82 holes were needed to determine a winner at the two-day 1936 Wildwood Open!

“DID YOU KNOW”
82 holes were needed to determine a winner at the two-day 1936 Wildwood Open!

In 1936 the PGA Tour was still finding its way and wasn’t organized like it is today. The third Masters Tournament, that was not yet called the Masters, had ended on Sunday April 5th. The tournament with a purse of $5,000 was still listed as the Augusta National Open on the PGA schedule.

After Augusta the professionals began working their way north. The next week they were in Richmond for the three-day, 72-hole, $3,000 Richmond Open. The tournament ended with 36 holes on Sunday, which Shawnee Country Club’s playing professional Jimmy Thomson won with a first prize of $700.

From there some of the professionals drove to Wildwood, NJ for the two-day 72-hole Wildwood Open which would begin the next day. Due to the tight schedule and a purse of only $1,500 the field wasn’t filled with big names. Many of the pros had returned to their club jobs after having been out on the tour for most of the winter. Sam Parks, the holder of the U.S. Open title, and international tournament player Joe Kirkwood, Sr. were in the field.

The Wildwood Golf & Country Club was starting the golf season off with a bang. A three-day amateur tournament had ended on Sunday, and the two-day Wildwood Open was beginning the next day. On Sunday evening the members opened pari-mutuel betting on the Open tournament and posted odds.

Missouri professional Leonard Dodson, who had tied for tenth at Richmond, arrived in time to see he was posted at 50 to 1. He promptly bet $100 on himself. Dodson may have been an unknown in Wildwood, but he had won the St. Petersburg Open in February that year and was in 20th place on the 1936 money list, leaving Richmond.

On Monday Ray Mangrum (brother of Lloyd) jumped out to a four-stroke lead with what Fred Byrod of the Philadelphia Inquirer called “a sparkling 71-72—143 over a wind-whipped course”. Philadelphia Country Club’s defending champion George Smith and Atlantic City’s Clarence Hackney were in second place.

Tuesday, opening day for major league baseball, was another cool windy day. The Phillies were hosting the Boston Bees at the Baker Bowl before 10,000 fans. Mangrum posted a 73 in his morning round to take a five stroke lead into the final round. In the afternoon he took 78 strokes, but still appeared to be the winner. He retired to the bar, while waiting for the rest of the field to complete their rounds. Later in the afternoon Dodson brought in a 72 to tie Mangrum at 294. First prize was $500 and second was $225. Woodcrest CC professional Bruce Coltart (296) finished third, and Smith (298) was fourth. Kirkwood (299) and Hackney (299) tied for fifth.  

The two pros were all set to call it a tie, split the top two prizes and move on out of town, but the tournament chairman, Gus Heil, stated that there had to be a tournament champion and no unsettled tie. Heil suggested a nine-hole playoff. Mangrum protested saying “I can’t go out now I’ve had a few drinks to warm me up.” “How many did you have” asked Dodson who was said to not drink. “About four” said Ray. “Set up four for me,” said Dodson. He tossed them down one after another. “Now we’re even” Dodson said. “Let’s go.”

Out they went into a cold twilight wind. The golf was not of championship caliber and when Mangrum three-putted the ninth green Heil still didn’t have a winner. They had ended up tied again with 42 strokes apiece. They then agreed to a sudden-death playoff. On the tenth hole, Mangrum made a par four, and when Dodson missed a five-foot putt for his par Mangrum was the winner. Mangrum and Dodson completed 46 holes that day and it was only April 14th. The touring pros must have played much more quickly in the 1930s.

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