Honoring Dads…And Remembering The ’62 Open
As we head into the weekend, remember that Sunday is Father’s Day, a time to remember the “old man”, who taught you how to throw a baseball & football, gave you a Life Saver after you missed the game-winning free throw, and offered such sage advice such as “go ask Mom.”
Seriously, being a Dad is hard. In the TV show “Breaking Bad”, the character known as Gus Fring tells Walter White (Bryan Cranston) something to the effect of “A man provides for his family, even when he’s not appreciated.” Make sure you show your father how much he is appreciated this weekend.
Now, to today’s topic. When I think of Fathers Day as it relates to sports, I think of several things: Jim Bunning’s perfect game for the Phillies on Father’s Day 1964 against the Mets. I read a book about the game when I was a kid, and knew every pitch and every out. The fact that Bunning had seven children at the time, and the masterpiece came on Father’s Day made it seem all the more perfect.
And, we members of the golfing community know that golf’s second Major happens on Father’s weekend–the US Open. This year, our National championship of golf takes place at the brutal Oakmont (Pa) course near Pittsburgh. This course is always on Golf Digest’s “toughest courses” list, usually in the top 5. There are usually no winners of the US OPen, only survivors. Angel Cabrera won at Oakmont in ’07 with a winning score of 5 over par.
Probably the most famous US Open at Oakmont was the 1962 Open. Thousands of steelworkers and everyday common folk known as “Arnie’s Army” lined the fairways to cheer on their favorite son, the great Arnold Palmer, himself from Western Pennsylvania, and a man who brought golf to the masses with his hard-charging, chain-smoking style.
He would have a memorable duel that weekend with upstart Jack Nicklaus. Before the term “body shaming” became part of our lexicon, the pro-Palmer fans yelled disparaging remarks at the young Nicklaus, calling him “Fat Jack”, among other things. Nicklaus says to this day he doesn’t remember hearing any of that, but how could he not? The classy Arnie, for his part, didn’t like the way his “Army” treated the 22 year-old Nicklaus.
After a memorable duel on Saturday, Jack and Arnie sat atop the leaderboard, setting up what turned out to be an anticlimactic 18-hole Sunday playoff, with Nicklaus silencing the crowd with an even par round, while Palmer shot a 3 over-par round.
It would be Jack’s first professional win, and the beginning of one of the great rivalries in golf. As for the “Fat Jack” nickname, Nicklaus would work tirelessly to transform himself into one of the most physically fit golfers on tour (compare pictures of the 1962 Golden Bear to the Nicklaus that won the 1975 Masters) in the 1970s.
Enjoy the US Open, everyone, and to all the Dads out there, may your day be special!
That’s it from the Booth. Until next week, GO HORNETS!