Many of the boys in the press tent at the Philadelphia Inquirer
Invitational at Llanerch Country Club had already written their
leads, something to the effect of "Hometown boy makes good." The
boy in this case was 36-year-old Harold (Jug) McSpaden, the
transplanted Kansan who has a home in nearby Merion, and it
looked as if he had just won the tournament. They had written
that Byron Nelson's winning streak, which had grown to six in a
row, had finally been broken and, what's more, by a close
friend. In fact Byron and Louise Nelson had stayed at Jug and
Eva McSpaden's home throughout the week. But on the back nine
... well, we'll get to that in a moment.
But first a few words about the most popular player at Llanerch
last week, the man who drew the biggest crowds, even though he
shot a first-round 83 and then withdrew. You've seen him in
movies and heard him on radio, and if you follow golf, you know
that before the war he hosted a pro-am tournament in San Diego
that everyone hopes will soon resume. We're talking about Bing
Crosby, Der Bingle.
Crosby was in the area as part of his continuing effort to
entertain American troops. On Wednesday he put on a show for
patients at the Army's Valley Forge General Hospital, then
played a rain-shortened two-hole practice round at Llanerch with
Nelson, Sam Snead and Lieut. Ben Hogan, who was unable to take
part in the Invitational itself. Before teeing off, Crosby mixed
songs with jokes, singing Accentuate the Positive and
Sentimental Journey and telling the gallery of 3,000 he hoped
this ''California weather would go away.''
The next morning he was at Philadelphia Naval Hospital, then
arrived at Llanerch around noon. When he spotted a soldier in
the crowd who had lost a leg in battle, Crosby offered him a
bite of his sandwich, saying, ''That's my buddy!'' He then
invited his caddie, 15-year-old Joe Hirst, a sophomore at St.
Joseph's High School, to join him in a rendition of Swingin' on
a Star. After his very creditable 83, the apparently
inexhaustible Crosby hurried off to Salt Lake City to entertain
June 25, 1995
The final round in Philadelphia began with McSpaden and Johnny
Bulla tied for the lead at 205. Nelson was one stroke back.
Snead had been forced to withdraw after an opening-round 70. It
turns out that he had injured his wrist playing in a softball
game the previous week. On Thursday evening he went to see Dr.
F.C. Hutton, who took X-rays that revealed a broken bone in the
golfer's right forearm. There was no immediate prediction when
Snead would be able to rejoin the tour.
On Sunday, Bulla shot a 71 to take himself out of the running.
McSpaden's tee time was about an hour and a half behind
Nelson's. When Nelson reached the 13th tee, Leo Diegel, a former
PGA champion and a club pro in the Philadelphia area, approached
''How you doing, kid?'' Diegel asked. Nelson told him he could
par in for a 68. ''That's not good enough,'' said Diegel.
''McSpaden just eagled the 7th and can par in for 66.''
Nelson did some quick math and figured he would need to birdie
almost all of the remaining six holes to have a chance.
Remarkably, he almost did. His 4 on the 14th was a par for the
pros, but normally the hole plays as a par-5 for members. Nelson
birdied the other five holes, finishing with a back-nine 30 and
a 63 for the day, which held up to beat his host for the week by
''If anybody asks what won for me,'' Nelson said later, ''it was
my sand wedge. I played four short approaches with it that
nearly holed out. The total distance from the pins would hardly
add up to six inches.''
McSpaden took his disappointment gracefully, although this was
the fourth time this year he had finished second to Nelson. At
the award ceremonies he told his houseguest, ''You not only beat
my brains out, but you eat all my food, too.''
By winning his seventh tournament in a row, Nelson collected
$3,333 in war bonds, his largest purse of the year. If he isn't
careful, he may make more money this year than Der Bingle.