“Did You Know”
300 players teed off in the first round of the 1973 Pennsylvania Open!
The 1973 Pennsylvania Open was hosted by the Oakmont Country Club. The PA Open had not been at Oakmont since 1924, so many of the pros and amateurs in Pennsylvania had never played there. The entries kept coming, topping out at 300. The two-round tournament was scheduled for a Monday and Tuesday in August.
The Pittsburgh golf professionals, where the Pennsylvania Golf Association was located, told the PAGA officials that it was not possible to get that many players around Oakmont in one day. But entries were accepted and starting times assigned. Even the Pittsburgh Press stated in its Monday newspaper, “The last starting time on both the No. 1 and No. 10 holes is 3:54. With sunset due at about 8:05 there will be a bit of difficulty in getting everybody finished today.”
On Monday, August 20 the 300 plus entries were at Oakmont for round one. Players went off in fours on holes #1 and #10 at 7a.m. A steady drizzle set in before play began. It was always said that Oakmont was the only golf course where the greens speeds had to be slowed for major tournaments. This was not a major, and the greens were rolling at their fastest pace. With the rain, the greens were like wet panes of glass. On holes 1 and 10, where the greens slope from front to back, nearly every golf ball rolled to the back collar.
With slick greens, rain, and four-man pairings, play moved at a snail’s pace. The early starters were taking two and a half hours to complete nine holes. Even with that, when the players made the turn, they were held up for their second nine as the tee wasn’t open due to slow play backing up the golf course. By the time the morning pairings were completing their rounds it became apparent that nearly half the field would not complete 18 holes.
The PGA officials went to plan “B”. The first round was washed out and the players were re-paired in fours for a morning and afternoon shotgun start on Tuesday. With some no-shows and a few who could not stay for a Wednesday finish, the field was down to a bit under 288 players.
On Tuesday play began at 7a.m., with two four-man pairings on each tee. The morning round took six hours. At 2p.m. the second wave began play with two four-man pairings on each tee. Six hours later they were completing their rounds.
The plan had been for the field to be cut to the low 60 players and ties, but with Oakmont having a golf outing scheduled for Wednesday and all play needing to be off the No. 1 tee by 10a.m., the field was cut to the low 40 players and ties. There were 30 money places, but less than 30 professionals had made the cut at 78 strokes or less.
On Wednesday Philadelphia’s Sunnybrook Golf Club professional, Tony Perla, shot an even par 72 to go with a first round 72. His 144 total won by one stroke, and for a second time Perla was the Pennsylvania Open champion. First prize from the prize pool of $6,000 was $1,200.
The professionals who had finished among the top 30 professionals, but missed the cut, did not receive any money. Some wrote letters to the PAGA, but received no answers.
The Pennsylvania Golf Association probably made more money that week than the winner, Tony Perla.