My Shot The Publinks was a labor of love for real laborers back when I won it 51 years ago

July 23, 2000

When I attended the U.S. Amateur Public Links last week at Heron
Lakes Golf Club in Portland, the tournament looked very little
like the event I won in 1949. I saw only two players over 40,
and most of the contestants looked as if they were about 14.
When I won at Rancho Park Golf Course in Los Angeles, the
majority of the competitors were between 30 and 45.

The tournament was more of a blue-collar event back then, and I
miss that. There were more truck drivers, warehousemen, police
officers and firemen--laborers who also worked hard on their
golf games. If most of today's Publinks competitors were to list
a profession, it would be college student.

Not that there's anything wrong with the Publinks featuring
college golfers. It doesn't matter if you're 14 or 64. I was one
of the young ones myself, only 21, when I won. I was working at
Crystal Springs Golf Course in Burlingame, Calif., as a
jack-of-all-trades (and master of none). There were 210 players
in the field--61 more than this year--and the format was all
match play, meaning you had to win at least seven matches to be
champ.

My toughest match came in the 36-hole semifinal against Phil
Kunkle. I was one up going into the final hole. We both had
birdie putts, but he was inside of me so I stymied him. I putted
my ball onto his line, making it impossible for him to drain his
eight-footer unless he played some sort of billiards shot. He
didn't, and I beat him. I went on to defeat Bill Betger 5 and 4
in the final.

Defending the title was much more difficult. The tournament was
in Louisville, and I stayed at the Brown Hotel downtown. There
was one problem: The hotel didn't have air conditioning, and it
was so humid that week that by the fourth round of match play I
ran out of gas and could drive my ball only 150 yards. I dropped
the last four holes to lose one up. One thing about the Publinks
hasn't changed: You can't win if you play poorly.

Ken Towns, 72, played parts of five seasons on the PGA Tour.

COLOR PHOTO: ROCKY WIDNER

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)