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From rght, Gary Player, Jack NIcklaus and John Mahaffey watch Andy North putt during the 1979 PGA Grand Slam of Golf at Oak Hill.(The PGA of America)

Champions recall their triumphs at venerable Oak Hill

Legendary Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester this week will play host to the 69th Senior PGA Championship, making it the only venue in America to have played host to a U.S. Open, Senior Open and Amateur, as well as a PGA Championship, a Senior PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup. Here are what a few of the past champions recall about their respective major victories at the venerable old course.

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An Oak Hill Champion:
JACK NICKLAUS 1980 PGA Championship

It was just easy. I've had weeks like that where I remember . . . the last PGA Championship that I won in 1980 at Oak Hill, I hit the ball just horribly that week. I hit it all over the world, but no matter what I did, I knocked a putt in to save what I did, so I just made a very easy week out of it. I'm sitting there sort of feeling like, Why is that happening? But the ball, it just kept going in the hole.

Every once in awhile that happens like that, and I promise you, it's a lot of fun. After winning the U.S. Open in June, my putting got worse and worse. Then, during the week before the PGA Championship, my teenaged son Jackie, by then a solid player, picked up on something. "Dad," he asked, "why are you breaking off your stroke?" That was all I had to hear. I spent the next few hours working on swinging the putterhead through the ball. The turnaround was incredible and it helped me win my fifth PGA Championship.

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An Oak Hill Champion:
LEE TREVINO 1968 U.S. Open

They're going to be playing a different golf course than when I won there in '68, because they've done some renovation.

But I have some great memories there. Even though I've not played (many) majors on the Champions Tour since I was 60, what, eight years ago, I may make an exception and go there and play, because I won the Open there and I have a lot of great friends there at Monroe and everyplace else.

[Trevino became the first player with four rounds in the 60s in the U.S. Open.] You know, I didn't even know when I was doing that. I remember wedging it on the last hole to about 4 feet and making it for par to shoot 69 and have four rounds in the 60s. Somebody had mentioned something about it the day before. All I was doing was listening to Jack (Nicklaus) up in front. He couldn't make a putt coming down the stretch, and I edged him out. It's been done since. Tiger did it, Lee Janzen did it.

It seems like yesterday. I'm 68 and the ol' body won't turn it loose like it used to. I still can hit some shots, but not many. I can still shoot a good solid 75, and that's OK.

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An Oak Hill Champion:
SHAUN MICHEEL 2003 PGA Championship

Well, certainly I will be remembered, I think, forever, for hitting that last shot. [His 175-yard 7-iron at the 72nd hole stopped two inches from the hole]. That's a memorable shot, no matter who hit it. That's something that I draw upon when I really need some confidence.

Really, at that point, I didn't have anything in mind about what the shot meant or how important getting the ball onto the green really was. It was just a matter of really trying to go back and focus on my set-up and execution of the shot and just trying to play it one shot at a time. I know (the media) have heard that a lot, but that's really all I was trying to do.

And I was comfortable, because I had played well up to that point. I think maybe if I was hitting some errant shots into the greens, it might have been a little bit different story. But I was hitting the ball so solidly, and that was really my main focus. I think what anybody would tell you is make sure you hit the ball solidly. Typically when you do that, the ball goes where you're aiming.

It's amazing how quickly, when I go back and look, how quickly everything kind of took place. Some people may say that things are in slow motion, but that's not how it was for me. I grabbed the club as quickly as I could because I knew it was the right club. Before I could even start to think about what the shot was going to mean, I went ahead and executed. I certainly did not know it was that close.

I knew it was on the right line; I could see that part of it. Could have been a little bit short, a little bit long. As well as (runnerup) Chad (Campbell) was playing, I certainly did not want a 5- or 6-footer, not that I could not make it, but I was pleasantly surprised when I reached the top of that hill.

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An Oak Hill Champion:
CURTIS STRANGE 1989 U.S. Open

I always enjoyed Oak Hill. I thought it was a really hard golf course. I played well there when (Jack) Nicklaus won the PGA Championship. I finished fifth and really enjoyed the course. But I thought it was extremely hard. I'm a fan of the old-style courses, nice, free-flowing, nothing artificial . . . some of the modern courses play very nicely but look so manufactured. The old courses all have quirky holes, but quirky is part of golf. I like that.

To me, Oak Hill is one of the grand old clubs. The big, big clubhouse, bowling alleys down below and things to do in the winter. Craig Harmon has been a friend to everybody for years, been there forever. It's a true club. . . . Everything about it is kind of neat.

When I think of Oak Hill in '89, I remember how hard I thought that tournament was going to be before we got all the rain on Wednesday. It was so hard and fast, and I was thinking, how are we going to finish these holes? Then we got all that rain, it softened everything up and it made the course more playable. The fairways played wider because they got softer, and the greens were more receptive. And still, I shot what, 2 (under).

I didn't think about that (the prospect of winning three in a row) until (the media) started writing about it and I started hearing about it. The last guy (to win back-to-back Opens) was Ben Hogan. I didn't know that until I got to the press room. And then I started hearing more about the guy who won three in a row (Willie Anderson) in 1901-02-03. . . . I learned more about him in the next year than I ever wanted to know.

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THE INAUGURAL PGA GRAND SLAM OF GOLF

Long before the PGA Grand Slam of Golf found a home in tropical locales, it was played for the first time at Oak Hill Country Club.

The 1979 event brought together the four winners of the professional majors from the previous year: John Mahaffey (PGA Championship), Gary Player (Masters), Andy North (U.S. Open) and Jack Nicklaus (British Open) playing 18 holes on a single day, a format that could continue until 1991. North and Player each shot 73, four strokes better than Nicklaus, who would win the PGA Championship the following year at Oak Hill, and Mahaffey.

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