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Historic facts to start a conversation

HAL LENOBEL
Contributing Columnist
golf@lbknews.com

Here are a few strange rather historic facts relating to golf that might make interesting conversation:

If birdies and eagles seemed as if they were drawn to John Huston at the 1998 Hawaiian Open, it’s because he was positively magnetic about his winning 28-under-par performance. He credited his record-setting feat to magnets he put in his mattress cover and his shoes. He was urged to do so by Bill Roper, then president of Tectonic Magnets, who said the devices could ease pain and aid circulation. Huston used them a few more times, with mixed results.

Between 1858 and 1978, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player — the “Big” Three of modern golf — won 12 Masters, eight British Opens, seven PGA Championships and five U.S. Opens for a total of 32 of those 84 modern major titles, an impressive winning percentage.

In one 20-day span back in 1971, Lee Trevino won, in succession, three national titles in three countries: the U.S. Open, the Canadian Open and the British Open.

Before his death in 1970 at age 73, Joe Kirkwood had played more golf courses than anyone in history — an excess of 5,000. To put this feat in perspective, consider that the number two addict, Ralph Kennedy, played only 3,615 golf courses before his death in 1962.

One of the biggest swings in history of the Masters Tournament occurred in the final round in 1937, when Byron Nelson overtook the leader, Ralph Guldahl. Nelson played the 12th and 13th holes in birdie 2 and eagle 3 while Guldahl shot 5 and 6, a swing of six strokes in just two holes.

Three golfers have rallied from a record eight-stroke deficit in the final round of a PGA tournament since 1970. They are: Mark Lye, 1983 Bank of Boston; Hal Sutton, 1985 Memphis Open; and Chip Beck, 1990 Buick Open. There have been many seven-stroke leads, which have gone to defeat in the final round.

When LPGA Tour malcontents were griping in 1978 about Nancy Lopez getting all the press, JoAnne Carner advised them to “go out and beat her” so the reporters will stop writing about Lopez. However, for five weeks in 1978, Nancy was unbeatable. She won five LPGA Tour events in a row, the first to ever do that.

It took Mark O’Meara more appearances — 15 — to win his first Masters than any other champion. Next is Billy Casper, who won in 1970 after 14 attempts at Augusta National. Others include: Ben Crenshaw, 1984, after 13, and Ray Floyd, 1976, after 12. Cary Middlecoff, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan all needed 10 tries before winning the green jacket.

Tiger Woods started the third round at the 1998 Masters by three-putting the first hole. It ended a remarkable Masters streak of 113 holes without a three putt, a streak that dated back to 1996.

Famed women’s golfer Joyce Wethered was 96 when she passed away in 1998. Her stylish and powerful play changed people’s perceptions of women’s golf. In 1937, she won 71 of 73 matches while capturing four British women’s and five English women’s titles. Bobby Jones once said Joyce had the best swing he had ever seen. Incredibly, she had only one formal golf lesson in her entire life.

Jack Nicklaus holds the record for the most golf courses played in a single day by a pro golfer. In 1991, the Golden Bear played 18 holes at 18 different golf courses in eight hours and 40 minutes to raise money for charity. Nicklaus crisscrossed Palm Beach County, Fla., in a helicopter, playing one hole per course. He shot 73, which was par for the 18. The event raised more than a half-million dollars.

Roger Maltbie was locked in a playoff at the 1976 Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio. During his four-hole playoff with Hale Irwin, Maltbie hit a shot that appeared to be heading out of bounds. However, his ball struck the out-of-bounds stake and rebounded toward the fairway. The lucky bounce helped him win the tourney. Maltbie carried the friendly stake around with him on the tour for the rest of the year, but he finally left it under his bed in a motel room. Luck can carry you just so far.

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