Arnold Palmer never won the PA Open, even with help from the PA Golf Association!


Arnold Palmer never won the Pennsylvania Open, even with help from the PA Golf Association!

Arnold Palmer played in the Pennsylvania Open two times and finished second both times.

While serving in the United States Coast Guard in Cleveland, Yeoman 3-C Palmer played in the 1952 Pennsylvania Open. The one-day 36-hole tournament was played at Gulph Mills Golf Club and St. Davids Golf Club on the second Monday of October. Still an amateur, Palmer was given leave from his Coast Guard duties in Cleveland to play in the tournament. Even though he was not a resident of Pennsylvania, his entry was accepted by the Pennsylvania State Golf Association, which was then being managed out of the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association office, located in Pittsburgh. Palmer was the only player in the field not residing in Pennsylvania. If Palmer had been a professional, there might have been some grumbling from the Pennsylvania professionals. Playing Gulph Mills first, Palmer posted rounds of 71 and 72 for an even par 143 which put him in a tie for the title with George Griffin, Jr., assistant to his father at Green Valley Country Club. With an 18-hole playoff scheduled for Tuesday, Palmer had to call his commanding officer for another day of leave. In the playoff the next day, which was at Gulph Mills, Griffin won with a 73 against a 76 for Palmer. Now in 2022, for some reason Palmer is not listed in the PSGA records, instead Ken Gibson who finished third is listed as the runner-up.  

Fifteen years later in 1967, Palmer entered the PA Open again, for only the second time. The tournament was being held near his home at Laurel Valley Golf Club, where Palmer was a founding member. It may be that the Laurel Valley members talked him into entering. Palmer at age 37 was still near the peak of his game, winning four times on the PGA Tour that year.   

The tournament was played on a Monday and Tuesday in the third week of August. The tournament had been in Hershey at the Hershey Country Club for the past fourteen years. Laurel Valley was just ten years old and had hosted the PGA Championship the year before. 192 pros and amateurs entered.

In the first round Palmer shot a four over par 75, but he was only four strokes behind the leader, and there were only six players with better scores. No one broke par. Two thousand fans turned out to follow Palmer. There was a cut to the low 70 and ties after the first round.

Due to what was described as a social commitment in New York, where he was headed to play in the Westchester Classic, Palmer was first off the tee the next day. Instead of playing late in the day with the leaders, Palmer was putting on freshly mowed greens with no spike marks, paired with players out of contention. When the professionals saw Palmer teeing off first there was plenty of grumbling about favoritism by the state golf officials.

Even though he made bogies on the 16th and 18th holes, he shot a 69 and appeared to have a good chance of being the winner. Palmer said that if he ended up in a tie for first, he would forfeit. As Palmer was finishing his round the leaders had just begun their rounds.

Ross, Bob 3 (TTT)

Bob Ross, the professional at the Philadelphia Cricket Club, had been on a hot streak. On Saturday he had won the 3-day Philadelphia PGA Championship. Earlier that summer Ross had begun using an aluminum shaft driver. Like Palmer he had shot a 75 in the first round. Playing in one of the final pairings, Ross birdied five of the first seven holes and then made two more birdies on the back nine. He made pars on the last two holes for a 68 and a two-day total of 143, to win by one stroke.

First prize was $800. Palmer donated his $500 second place money to the Pennsylvania State Golf Association to promote its state open, whatever that meant. None of the professionals who finished behind Palmer saw any of that money.

4 thoughts on “Arnold Palmer never won the PA Open, even with help from the PA Golf Association!

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  1. My take – motivation is a huge factor in winning. Earlier he did not yet have the skill, later the motivation was insufficient. r. lamar kilgore 2193 yellow springs rd. malvern, pa 19355 610-640-1611



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