By Roger Graves
These little town blues... are melting away Iíll make a brand new start of it... In old New York If I can make it there... Iíll make it anywhere Itís up to you, New York, New York. I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps And find Iím A-number-one, top of the list, king of the hill, A-number-one... Itís up to you, New York, New York.
Start spreading the news...
Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen and Jim Barnes made it in New York. Paul Runyan, Tommy Armour and Henry Picard also rose from rags to riches to rule the golf empire in the Empire State.
Jack Nicklaus found that he was Anumber-one, top of the list, king of the hill in old New York in 1980 at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester. And Davis Love III discovered that he could make it there and make it anywhere by winning his first major championship at Winged Foot Golf Club in 1997.
New York state, which has hosted 10 previous PGA Championships, has given golf some wonderful theater on the greens since the inaugural PGA Championship was staged a bit off-Broadway in 1916 at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, N.Y. Fittingly, big names in golf history have illuminated the PGA Championship marquee in the Big Apple, ranging from "Big Jim" Barnes in 1916 and 1919, to Hagen in 1921 and 1926, to Sarazen in 1923 and Armour in 1930, to Runyan in 1934 and Picard in 1939.
New York hosted the initial two, four of the first six, and eight of the opening 22 PGA Championships, all of which were contested under a 36-hole match-play format. After a 40-year sojourn in other states and moving to stroke play in 1958, the PGA Championship returned to the glitter and glamour of New York in 1980 starring a Golden Bear on Broadway named Nicklaus, who was the only thespian to finish under par en route to matching Hagen with a record fifth PGA title. Jack had entered the 1980 season amid considerable conjecture that his career was over, washed up. A few publications called him the Olden Bear, but Nicklaus was golden again in olí New York.
Seventeen years later, the PGA Championship became a real-life drama titled "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" when Davis Love III finished 66-66 to fulfill the promise of his youth and win his first major. As a misty-eyed Love played the final hole at fabled Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y., a vivid rainbow encompassed the sky above and Love harkened to his younger years when his PGA Professional-father Davis Love Jr., who was killed nearly a decade earlier in a plane crash, told him he was capable of winning a major championship if he continued to work diligently. Again, a dripping and gripping drama produced by the PGA Championship on a New York stage.
All of the aforementioned PGA Champions engraved their names in golf history with victories nationwide. But their victories in New York were watershed wins, often milestone triumphs providing a springboard to stardom or adding an exclamation point to colossal careers.
If I can make it thereÖIíll make it anywhere. New York, New York!
1919: Engineers C.C.
After the PGA Championship took two years off during World War I, the tournament moved to Engineers Country Club in Roslyn, Long Island, N.Y., in 1919. The two-year hiatus and new venue in New York didnít deter Barnes from winning his second successive championship with a 6-and-5 victory over 1908 U.S. Open Champion Fred McLeod of Carnoustie, Scotland. The 36-hole finale pitted the tallest man in the field, Barnes at 6-foot-3, against the smallest man, the 5-foot-3 McLeod. The wee Scotsman lost six of the final seven holes in the morning to go 5-down and Barnes holed a 40-foot birdie putt on the 31st hole for the victory.
1921: Inwood C.C.
The long-hitting Barnes was seemingly writing a script for his third PGA Championship in New York, when the 1921 tournament was contested at Inwood Country Club in Far Rockaway. The storyline of the first round featured a 19-year-old former caddie named Gene Sarazen, who upset newly crowned British Open Champion Jock Hutchison. Meanwhile, Barnes and Walter Hagen weaved their way through the match-play bracket with impressive victories and Hagen shot a brilliant 69 in the morning phase of the 36-hole final to assume a 1-up edge. In the afternoon, The Haig putted spectacularly with a front-nine 4-under 33 to go 4-up, and Hagen coasted to a 3-and-2 triumph for his first of five PGA titles.
1923: Pelham G.C.
After Sarazen, a 20-year-old Italian youngster, won the fifth PGA Championship at Oakmont, Pa., in 1922, the PGA Championship shifted back to New York and Pelham Golf Club in Pelham Manor in 1923. In the PGA Championshipís first playoff, the young Sarazen outdueled Hagen 1-up in 38 holes after both finalists strolled to easy semifinal victories. Hagen put considerable pressure on Sarazen by birdieing the 29th, 34th and 35th holes in the 36-hole finale to pull even after Sarazen had built a 3-up lead with nine to play.
In overtime, the first hole was halved. Then, the match almost ended at the second extra hole when Sarazenís tee shot came to rest in heavy rough just a few feet from an out-of-bounds fence. With a crowd gathered around him, he reportedly said: "Iíll put this one up so close to the hole it will break Walterís heart. Sarazen followed through on his promise, knocking the extraordinary approach shot within two feet of the flagstick. Hagen flubbed his approach into a greenside bunker, and when Sarazen tapped in the birdie, he had won back-to-back PGA Championships.
1926: Salisbury Golf Links
Hagen, a native of Rochester, N.Y., won the next two consecutive PGA Championships to exact his revenge, but neither was staged in his home state of New York. However, in 1926 he made it three in a row with a 5-and-3 conquest of Leo Diegel at Salisbury Golf Links in Westbury, Long Island, N.Y. Hagen went 2-up at the turn in the final with an impressive 69, and then won the 28th and 31st hole to extend the margin to 4-up. When Diegel produced a six on the 33rd hole, Hagen had the 5-and-3 victory and his third of four straight PGA Championships.
1930: Fresh Meadows C.C.
Sarazen was the favorite when the PGA Championship returned to New York in 1930 at SarazenĀfs home course of Fresh Meadows Country Club in Flushing. But Tommy Armour, qualifying for his first 36-hole final, built a 1-up advantage after 18 holes and came to the final hole of the championship match with Sarazen all square. On the decisive 18th hole, Sarazen hooked his drive and put his second shot in a greenside bunker. From the fairway, Armour put his approach into the same greenside bunker and blasted out to 12 feet. Sarazen blasted to within 10 feet and watched with surprise as Armour holed his putt. Sarazen then missed his 10-footer to potentially even the match, giving Armour the 1-up triumph.
1934: Park Club of Buffalo
Native son Paul Runyan, a short-game and putting wizard from White Plains, N.Y., won his first major championship when the 1934 PGA Championship was contested at the Park Club of Buffalo in Williamsville. But Runyan had to work overtime to beat his former teacher, longhitting Craig Wood, before dropping an eight-foot par putt at the 38th hole to gain the 1-up victory. The finale was the longest match since the 1923 PGA Championship, with neither Runyan nor Wood ever building more than a 1-up advantage throughout the close final.
1939: Pomonok C.C.
Drama ran rampant again in 1939 at Pomonok C.C. in Flushing, N.Y., when reigning U.S. Open champion Byron Nelson and 1938 Masters champion Henry Picard worked overtime for the fourth time in PGA Championship history before Picard made a miraculous birdie on the 37th hole to gain his only PGA title. On the 37th hole of the final match, Picard hit his drive under a movie truck, while Nelson was in the middle of the fairway. After gaining relief from the obstruction, Picard hit his second shot seven feet away. But Nelson answered with a beautiful approach to within five feet. After Picard waited for several motion-picture cameras to stop making noise, he made his birdie attempt and Nelson inexplicably missed his five-footer to give Picard the title, a $1,100 check, and a berth on the 1939 U.S. Ryder Cup Team.
For Picard, it was just like Runyan, Armour, Sarazen, Hagen, Barnes, Nicklaus and Love. He was A-numberone, top of the list, king of the hill, A-number-one, thanks to magical New York. Old New York.
1980: Oak Hill C.C.
"What happened at Oak Hill in 1980 is something Iíll always remember," says Nicklaus of his seven-shot PGA Championship victory over Andy Bean 23 years ago. "Itís hard to pin it down, but anytime you play a major (championship) in New York, everything seems to be magnified. The media exposure is greater, the crowds are always large, and the interest just seems to be turned up three or four notches.
"A lot of people had written me off coming into that year (1980). I hadnít played very well the year before (dropping to 71st on the money list with $59,434), and a lot of writers just figured that was the beginning of the end. But I happened to win the (U.S.) Open in June (at Baltusrol in New Jersey) and then I played some of the best golf Iíve ever played at Oak Hill in the PGA Championship. If Iím not mistaken, I was 6-under-par for the week and everyone else finished over par. Thatís what was gratifying about the 1980 PGA Championship Ė I played almost as well I can play on a very difficult, demanding golf course.
"I donít know what it is, but I always seem to play pretty well in the major championships in New York and New Jersey. If you look at my career longterm, I think youíll find that to be true." Indeed, Nicklaus had finished second to Lee Trevino in the 1968 U.S. Open at Oak Hill, despite shooting 1-under 279 (which would have won by two shots at Oak Hill in 1980). The year previous (1967), he won the U.S. Open at Baltusrol in Springfield, N.J., where he also won 1980 Open. Even at age 49, Nicklaus made the cut at the 1989 U.S. Open, the last major hosted by Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., before shooting 74-75 the weekend to tie for 43rd place. His PGA Championship title at Oak Hill in 1980 was the 19th of Nicklausí 20 major championships, with his final major coming in the 1986 Masters.
The Golden Bear remembers receiving a putting lesson from his 18- year-old son, Jackie Jr., before the 1980 PGA Championship that paid tremendous dividends at Oak Hill when Nicklaus won his fifth PGA Championship. Jack and Jackie were on the putting green at Nicklausí Muirfield Village course in Dublin, Ohio, the Monday before the PGA Championship when Jackie told his father he was jabbing at his putts and not finishing the stroke. Angelo Argea was Jackís full-time caddie in those days, but Jackie later toted his fatherís bag in many championships and he knew his fatherís game.
"I remember Jackie was pretty young at the time, but he had watched me pretty closely all year, so I thought there must be something to it," says Nicklaus. "I practiced following through and I stroked the ball as smoothly as I ever had that week at Oak Hill. I remember shooting 66 the third day, and it was the best putting round I had enjoyed in a long, long time."
1997: Winged Foot G.C.
The father-son theme revisited the PGA Championship in the form of a vivid rainbow and a torrent of emotion when it returned to New York in 1997. Davis Love III grew up the son of a PGA Professional and teacher extraordinaire, Davis Love Jr. His dad taught him everything he knew about golf and always encouraged a youthful Davis III to "practice hard and donít be afraid to reach for the stars." His dad, who made the cut in two of five PGA Championship appearances, was killed in a plane crash in 1988 on his way to a teaching session at age 53.
As Davis Love III arrived at Winged Footís 18th green to put the finishing touches on a five-stroke victory over Justin Leonard to secure his first major championship, a perfect rainbow emerged from the dark clouds that had dumped buckets of rain on the golf course. It took little imagination to see the hand of a warm and loving dad sweeping across the sky, saying, "Nice going, son," wrote Marino Parascenzo in the 80th PGA Championship Journal.
"The son of a PGA member winning the PGA Championship? Who would have ever thought?" asked Love after his first major victory. "And to win at Winged Foot. I mean, that is a hell of a golf course, a great tradition, a great Championship. My dad had a lot of friends and supporters interested in The PGA, and he gave a lot of lessons to people as a PGA Professional. It makes it pretty special for me to win the PGA Championship."
New York has traditionally given the PGA Championship unbridled drama, including three playoffs during the match-play era of the championship. 1916: Siwanoy C.C.
In the inaugural PGA Championship in Bronxville, N.Y., Siwanoy Country Club host and PGA Professional Tom Kerrigan had the honor of hitting the first shot in PGA Championship history en route to a 6-and-4 victory over Charles Adams in 1916. Kerrigan lost to eventual Champion "Big Jim" Barnes in the quarterfinals. The theatrics heightened in 1916 when Barnes came to the 36th hole of the finals against Jock Hutchison all square after Hutchison bogeyed the 35th hole.
On the final green, the finalists both had five-footers for fours and after a measurement it was determined that Hutchison was away. Hutchison missed his putt and Barnes made his par effort to win $500, a diamond-studded medal, and the first PGA Championship.
|1916||Siwanoy C.C., Bronxville||Jim Barnes|
|1919||Engineers C.C., Roslyn, L.I.||Jim Barnes|
|1921||Inwood C.C., Far Rockaway||Walter Hagen|
|1923||Pelham G.C., Pelham Manor||Gene Sarazen|
|1926||Salisbury Golf Links, Westbury L.I.||Walter Hagen|
|1930||Fresh Meadows C.C., Flushing||Tommy Armour|
|1934||Park Club of Buffalo, Williamsville||Paul Runyan|
|1939||Pomonok C.C., Flushing||Henry Picard|
|1980||Oak Hill C.C., Rochester||Jack Nicklaus|
|1997||Winged Foot G.C., Mamaroneck||Davis Love III|
Roger Graves, who attended a New York-based PGA Championship in 1997, is a free-lance golf writer from Salt Lake City, Utah, and a frequent contributor to PGA Magazine.
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