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Can Trivia Win the U.S. Open?

June 15, 1970
June 15, 1970

Table of Contents
June 15, 1970

Epsom-Belmont
  • The theme songs were different at Epsom and Belmont, but the theme was the same—classic competition among the best thoroughbred colts available. Plenty were available at Epsom Downs, in any case

Boo-Boo Or Baby
Freshman And Guru

Can Trivia Win the U.S. Open?

Well, boys, the old National Open comes up again next week out there in Minnesota or somewhere—at one of those new clubs with a name like a shampoo. Hazenwhirl or Hazelrub. I forget. Oh, yeah—Hazeltine. Tough course, they say. Blind shots and all. And more doglegs than you'd ever find in a Viet Cong supper. Heh, heh. Well, whatever happens out there, it won't equal the last Open we had here. Remember? By God, that was what you call a real National Open. Had everybody in it—Hogan, Snead, Zilch, Sausage, Marr, everybody—right down to the last few holes. You know who should have won it, don't you? Old Pete Zilch, that's who. Why he had the whole store locked up if he just plays even bogey over the last three. But, of course, he goes six, six, six. Actually, a lot of us thought he deserved a free drop from the hamburger buns on 16 but Joe Dey said play it. We also thought he might have got a free drop from that lady's beehive hairdo on 17 but old Joe said play that one, too. And then, of course, there was nothing anybody could do to help him on 18 when he picked up the bunker rake and chased Joe into the woods. It's two strokes, you know, to ground your rake in a USGA official. Heh, heh. Another little joke there. Well, anyhow, that was some Open, boys, and I'll surely drink to it if we can get a waiter on his feet.

This is an article from the June 15, 1970 issue Original Layout

"There've been a lot of interesting Opens."

What's that, pal? You talking to me?

"I couldn't help overhearing your conversation and I said that the Open has had a lot of fascinating things happen over the years."

Yeah, well, the USGA would be delighted you think so. You a member here, or somebody's guest, or what?

"For example, do you know what's distinctive about the Open returning to the Minneapolis area after 40 years?"

Well, friend, I don't know who you are, but there aren't many of us who follow golf who don't know that Bobby Jones won the Open at Interlachen back in 1930, the year of the Grand Slam.

"That wasn't what I meant. It's the amateur thing."

The what?

"Amateurs have won both of the previous Opens that have been played in Minneapolis. Before Jones there was Chick Evans, who won at Minikahda back in 1916. To carry the idea further, Jones won the Amateur at Minikahda in '27, and, of course, Jack Nicklaus won the Trans-Miss at Woodhill in Minneapolis in 1959. It seems that everything that happens in Minneapolis having to do with golf involves amateurs. I think that's interesting."

It's just terrific, pal. You know a lot about golf, right?

"They call it the U.S. Open, by the way. It's the Open Championship of the United States Golf Association. No one who knows calls it the National Open."

Yes. Thank you very much. Now let me ask you this: would you like to play a little game for some money? I mean you're in there tough with the Minikahdas. You want to play something like U.S. Open questions for money?

"Oh, I guess so."

For real cash? Like whip out? And none of this easy stuff like Chick Evans setting a new Open record, and what was it, or what was Ben Hogan's first name, or....

"William."

Huh?

"Ben Hogan's first name is William."

Yeah, right. None of that, and fairly heavy on the history. Like I don't care for the swing weight of Sam Snead's driver, O.K.?

"D-6."

What?

"The swing weight. D-6."

Can I tell you something, Guest of My Club? You're starting to get me a little hot, you know that? Now, if you want to play for whip out, we can play.

"Fine."

Ten a question? Like if you don't answer my question and I answer yours, then that's 10 for me, right?

"I see. That's fine."

And if we both answer each other's question, then no pay, right? We go on to the next round. And it's whip out, O.K.?

"Fine."

All right, my friend. I see that I have a fresh cocktail here so it appears that we're all set. Now then. You want me to start?

"Sure."

O.K. You ready?

"Fine."

O.K. My first question is Sam Snead, right?

"That's your question?"

I mean, Snead's always second in the Open, right? He's famous for that, in other words. The question is, what player not only won the Open but was, in fact, second as many times as Snead? Which was four. Who was that?

"Well, of course, there's Bobby Jones. He not only won it four times but he was second four times, but if you were thinking about a pro it could be Tom McNamara who was second four times, counting an unofficial wartime Open in 1917. But then McNamara never won the Open. You could mean someone more current, like, well, there is Arnold Palmer, who won in 1960 and since then has lost three playoffs in addition to being runner-up to Nicklaus in 1967. Although I must say that officially Palmer has only been second three times, because when he lost the playoff to Julius Boros in '63 at The Country Club he also lost it to Jacky Cupit, and the record book lists Arnold as having finished third. The answer has to be Jones, then. Is that what you...?"

Never mind.

"I beg your par...."

You got it. It's your question, go ahead. You answered it. It's your turn. Terrific.

"Well, your question I suppose was reasonably difficult for the average fan. Let's see. How about this one? Name the last player to win three U.S. Opens in a row."

You're serious?

"Well, yes. I think that...."

I mean, that's your question for money?

"Well, it's a legitimate question, I think."

You mean to say, pal, that you're going to sit down in a whip-out game of golf trivia and not expect anyone to know—least of all me—that Willie Anderson was the only player who ever won three Opens in a row?

"Is that your answer?"

Willie Anderson, yeah. The dour little Scot, they called him. Won the Open in 1903, '04 and '05. Willie Anderson.

"Actually, I had in mind another instance. Perhaps it was a bit of a trick. I guess I ought to let you have Willie Anderson, only I thought you knew enough to...."

Hogan!

"What?"

Hogan! You mean Hogan.

"Well, yes. That was what I had in...."

Hogan won the Open in 1948, didn't play in '49 because of the automobile accident, and then won in '50 and '51, making three in a row.

"Well, he did win three in a row that he played in."

You want to know something?

"What?"

Can I tell you that I'm reeeaally hot now? I mean you've really got me hot, you know? Now I have to get tough, O.K.? You ready to get tough? Here's the question. Orville Moody and Lee Trevino, right? Won the Open and it was the first pro win for both, right? Same for Jack Fleck and Sam Parks, O.K.? And the same for Nicklaus in '62, right? Now. What other player is this true of?

"Besides Boros, you mean?"

What?

"Besides Boros in '52 at Northwood. That was his first win, or didn't you know? Well, anyhow, I don't know which one you're referring to, so I'll give you the other two. There was Walter Hagen in '14 and, of course, Gene Sarazen in 1922. It's a good question, but the better way to phrase it would be to say which Hall of Fame golfers won the Open as their first pro victor...."

You don't mind if I have another drink, do you?

"Of course not, I...."

I mean, is it O.K. if I have another drink in my own club while I'm getting a lot of lip from a guest? Is that O.K.?

"Well, certainly."

It's your question, pal. Shoot. I mean, you're on.

"Yes, well, maybe I'd better make it an easier one than before. Let's try this. What player won an Open even though he fanned a shot on the last hole of the tournament?"

You're telling me that happened?

"Well, yes. It's very much a part of the lore of...."

Can I just inject something in here?

"Sure."

For $20 instead of $10, you're out of your stupid mind.

"Well, I wouldn't take the bet because you'd lose. It so happens that Harry Vardon stabbed at his next to last putt and whiffed it back in 1900 in the Open at Chicago Golf Club, and yet he still won by two strokes. Every good golf book includes that story. You see, our Open wasn't held in such high regard then, and...."

Look, let's don't drag this out. I mean, let's get right down to it, O.K.? I mean, you're really terrific with the D-6s and the Vardons and all that, so let's get down to where it is, all right? Like I got one question for $100, O.K.? Are we on or not? I mean, yes or no?

"About the Open?"

Yeah, yeah, yeah. An Open question. O.K.? Legitimate question, no tricks. I ask it and you answer. For a $100 whip out, O.K.?

"Well, I'll try it. Go ahead."

All right. Here it is. A guy won the Open in the 1940s and the very next week he tied in a tournament on the tour with somebody else.

"That was Cary Middlecoff in '49 who tied with Lloyd Mangrum the following week."

Right, but that's not the question. This tournament was played in the Midwest and....

"The Motor City Open in Northville, Michigan."

Right, Anyhow, Middlecoff and Mangrum tied after 72 holes and so they went into a sudden-death playoff that was never finished because....

"Neither man could win a hole. After nine holes tournament officials asked them if maybe they weren't getting a bit tired, and the players said yes, but let's play two more holes. Which they did. Still tied. So Middlecoff and Mangrum were declared co-champions, the only time a PGA tournament was never actually completed."

Right, but that's not the question. The question is, who was...?

"Who was third? Jim Ferrier."

The question is, who...?

"Who finished last? That was an amateur named Geoffrey Fairbrother. Shot 311."

No, as a matter of fact, the question is, who led the first and second rounds of the Open at Medinah the week before? Ha!

"Oh, well, why didn't you say what you were leading up to? Les Kennedy led the first day with a 69, and then Al Brosch led after 36 with 141. Middlecoff, as it happened, took over the lead at 54 and held on to win."

Listen, can I ask you just one more question? I mean, I don't care what your name is, but are you free to travel?

(Warning to close friends: next week at Hazencourt. Tall guy. Gray. Dark glasses. Texas accent. Talk pollution with him.)

PHOTOWhen he won it in 1916, his score stood as the record for 20 years.PHOTOHis Win in the Open in 1935 was his first as a professional.PHOTOWas he the only man to win three championships in a row, or did Hogan repeat?PHOTOHe shot 69, which was good enough to lead for one day in 1949.PHOTOAfter 36 holes at Medinah this golfer led the way, but Cary Middlecoff won.