Getting In The Mood For Birkdale: Thomson Wins '54 Open

To kick off the countdown to Birkdale '17, this Open footage from the past shows us 24-year-old Peter Thomson posing for the Claret Jug, one of five victories.

This Sky Sports piece is a nice wrap-up of Thomson's win.

A few things to note about the course: exposed sand in the dunes, the galleries going where they please (apparently), and how stark the difference between fairway and green cuts.

There's also a brief glimpse of putting master Bobby Locke. Enjoy!

Roundup: More Sandy Tatum Remembrances

Starting with his longtime friend, Tom Watson:

Frank D.Tatum Jr. passed this morning leaving a rich and passionate legacy to golf.  We owe a great deal to him for what he did to enhance our wonderful game and we will sorely miss him and his infectious love for golf which indeed inspired so many of us.
Peace, Sandy

Jaime Diaz shares several memories for Golf World. This was fun for Hogan-philes:

There was a round at Cypress Point, where on the 13th fairway Tatum’s description of what he’d observed in his several rounds with Ben Hogan gave me a more palpable sense of what Hogan was like than anything I have ever heard.

“When it was Hogan’s turn to play, it was on the basis that he had been accorded the privilege of playing that particular golf shot,” he said. “And that privilege carried with it a responsibility. And that responsibility was to give that shot all the thought and effort that he could, and to make it as effective as he could. It was a very distinct characteristic.”

Michael Bamberger at Golf.com reminds us of the legendary Hinkle Tree incident at Inverness and enjoys just how much Sandy could, if you didn't know him, annoy the elite player.

I'm talking about guys who won major championships. They thought of Tatum as the USGA president from central casting, with his patrician bearing and his pipe, his $5 words. They thought he was high-minded and egotistical, a self-appointed golf god. And to a degree he was. 

Yes, he had resounding admiration for Bob Jones, for Arnold Palmer, for Jack Nicklaus, for Tom Watson, men he knew well. But he didn't think they understood golf in toto (the Latin is a tip of the hat to Tatum) any better than he. That gave him the courage of his convictions. In his long tenure as a pro bono USGA official, the organization was the stern father of American golf, and father knew best. The game was better for it.  

Telling me about it years later, Tatum said, "The players complained. 'You're changing the course, you're changing the course!' I said, 'We're rectifying a problem.'" He was a Stanford-educated lawyer and a dean of the San Francisco bar. He could make words dance. The Hinkle Tree is a footnote in the game's lore. 

Sam Weinman at GolfDigest.com on Sandy's more enduring line.

AmateurGolf.com's Pete Wlodkowski has a nice obit and roundup of quotes from golf folks on Sandy's incredible life.

An unbylined NCGA pieces includes a mention of Sandy's affinity for Youth On Course, which I have made a $100 donation to in memory of Sandy, an option you can pursue here.

In an article in the Spring 2009 edition of NCGA Golf, Tatum wrote about his passion for Youth on Course.

“One of the basic premises for the Youth on Course program is that it fills the ultimate gap that has almost always existed in respect to getting golf into the lives of young people,” Tatum said. “Access is the name of the the game, and Youth on Course provides it.”

Few, with the possible exception of Bobby Jones and Bill Campbell, have done more for amateur golf than Tatum.

Diaz also wrote this piece on Tatum's surprising NCAA Championship win in 1942:

But Tatum rode what the Associated Press called a "peppery putter" to defeat his first five opponents, including future Walker Cupper and USGA Senior Amateur champion Dale Morey in the quarterfinals. Against de la Torre, Tatum shot 69 in the morning round, and never looked back. "I played better than I knew how," he says. "I was in a zone, one like I never reached again the rest of my life."

The satisfaction was immense. When he called his father in Los Angeles, all Tatum could manage were the words, "Dad, I won."

Here is Tatum's Stanford golf history page at their wonderful website.

His affinity for Stanford was acknowledged by his alma mater:

 

Masters.com Posts Full Telecasts Of Palmer's Four Wins, Tiger's 1997 Masters Final Round

And just to completely ruin your productivity, Masters.com has embedded all sorts of amazing content available on their site that will also be available on their Apple TV app.

While the 1997 Masters was very special and the online coverage here excellent, including an interview with Tiger hosted by Jimmy Roberts, that tournament is still in our recent memory. So as much as I'd love to advocate watching the final round broadcast posted there...

The King's four wins, with full original telecasts and Jim McKay leading two of them, will give you goosebumps.

The best way to stumble on this is as I did: check out today's leaderboard featuring a classic image and click on Palmer's score in red.

Because for those who weren't alive during Arnold Palmer's seven-year run here at Augusta National, the combination of imagery and words posted at Masters.com will give you a greater appreciation for the partnership.

Here is John Steinbreder's piece on Palmer and Augusta if you want some good reading.

Here is the 1958 final round with Jim McKay opening the proceedings as only he can.

Here is the 1960 final round and do make sure you get to the 31:15 minute mark for the Green Jacket Ceremony to get a BIG Clifford Roberts-inspired chuckle.

Here is the 1962 final round telecast.

And here is the 1964 final round telecast.

If Ben Hogan Met Trackman...

Guy Yocom wonders if Mr. Secrets in the Dirt Ben Hogan would have embraced Trackman and what his numbers might have said about his swing.

Talking to top instructors like Chuck Cook, David Leadbetter, Sean Foley, Charlie Epps and Joe Mayo,

The near-universal belief that Hogan swung the club slightly to the left through impact requires that his clubface not be open relative to the target. An open clubface combined with a leftward path, is a lethal combination—slice city. Thus, the teachers who voted for a -1 path, all combined it with a clubface that was at 0—perfectly square to the target line. This indicates that Hogan was, above all, a “path fader.” The very slight left-to-right fade he imposed—again, we’re talking a few yards here—was the result of his path, not an open clubface. One teacher (Leadbetter) suggested that Hogan’s clubface could have been -1, or closed to the target line. But he combines it with a path that was possibly -2, making it a safe and reasonable opinion.

I think another fun question for the group: how much would Hogan have used a Trackman? Before and after every round, or just on occasion? Or not at all?

50 Years Ago This Week A Club Pro Won On The PGA Tour

Granted, he was the legendary Tom Nieporte of Winged Foot, but as Tom Cunneff writes for Golf.com, he is believed to be the last legitimate sweater-folder to beat the flatbellies.

Cunneff writes of the 1967 Bob Hope Classic:

After all, Nieporte wasn’t even a tour pro when he won the Hope at age 37. He was the head pro at Piping Rock Golf Club on Long Island when he outplayed the likes of Palmer, Nicklaus, and Floyd at La Quinta Country Club. After opening with a 76 that left him 10 shots off the lead, Nieporte carded three 68s to trail defending champ Doug Sanders by one shot heading into the fifth and final round. With an estimated 30,000 spectators on hand enjoying a perfect day in the desert, Sanders was still a stroke ahead after nine, but Nieporte’s 25-foot birdie putt on 11 pulled him even. Another birdie on 18 from 12 feet gave him a one-shot lead at 11 under par. Playing a hole behind Nieporte, Sanders had a chance to tie him on 18 and force a playoff, but his long birdie attempt just missed.

One Of Palmer's Masters Trophies Goes For $444K

Darren Rovell at ESPN.com provides a few details about the anonymous purchase via auction, as well as the backstory of how the Masters trophy initially ended up in private hands.

It's the second-highest price paid to Green Jacket Auctions for a piece of golf memorabilia and maybe to anyone, going for about $240,000 less than Horton Smith's 1936 Masters jacket. And who says the golf collectables market is dead? Though I'm not sure this will have the impact on attracting new collectors that some hope...

"Arnie did it again," said Ryan Carey, co-owner of Green Jacket Auctions. "We knew that this was a special piece, but even we were impressed by the level of interest from Arnold Palmer fans. Simply put, people love Arnold Palmer. There's a strong case to be made that Arnold Palmer is destined to become the face of the modern golf collecting hobby."

Highlights From PBA's Latest Golf Auction

It's fascinating to see prices holding pretty steady (and then some) for prized golf memorabilia, at least based on the expected prices from the latest PBA Galleries auction of 200 lots.

The Sunday 5 pm PST auction is being held in conjunction with the Golf Collectors’ Society Annual Meeting and Trade Show at the Kalahari Poconos Resort.

Standouts include letter collections from Ross and Darwin, and no shortage of great volumes by the latter named legend. If you have friends at Buffalo CC, they will want to check out the Ross item.

There is also a rare Colt and Alison in a dust jacket.

Also fun was a rare St. Andrews mystery.

And much, much more.

Is Johnny's 63 is The Greatest 18 Ever Played?

It is funny how the combination of Johnny Miller bringing up his 63 a few too many times and the lack of great memories/video has actually led to Johnny's 1973 U.S. Open winning 63 becoming downplayed for its historical significance.

Thankfully some smart folks have used stats and historical perspective to refute some of the misperceptions about his great play at Oakmont.

Adam Lazarus and Steve Schlossman have posted a definitive look at the round and attempt to clarify myths, legends and fact. Nice work fellows.

Jaime Diaz
files a Golf Digest June issue look at the 63 barrier in golf and sets aside quite a bit of space for Johnny's round.

Miller will tell you about it. His frequent references to the round—especially as a commentator—have caused a backlash. When he says things like, "I mean, it was sort of an easy 63—pretty pure," Miller, now 69, seems a victim of "the older I get, the better I used to be" syndrome. But his playing partner that day at Oakmont, Miller Barber, said, "It very easily could have been 60." A closer look reveals Miller's round has mostly been underappreciated.

Diaz also filed this follow up for GolfDigest.com highlighting some numbers, including these:

He missed two fairways and had 29 putts, including a three-putt on the par-3 eighth hole. Nine of his full-iron approaches (three of them 4-irons) finished within 15 feet of the hole, four of them getting within six feet. In 2014, Golf World’s David Barrett, retroactively applying the PGA Tour’s “strokes gained” calculation, convincingly established that Miller’s is the greatest 18 holes ever shot.

One of the great touches in Oakmont's locker room is the handwritten scoreboard from the 1973 U.S. Open and on. Johnny's 63:

What Could Go Wrong, Files? Carnoustie For Jean Van de Velde's Senior Debut!

Maybe Bob Rotella convinced Jean Van de Velde to confront his Carnoustie demons in bold fashion, or maybe the Frenchman just has a sense of drama (and humor)? But either way, his decision to make his senior golf debut at the place he lost The Open, months after his birthday, is a bold one.

From a EuropeanTour.com report.

Now living in Hong Kong and a leading figure in this year’s 100th year celebrations for the Open de France at Le Golf National, Van de Velde confirmed he will be playing in his first event as a Senior at Carnoustie, knowing he has an old score to settle.

He laughed: "No, I don't get tired of people talking about 1999 and reminding me about what happened. I am lucky enough to still be involved in golf, but I am not as exposed as I was before so it doesn't come up as much in conversation.

"However, I know it is part of history. It is part of my life as well as a golfer. There were quite a few viewers that day - 250-300 million, I believe - so it would take me a while if I met all them and answered their questions about that day, from which I have great memories.”

For those of you who don't believe golf was played before the year 2000, Van de Velde's final hole:

Man Cave Gem Up For Auction: Augusta National Entrance Sign

While my mancave budget would go to the Charles Lees photogravure of Musselburgh that Green Jacket Auctions is offering in their latest sale, I know that arguably the single most dreamy man cave item ever to be sold at auction will be the original Augusta National Golf Club entrance sign that hung in front of Magnolia Lane, circa the 1960s.

From the description:

It was discarded by Augusta National many decades ago, but was (thankfully) saved by an Augusta, Georgia resident. That original owner didn't understand its value to the collecting community until he briefly posted it on eBay six years ago. That auction sent collectors into a flurry (and we would know, we immediately heard about it and had every intention of buying it), but the sign was quickly pulled from auction and quietly sold to a collector that made a substantial offer. Though we missed out on this historic sign in 2010, we are overwhelmed with the opportunity of finally offering it for public auction.

Mrs. Forman's Follow Up: Last Day To Be Heard

The original concept of leveling golf's most important snack bar, 19th hole and gathering spot was shelved and a new application was quietly submitted.

Unfortunately, as Mungo Park notes, the deadline is February 25th for letters to oppose the new plans to change the infamous wall behind the 4th green, alter the historic building (arguably top 3 most vital in shaping the game), and impact the course by forcing safety measures to be taken.

Park, an architect and descendant of Musselburgh's first family of golf (and therefore, one of golf's first families), has outlined the issues with the latest application. Here are his thoughts followed by an email address to write to:

The second application has just been submitted as expected. This is a much more extensive development of the site; it involves part demolition of the garden wall, to lower its height and put railings on so that the residents can enjoy the view.

We oppose this application on four counts: -

1/ Inappropriate over-development of a historic site
Mrs Forman’s, its garden and Mrs Forman’s green present an iconic view at the east end of the course, which is significant in golf history. It has important tourism potential.

2/ Demolition of the east side of Mrs Forman’s, which is the oldest part of the building
This part of the building is probably the remaining section of the stable block to Blucher Hall, which preceded the pub in the 18th century.

3/ Part demolition of the garden wall on two sides
The historic view of Mrs Forman’s and its boundary wall from the course and the road, which has featured in so many pictures of the Links, will be lost.

4/ Damaging effects on Musselburgh Old Course
It is likely that the safety risk posed to the new dwellings by the golf course will require East Lothian District Council to erect a high protective netting or modify the course. Either would have significant detrimental effects on two signature holes of the Old Course, namely ‘Mrs Forman’s’ and ‘Sea Hole’.

As before we have put together a case to oppose the site’s inappropriate development. We feel that it should remain as a pub, or become a public facility that tells the story of Musselburgh’s important place in the history of men’s and women’s golf.

There are planning policy reasons why East Lothian should refuse this second application, which I have itemised in a separate report to them. These do not need to be repeated in every letter, but a large number of letters objecting should ensure this application called in by the Committee, and hopefully refused. We can then talk to the owners about its future.

Please head your letter: -
‘16/00059/P    Alteration and Change of Use from pub / restaurant / manager’s flat to 1 house, erection of 2 houses and associated works, 2 Ravensheugh Road, Musselburgh East Lothian EH21 7PP’

The last date for submission of letters or emails on this application is 25th February. Once again we are hoping to get as many letters of opposition to the planners before then.

If you are able to oppose this application one last time, please do so. A template follows below.  

Thank you,

Mungo Park, Neil Laird, David Hamilton

NB it is important that you refer in your letter to the application number 16/00059/P so that your comments can be included in the right case file.

environment@eastlothian.gov.uk  

Planning Department, John Muir House
Brewery Park
Haddington
East Lothian
EH41 3HA.

Attn Ms Stephanie McQueen

Dear Ms McQueen,

Application No 16/00059/P
‘Alteration and Change of Use from pub / restaurant / manager’s flat to 1 house, erection of 2 houses and associated works, 2 Ravensheugh Road, Musselburgh East Lothian EH21 7PP’

I write to oppose the above application for the following reasons:

I believe that the application contravenes the following Planning Policies, as set out in the Local Plan:

C8: Damage to Musselburgh Old Golf Course and its setting;
ENV1 & DP7: Section 3, retention of boundary features and Section 4 retention of important physical features;
DP14: Trees on and near development sites;
DP16: Development in areas at risk of flooding (as shown on SEPA Floodmap).

A number of other policies and vision statements also apply to this proposal, in particular those relating to tourism, historical sites and local natural and built environment and heritage.

Musselburgh Old Course and Mrs Forman’s are historically significant for the following reasons: -
1)    Musselburgh Old Course is the oldest golf course in the world in continuous use.
2)    It was the scene of Open Championships in 1874, 1877, 1880, 1883, 1886 and 1889.
3)    The town was one of the two most important centres in the history of early golf before the first world war.
4)    Mrs. Forman’s is one of the oldest golf pubs in the world.
5)    It has been central to the history of golf for the 194 years since it was built.
6)    The right hand section of the pub is a much older structure, probably 18th century, and pre-dating Mrs Forman’s. Its demolition would be a significant loss of a historic structure.
7)    The building and boundary wall are important to the continued image and reputation of the Old Course and town of Musselburgh.
8)    Mrs Forman’s is known and valued by golfers throughout the world.
9)    The application is inaccurate in its omission of trees and a flood risk assessment.

No change of use should be allowed until all avenues to retain Mrs Forman’s as a facility for public use or benefit have been pursued.

I urge the Committee to refuse this application, so that this unique asset from  Musselburgh’s remarkable golfing history is not lost.

It would be tragic if this were lost...


Video: Players Try Three Generations Of Clubs At Riviera

To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the first Glen Campbell Nissan Los Angeles Nissan Northern Trust Los Angeles Open, the PGA Tour set up clubs for the curious to try at what will be the final "Northern Trust" Open before Hyundai takes over in 2017.

Rory McIlroy, Kevin Na, Charley Hoffman, and Anirban Lahiri were among those who hit a variety of vintage clubs from the 1920's, 50's and 90's to commemorate the occasion. Many other players I witnessed--including some of the mid-30s variety who not a single person is paying money to see this week--passed.

From Adam Schupak's Golfweek.com roundup:

As if we needed any further proof that golf equipment has evolved, according to TrackMan data, McIlroy’s carry distance with hickory was 226.1 yards; he stepped it up to 269.9 with persimmon; and 270.6 yards with the original Callaway Big Bertha. When the tournament begins on Thursday, McIlroy likely will use his Nike Vapor 3-wood to avoid driving over the green.

The PGA Tour's highlights:

While we're acknowledging this anniversary, how about a shout-out to the folks who started the event with its eye-catching $10,000 purse, post-Rose Bowl date to attract media before they headed back to Union Station, and the inaugural winner at Los Angeles Country Club, Harry "Lighthorse" Cooper.

Here's a fun read from the late Mal Florence on the late Harry Cooper.

Perth: World's First "Recognizeable" Course Is Spared

Jamie Buchan reports the various cuts that were decided on in Perth, where the golf course operational deficit was a mere drop in the bucket. Councillors agreed and spared the historic North Inch, which was facing closer over a fairly small amount of money.

However, proposals to axe the historic North Inch golf course – to save about £100,000 a year – and a reduction in public transport costs were rejected.

GolfPunkHQ also has this story on sparing the course, accompanied by a splendid aerial of the course where golf was played five hundred years ago.

Dale Concannon Tweeted this image depicting the early golf scenes at North Inch:

Mrs. Forman's Update: Images, History, Where To Write

The shock of potentially losing the historic Mrs. Forman's has taken a few days to wear off, but the forces are aligning to preserve golf's most historic social gathering spot as a structure. But why stop there? Conversion to a residence when it hasn't been one for nearly 200 years seems shortsighted.

After the last fight over Musselburgh Links, I've given up trying to understand the inability to grasp the lack of appreciation for Edinburgh historical sites like Musselburgh and Mrs. Forman's. Perhaps it's a matter of branding and marketing, or maybe this traces to the longtime rivalry between St. Andrews and Edinburgh. At this point, nothing should matter but protecting the game's most vital sites of importance.

Enough people know how vital this area was to the shaping of the sport as we know it today. Therefore, preserving golf's first mid-round snack bar and a historic post-round "19th hole" should supersede any rivalries.

For a nice, succinct bit of background on how the demolition plans were discovered, check out Ru Macdonald's discussion with Neil Laird on the Scottish Golf Travel podcast. Laird's excellent Scottish Golf History website is worth a look for background on this saga and for future trip planning.

Our discussion today from Morning Drive:

My photos from inside the now-shuttered eatery, including the view from Mrs. Forman's window, which she opened to serve golfers during their rounds.

Here is the history of the place and more on Mrs. Forman:


And finally, courtesy of building architect Mungo Park, relative of Musselburgh's legendary Park clan, here is where you can write to influence the future of "The Cradle of Golf."

His comments are on a fantastic GolfClubAtlas.com thread about the closing.

Anyone that wants to do the same, or your own version, should do so by e-mail before the 17th February.

You can e-mail direct to,
environment@eastlothian.gov.uk 
but you must quote the Application number 15/01035/P, 2 Ravensheugh Road, Musselburgh and state whether you are supporting or opposing or just commenting.

You can also write to,
 
Planning Department, John Muir House
 Brewery Park
 Haddington
 East Lothian
 EH41 3HA.

Again quote reference number '15/01035/P - 2 Ravensheugh Road, Musselburgh'.

You can also comment on line, but will need to register on the web-site before doing so - not onerous but a bit tedious.

I think it is worth putting a marker down at this stage, so that East Lothian at least knows that Mrs Forman's has a significance to the history of golf, and that people care about it. There is a good level of concern nationally and internationally, and the more comments they receive the more  notice will be taken now and in the future. I shall keep an eye out for future applications.