA leader, as commissioner. Dey (above) transitioned the breakaway masterfully and prepared the TPD for full independence, handing over the reins to Deane Beman in 1974. The following year, the fully independent PGA Tour came into being. Beman served for 20 years, growing annual prize money from $8 million to $56 million.

Tim Finchem took over in 1994 and subsequently leveraged the popularity of Tiger Woods into higher TV rights feescontrol of TV money by the players was one of the issues that led to the breakaway in '68which more than quadrupled prize money. Bob Goalby remembered the struggle when Doug Ford was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011. "The players playing today, you're playing for three times as much money as you would have been playing if we were still under the umbrella of the PGA," Goalby said, clearly a rebel without a pause.

  • 1979

GOLDEN OLDIES

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Four men, six playoff holes, one important side effect. That sums up the 1979 Legends of Golf, the captivating senior tournament in Austin, Texas, that was the springboard, a year later, for the launch of the Senior PGA Tour. The nostalgic excellence at Onion Creek CC that fateful Sunday, April 29, was so entertainingthe nationally televised broadcast bumped the NBC Nightly Newsas the better-ball teams of Julius Boros-Robert De Vicenzo and Tommy Bolt-Art Wall traded wonderful shots and birdies in the Legends second playing that it crystalized the potential for regular 50-and-over competition. Not only could the old guys (none of the playoff participants was younger than 55) still play, they could play well . The first hole of sudden-death was halved with pars, then the next four with birdies before Boros and De Vicenzo won with a decisive birdie on the sixth extra hole. The senior tour began with just two tournaments in 1980, but the circuit, now known as the Champions Tour, grew steadily with a parade of greats (such as Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Hale Irwin and Tom Watson) and lesser lights making the most of their mulligan. Would senior golf have caught on without the awesomeness in Austin? Perhaps, but because of it, there was no doubt.

  • 1985

TURNING POINT

PORTHCAWL, WALES - JUNE 18: Sam Torrance of Scotland in action during the first round of the Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open played at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club on June 18, 2010 in Porthcawl, Wales. (Photo by Phil Inglis/Getty Images)
PORTHCAWL, WALES - JUNE 18: Sam Torrance of Scotland in action during the first round of the Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open played at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club on June 18, 2010 in Porthcawl, Wales. (Photo by Phil Inglis/Getty Images)

In his autobiography Out of Bounds , Sam Torrance recalled the party that ensued after he sank the winning putt on Sept. 15, 1985 to give Europe its first Ryder Cup victory in 28 years. "I meant to go home to London the day after the matches," Torrance wrote, "but instead we drank six bottles of champagne and ended up partying for three more nights."

The Euros' celebration at The Belfry really hasn't stopped since. The 16 1/2-11 1/2 rout kickstarted a cascade of Ryder Cup success. Beginning with that pivotal result in 1985, Europe has gone 9-4-1 against the U.S., the event heating up to must-see status during the period.

The seeds for Europe's breakthrough were planted two years earlier. Torrance was on the 1983 team that traveled to Palm Beach Gardens and narrowly lost. Inspired by captain Tony Jacklin, and led by the likes of young Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer, the players made a pact on the flight home to reverse the American tide. Whereas barely a thousand people watched the final day at PGA National, European fans flocked in droves to Sutton Coldfield in the English West Midlands, and they made themselves heard.

Lanny Wadkins, who struck the winning shot two years earlier, was soundly booed on the first tee of a Saturday four-ball match. "Don't you just love it?" the Texan said, turning to his partner, Mark O'Meara. In fact, not many of the U.S. players did, and they had a hard time handling the partisan gallery. Captain Lee Trevino became embittered and his players upset at the way they felt they were being treated by the galleries, the officials and the Euro players. There was muttering in the U.S. team room about fans hissing at their wives.

The turning point, if there was one in the lopsided outcome, came when Craig Stadler missed an 18-inch putt in a second-day match that gave a halve to Europe. As symbolic as the image of a triumphant Torrance, arms raised on the 18th green was of Europe's mood, one of Stadler walking away from the hole, grabbing the back of his collar, his ball at the edge of the cup, captured what would be a recurring theme of American Ryder Cup frustration.

Post Author: Lester Happer