A Philadelphia PGA pro won the 1952 Tucson Open and wasn’t invited to the Masters!

A Philadelphia PGA pro won the 1952 Tucson Open and wasn’t invited to the Masters!

Henry Williams, Sr., the professional at the Lehigh Country Club, showed his son Henry Jr. how to grip a golf club and then told him to just go hit some golf balls. As a lifelong club professional in the Philadelphia PGA, Henry Jr. had an outstanding playing record.   

His first position as a head professional was at the nine-hole Phoenixville Country Club (1938 to 1941), where he was the pro and green superintendent. During the week he worked on the golf course and on the weekends he manned the golf shop. That program wasn’t conducive to becoming a great golfer.

With the United States suddenly at war in late 1941, Henry went to work in a defense plant. That is when he became a real golfer. Every day after work, for nearly three years, he would play until dark at the Spring-Ford Country Club, where his father was now the golf professional.

After the war he became a head professional again and began entering the local PGA tournaments. Each winter for ten years, right after Christmas, Henry would head for the west coast to join the winter tour with $1,500 in his pocket. He would follow the tournament trail, playing the Monday qualifiers and winning a check on some occasions. When the $1,500 was gone he would head home. He said he usually lost money, but the lessons were invaluable. In those days the players would spend their evenings sitting around hotel lobbies talking about the golf swing.

In 1949 Henry made it to the quarter-finals of the PGA Championship, and won the Philadelphia PGA Championship. By being a quarterfinalist in the PGA he earned an invite to the 1950 Masters Tournament. That year he went all the way to the final of the PGA, losing to Chandler Harper. With that he qualified for the Masters again.

Out on the winter tour again in 1952, Henry won the Tucson Open in early February. That year he made a profit on the tour but there was no invitation to the Masters. Invited were former winners of the Masters, all winners of a US Open, US Amateur champions, Ryder Cup team, Walker Cup team, PGA winners and quarter-finalists, US Amateur quarter-finalists, top 24 in the 1951 Masters and top 24 in the 1951 US Open. 104 invitations went out, but winning a PGA Tour event did not earn an invite. 76 entered.

Along with the two trips to the Masters, Henry played in 12 PGA Championships and 7 US Opens. He won the Philadelphia Section Championship three times along with the Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Opens twice each. In 1962 at the age of 45, he won the Jamaica Open on the Caribbean Tour.

On the other hand, three pros from the Philadelphia Section had invitations to the Masters and did not play. In 1937 Zell Eaton, an assistant at Saucon Valley Country Club, had an invitation and did not play. He was at Saucon Valley only that one year. In 1940, Leo Diegel, a two-time winner of the PGA Championship in the 1920s and his assistant at Philmont Country Club were both invited to play but did not enter. Diegel hadn’t played for several years. Eaton and Kowal had invites off their finishes in US Opens.  

Even though Henry did not receive an invitation in 1952, he attended nearly every Masters until he was well into his 80s on his complimentary ticket through his PGA membership. In the late 1990s three of us professionals had the privilege of attending several Masters with him. On the way to Augusta he would tell us “You won’t hear anyone yelling ‘You da man’ or ‘In the hole’ at this tournament.

We would begin each day at the practice area watching the players warm up. Then he would take us to the best locations on the course to see the golf shots. Late in the day we would be back watching the players practice. Every year during Wednesday’s practice round when Arnold Palmer was playing the eighth hole, Henry would be on the right side next to the gallery rope about fifty yards up the fairway. Somehow Palmer would always find him and they would have a short visit. 

Along with a great golf swing, one thing that made Henry successful was his conviction that he was right. He was very sure of himself. He said he never played well at the Masters, because by the time it was played, he had been back in Pennsylvania stuck in cold rainy weather for awhile and had lost his tournament edge. With the $2,000 he won at Tucson in 1952 he was able to play the winter tour until it was time to report for work at Berkleigh CC. If invited he might have fared better that year.  

Every year at the Masters, Henry would be talking about not being invited in 1952 and say, “They owe me one.” 




Gene Sarazen left Miami on an exhibition tour two days before the first Masters Tournament!

Gene Sarazen left Miami on an exhibition tour two days before the first Masters Tournament!

On Tuesday March 20, 1934, Gene Sarazen and Joe Kirkwood boarded a Pan American flight in Miami for a world tour playing golf exhibitions.

Two days later Bobby Jones and his invited guests teed off at Augusta National in the first Masters Tournament. Sarazen was invited but he thought it was a land promotion that he didn’t need to help the “Emperor” publicize. Sarazen said if Jones had considered taking part in helping him promote golf events at the Miami Biltmore he would have returned the favor by competing at Augusta. 

Kirkwood was the perfect partner for a golf exhibition. Kirkwood was the leading golf trick shot artist in the world. Kirkwood grew up in Australia. As a young boy he worked on a sheep ranch that had a three-hole golf course, where he learned to play. While tending the sheep he would pass the time attempting trick shots. During World War I he entertained the Australian soldiers with his various shots. He could do more than hit unusual shots. At age 23 he won the Australia Open, New Zealand Open and New Zealand PGA, all in 1920. The next year he left the South Pacific for the United States. He played his way across the country arriving in Pinehurst in April for the North and South Open. One round after having been paired with Walter Hagen, he was asked to show off his array of trick shots. When he finished, Jimmy Walker, the mayor of New York, passed a hat to collect tips for Kirkwood. When Hagen saw how much money was in the hat he could see someone he should team up with for exhibitions. It was a partnership that would last for the rest of their lives. On occasion like 1934, Kirkwood would also team up with Sarazen. In 1923 Kirkwood moved to the states. He purchased a home in Glenside, a suburb of Philadelphia, and joined Cedarbrook Country Club. For many years he kept a home in Glenside, no matter what club he might be representing.   

The Sarazen/Kirkwood tour would last almost one year and cover 100,000 miles. First they visited South America returning to the states in time for the U.S. Open at Merion in June. Then they were off to the British Open and a tour of Europe. In late July they were back in the states for the PGA Championship in Buffalo, where Sarazen was the defending champion. After that, the two pros toured Canada and then they headed for the Far East where they visited eight countries that included China, Japan and Australia.

By 1935 Sarazen could see that the Masters was more than a land promotion, so he was in the starting field. In the final round he holed a 230-yard fairway wood on the 15th hole for a double-eagle that allowed him to tie Craig Wood for the title. The next day Sarazen defeated Wood in a 36-hole playoff.


Philadelphia hosted a long drive contest 3 days after Bobby Jones completed his Grand Slam!

Philadelphia hosted a long drive contest 3 days after Bobby Jones completed his Grand Slam!

On the last Saturday of September 1930, Bobby Jones won the US Amateur at Merion Golf Club. Three days later a competition billed as the National Open Driving Contest took place a few miles away at Philadelphia’s Municipal Stadium, which had a seating capacity of 75,000.

Municipal Stadium later named John F. Kennedy Stadium was demolished in 1992 to make room for more modern sports venues. The stadium was an open horseshoe. Tees with an elevation of forty feet were constructed at the South end of the field. A fairway, sixty yards in width, extended 422 yards.

The event, held under the lights, was open to professionals and amateurs. Due to the large number of professionals who were sending in entries, only those playing in the US Amateur were allowed to enter, and they were all invited. Gene Homans, who lost to Jones in final of the Amateur, and Boston’s Jesse Guilford, the longest driver in amateur golf were there. Charley Seaver, the father of future NY Mets pitcher Tom Seaver, was entered. Professionals Gene Sarazen and Tommy Armour had signed up. The contest was sanctioned by the United States Golf Association.

The contest was sponsored by the Arena Corporation of Philadelphia and supervised by the Valley Forge Golf Club in King-of-Prussia. With total prize money totaling $7,500, entries poured in. The total prize money at the US Open that year had been $5,000. Tickets for the east and west stands were $1, with reserved seats directly behind the driving tees $2 and $3.

The evening of Tuesday September 30, more than 200 professionals and amateurs were at Municipal Stadium for fame and fortune. In order to handle the large number of entries, players were hitting drives from more than one tee at the same time. Each contestant hit four drives, with the average of the best two that ended up inbounds counting. The ten best qualifiers were in the final. In the final each contestant hit five drives. The average of the three best drives determined the winner and where the others placed.  

During the evening there were strong winds sweeping across the field from left to right. Many weren’t able to keep their required drives inbounds. Ed Dudley, who had been on the 1929 Ryder Cup and was the professional at the Concord Country Club, qualified for the final but then could not get the required three drives in bounds. The same went for 1927 Ryder Cupper Bill Mehlhorn.   

Clarence Gamber

The winner was Pontiac, Michigan’s Clarence Gamber. His three best drives averaged 256 yards, 5 and 1/3 inches. His longest drive, which was the longest of all contestants, was 262 yards, 1 inch. Cliff Spencer of Baltimore finished second at 252 yards, 2/3 inches. Tops among Philadelphia area professionals were Reading professional Al Heron in sixth place and Atlantic City professional Alex Hackney in seventh place.

In 1925 the USGA had allowed the use of steel shafted clubs for the first time. There may have been a reason why the USGA sanctioned the Municipal Stadium driving contest. For seven years the USGA had been studying why the golf ball was being driven farther, nearly every year. On January 1, three months after the Philadelphia driving contest, the USGA came out with mandatory changes to the golf ball. Instead of the ball having to be no less than 1.62 inches in diameter and not more than 1.62 ounces in weight the ball now had to be at least 1.68 inches in diameter and no more than 1.55 ounces. The larger/lighter ball solved the distance concern, but presented many problems on windy days.

Ed Dudley fared well with the new ball. In 1931 he won the Los Angeles Open and the Western Open along with compiling the low scoring average for the year on the PGA Tour. On September 15 the USGA pulled the plug on the changes to the golf ball and came out with new specifications, which are still the regulation today. The 1.68 inch ball size stayed the same but the ball could weigh up to 1.62 ounces. 

{See Treasure Trove article–Once upon a time the USGA let the air out of the golf ball!}

The Philadelphia PGA Championship was won twice by someone not a member of the Section.

The Philadelphia PGA Championship was won twice by someone not a member of the Section.

When the Philadelphia PGA was officially formed on December 2, 1921, Bob Barnett was elected president. He was 25 years old. In June 1922 he hosted their first Section Championship at the Tredyffrin Country Club in Paoli, Pennsylvania. That evening Barnett was reelected president.

In March 1923, Barnett left Philadelphia to be the professional at the Chevy Chase Club in Maryland. The Philadelphia Section members wanted the popular Barnett to continue as their president, but he said he could not run the Philadelphia Section from Maryland.

In 1925 Barnett was a founder of the Middle Atlantic PGA. He was its second president in 1926 and 1927 and was president again in 1933. He was also the Middle Atlantic’s Section champion in 1929. As the professional at Chevy Chase he gave golf lessons to Presidents W. Howard Taft and Warren G. Harding.

In 1930 the Indian Creek Country Club in Miami hired Barnett as their golf professional. He was now the professional at Chevy Chase in the summer months and Indian Creek in the winter. As the professional at those two clubs he had several assistants who went on to prominence in golf. Max Elbin, president of the PGA of America 1966-68, and Bill Strausbaugh were with him at Indian Creek. Strausbaugh went on to be one of the countries’ leading golf instructors and a PGA of America award is named for him, for his lifelong endeavor to assist golf facilities in finding the right head professional.

Lew Worsham worked for Barnett at Chevy Chase. During Worsham’s employment at Chevy Chase, Barnett made Lew practice every day and he paid all of Worsham’s tournament entry fees. Worsham won the 1947 U.S. Open along with 5 other victories on the PGA Tour.

In 1923 the Philadelphia Section’s second championship was played at the Stenton Country Club. Barnett, who was no longer a member of the Philadelphia PGA, was invited to play in the tournament, which he won. With all of southern New Jersey now being in the Philadelphia PGA, the Section’s 1924 championship was at the Linwood Country Club. Barnett was on hand to defend his title, but had to withdraw due to the death of his father on the eve of the tournament. The 1925 Section Championship was back at Tredyffrin and Barnett won the tournament for a second time. In 1926 he was in the starting field for the championship at Ashbourne Country Club, but failed to defend his title, finishing eighth. 

Barnett represented Middle Atlantic PGA for three years on the board of the PGA of America and is a member of the Middle Atlantic PGA Hall of Fame.

Charlie Sifford was not the best black golfer at Philadelphia’s Cobbs Creek Golf Club!

Charlie Sifford was not the best black golfer at Philadelphia’s Cobbs Creek Golf Club!

Charlie Sifford was born in Charlotte, NC in 1922 and learned to play golf as a caddy there. At age 17 he had an altercation with a white man. For his safe keeping, his father sent him to Philadelphia to live with an uncle. He got a job with Nabisco, working in the shipping department. One day he saw a black man with a set of golf clubs waiting for a street car and asked where he was headed. The man told him about Cobbs Creek Golf Club. Charlie started spending his weekends at Cobbs Creek. After a few weeks of practice he felt the swing that had made him one of the best golfers in Charlotte returning.

Won Negro National Championship 6 Times

Someone had told Charlie that the best golfer at Cobbs Creek was a black man named Howard Wheeler. When Charlie saw Wheeler on the practice tee, he challenged him to a game. He did not think a man with such a strange golf grip could beat him. Wheeler asked Sifford how much money he had. When Charlie replied $10, Wheeler said let’s go, we’ll play for $10 on the front nine and $10 on the back nine. With several holes left to play, Charlie’s $20 was in Wheeler’s pocket.

Howard Wheeler was born in Atlanta, GA in 1911 and learned to play golf as a caddy. Six feet-two-inches tall and one of the longest drivers in professional golf, he played cross-handed (left hand below the right). Wheeler moved to Philadelphia, where he could play golf at Cobbs Creek any day he wanted to, and there was a steady supply of money games.

At that time the PGA Tour was not open to black golfers, so they created their own tour, the United Golf Association (UGA). They held a series of tournaments on public courses. Each year there was a championship called the Negro National Championship. From 1933 to 1958 Wheeler won the championship six times. He qualified for the 1950 and 1951 US Opens.

Charlie practiced and played more rounds with Wheeler. He observed how Wheeler played the course and certain shots. Then he began to beat Wheeler on occasion. Wheeler began taking Charlie as a partner. Both lost valuable time serving in the US Army during WWII. When the war ended the UGA was back with a schedule. Wheeler took Charlie to the 1946 Negro National Open in Pittsburgh. Wheeler told Charlie that major tournament golf was different from playing money games at Cobbs Creek, but Sifford just thought Wheeler was messing with his mind. When he got there he could see what Wheeler was talking about. There were more than 200 entries, with an amateur division and ladies tournament along with the professional 72-hole tournament. In order to handle the number of entries the amateur events started a day before the professionals began. Celebrities like Joe Lewis and Billy Eckstein were entered. Wheeler won the tournament and Charlie did not fare well.

The next year the Negro National Open was at Cobbs Creek. Wheeler won again and Charlie finished second. From 1952 to 1956 Charlie won the tournament five straight times. He would win it one more time. The best day of golf in Charlie Sifford’s life was the day he met Howard Wheeler.

In 1961 the PGA removed the “Caucasian Only” clause from its constitution at the annual meeting and black golfers like Charlie Sifford got a chance to play in more PGA Tour events. Some tournament sponsors in southern states turned their tournaments into invitationals and only invited white professionals. The PGA should have taken a stand against this, but didn’t for fear of losing sponsors.

One day in the 1970s a man named Chet Harrington, who played golf, was in a trophy store in Philadelphia. He saw a dusty golf trophy on a shelf high up behind the counter. The clerk took it down from the shelf for him, saying that he was not sure what it was for. Having heard of Howard Wheeler, one of the names on the trophy, he bought it, cleaned it up and stored it in a bank vault for 35 years.

The trophy for the winner of the Negro National Championship was donated in 1935 by a black lawyer from Washington DC named Albert F. Harris. It must have been left at the trophy store for engraving and then forgotten. The trophy is now on display at the United States Golf Association.


A Philadelphia golf club raised $3 million for WWII US War Bonds in one day!

A Philadelphia golf club raised $3 million for WWII U.S. War Bonds in one day!

With the United States fighting World War II on two fronts, the golfers decided to sell War Bonds and raise money for wartime charities. With the Ryder Cup matches canceled in 1939, four Ryder Cup Challenge matches were played in Detroit from 1940 to 1943. Those four years of challenge matches raised $236,521 with the sale of War Bonds and money for the Red Cross. 

In May of 1943 Llanerch Country Club and its professional Marty Lyons hosted an exhibition featuring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. They were paired with Ed Dudley, president of the PGA of America and Jug McSpaden, a member of the wartime Ryder Cup teams. Special trains ran from the city every 15 minutes and 6,000 fans of Hope and Crosby, each paid $1. With rain predicted the exhibition was reduced to nine holes. The Club had lined up 100 policemen and military personnel to keep order, but with the spectators being movie fans and not golfers the marshals could not keep order. Rain turned the golf turned into five holes. The golfers fled to the locker room for dry clothes. Then Hope and Crosby returned to the practice putting green. Hope told jokes and Crosby sang, while at the same time they auctioned off war bonds. Golf balls, scorecards, and sweaters were autographed and along with golf clubs, were sold for war bonds. Mrs. John B. Kelly bought a $5,000 bond in return for a phonograph record signed by Crosby. Thirteen years later her daughter Grace was starring in the movie True Love, with Crosby. In total War Bonds sold that day came to $130,52

In June the Philadelphia PGA, Golf Association of Philadelphia and Women’s Golf Association of Philadelphia played an exhibition at Bala Golf Club, which raised $3,000 to buy an ambulance for the Red Cross. The Red Cross suggested, instead of buying an ambulance they should visit the Valley Forge General Hospital to see what might be done there. While visiting the hospital, golf professionals Marty Lyons and Leo Diegel decided to build a nine-hole golf course for the veterans who were being rehabilitated there. Within a year the Philadelphia PGA had another golf course at Fort Dix and putting courses at three other hospitals for wounded veterans.

In October Torresdale-Frankford CC members Henry Hurst and Ollie Troup staged an affair at their club,  to raise money for the Red Cross and the golf course at VFGH. There was an exhibition and a pro-am tournament in the morning. The exhibition featured Craig Wood, Byron Nelson, Vic Ghezzi and Leo Diegel. In the afternoon there was an 18-hole tournament with $2,000 in prize money. The $12,000 proceeds from the day went to the golf course at VFGH and the Red Cross.  

During the summer of 1944, Sonny Fraser, the owner of Atlantic City CC, and Tavistock CC professional Dick Renaghan played a series of exhibitions in southern New Jersey that raised $10,000 for the Red Cross. In October another mixed golfer exhibition was played at Bala GC for VFGH. The proceeds of $1,000 went to VFGH.  

During the years 1944 to 1946 the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper sponsored three PGA Tour tournaments with all proceeds earmarked for wartime charities and the golf course at VFGH. Lancaster CC opened their golf course to the public three Sundays during the summers, with all money collected from the green fees going to the Red Cross.

On the fourth Sunday of June 1944, Philmont Country Club then a jewel of Philadelphia golf with its 36 holes of championship golf, staged an event to sell US War Bonds. Ellis Gimbel of Gimbels Department Store was president of Philmont. A golf exhibition featuring Craig Wood, Bud Lewis, Helen Sigel and Patty Berg was played in the afternoon. Wood was the holder of the US Open title, Lewis the Philadelphia Open holder, Sigel runner-up in the 1941 US Women’s Amateur and Berg one of the countries’ leading women professionals who was stationed with the Marines in Philadelphia. In the evening Ella Fitzgerald entertained the members and guests. Philmont CC, which was predominantly composed of Jewish members, sold $3,000,000 in War Bonds. To purchase a War Bond one paid 75 cents on the dollar. That meant that $2,250,000 had been paid to purchase the bonds, which with inflation equates to $32,979247 in 2020 dollars.  

A man who would win 3 major golf titles was a patient at Valley Forge General Hospital!

A man who would win 3 major golf titles was a patient at Valley Forge General Hospital!

Dr. Emmet Cary Middlecoff was born in Halls, Tennessee in 1921 and was raised in Memphis. His father, a dentist and club champion, introduced Cary to golf at age 7.  At 17 he won the Memphis city championship. He then proceeded to win the Tennessee state amateur championship four straight years. Middlecoff played on the golf team at the University of Mississippi and then earned a degree in dentistry from the University of Tennessee. He was soon commissioned into the United States Army as a dentist where he filled 12,093 teeth. While filling a tooth in 1945 a fragment brook off and flew into his eye. Middlecoff was sent to Valley Forge Military Hospital near Phoenixville, which specialized in eye injuries.

Once he began to recover from his eye injury he started playing golf again at the public Meadowbrook Golf Club, which was not far from the hospital. The nine-hole golf course that had been built at the hospital for wounded veterans returning from World War II lacked the distance and challenge for someone of Middlecoff’s ability. It was feared that Middlecoff’s career as an elite golfer might to be over but in October 1945, while still a patient at VFMH, he decided to enter the James “Sonny” Fraser Invitational golf tournament at the Atlantic City Country Club. At that time Sonny Fraser, who was a brother of future PGA president Leo Fraser, was the owner of Atlantic City CC. Playing his first competitive golf in three years, Middlecoff won the tournament.

One month later in November Middlecoff won the North and South Open in Pinehurst, North Carolina by five strokes, becoming the one of the few amateurs to win a PGA Tour tournament. He was discharged from the Army in 1946. His father hung a dentist’s shingle for his son next to his at his office, but Cary had seen enough bad teeth. He began playing golf every day and turned pro in 1947.

He went on to win 40 times on the PGA Tour, which included two victories in the U.S. Open (1949, 1956), the 1955 Masters Tournament and the 1949 Reading Open. He was a member of three Ryder Cup Teams, all victorious. Middlecoff’s father kept his son’s shingle next to his for ten years but Cary never filled another tooth. His father tried to get Bobby Jones to talk Cary into returning to the practicing dentistry, but when he won the 1955 Masters Tournament, Jones told the father “I think your son did a very nice job of filling 72 cavities this week”. In 1986 Cary Middlecoff was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

The Philadelphia PGA professionals taught the world’s greatest blind golfer how to play!

The Philadelphia PGA professionals taught the world’s greatest blind golfer how to play!

At the Philadelphia PGA’s 1943 spring meeting, Section President Marty Lyons gave the tournament chairman Leo Diegel full authority to use the Section’s tournament program in any way to assist the World War II effort. Before the meeting was over Diegel had come up with a plan.

Diegel’s plan was for the Philadelphia PGA, Golf Association of Philadelphia and Women’s Golf Association of Philadelphia to hold an exhibition. Woody Platt, Glenna Vare and Diegel would each put together a team of twelve partners to play an exhibition with a male amateur, lady amateur and golf professional in each pairing.

To host the event a club had to pay $500, with all proceeds going to the Philadelphia PGA’s wartime charity fund. Bala Golf Club agreed to be the host. The admission fee for the spectators was $1 or a steel shafted golf club for the country’s scrap iron drive. The exhibition was played on the third Sunday of July. The amateurs received two handicap strokes and the ladies seven strokes. Some of the 36 team members were two-time PGA champion Leo Diegel, six-time US Women’s Amateur champion Glenna Vare, George Fazio, Jug McSpaden, Sam Byrd, Billy Hyndman, Dot Germain and Helen Sigel. All 36 players agreed to donate blood to the Red Cross on a specified date.

Two thousand spectators turned out that day, with the proceeds coming to $3,000. The plan had been to purchase an ambulance for the Red Cross, but the Red Cross officials suggested that the golf professionals visit the Valley Forge General Hospital near Phoenixville where the wounded service men were being sent for rehabilitation. Lyons and Diegel visited the hospital and decided to build a golf course for the hospital’s patients. More exhibitions and pro-ams were played to raise money and with the assistance of the Philadelphia Golf Course Superintendents, a nine-hole golf course consisting of holes from 95 yards to 275 was constructed. Every golf professional in the Philadelphia PGA gave his time, equipment or money to the project and many donated all three.

Charley Boswell, who had been a football player at the University of Alabama, was pitching for the Atlanta Crackers in Double AA when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Now, the United States was in World War II. Boswell was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Georgia. After graduation from Fort Benning, Boswell was fighting the war in Germany when a Sherman Tank caught on fire. While trying help his men out of the burning tank it exploded, blinding Boswell permanently. He was sent to VFGH, which specialized in eye injuries. The golf professionals introduced Boswell to golf, which he had never played before. 

In 1946 Boswell finished second in the National Blind Golf Championship and the next year he won the tournament. He went on to win the U.S. championship 16 times and the international title 11 times. He played golf with celebrities like Bob Hope.

Back in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, he managed the Boswell Insurance Agency for more than 40 years and served as the Revenue Commissioner for the state of Alabama for nine years. Thanks to the Philadelphia PGA, Charley Boswell had a full and successful life.

Art Wall won the 1959 Crosby Pro-Am, while making only one par on the last nine!

Art Wall won the 1959 Crosby Pro-Am, while making only one par on the last nine!

Watching the more recent AT&T Pro-Ams at Pebble Beach is a reminder of how difficult some golf courses were before technology took over the game of golf. A great example is the last eleven holes at the Pebble Beach Golf Links.  

The tournament, a brainchild of entertainer Bing Crosby, began in southern California in 1937. After World War II the tournament moved north to the Monterey Peninsular. It was played for 50 years as the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am, sometimes referred to as the “Crosby Clambake”. The tournament was held over three courses with 150 pros paired with 150 amateurs playing better-ball stroke play. Also the professionals were competing on an individual basis in a stroke play event, which offered the largest portion of the purse.

In January of 1959 Honesdale, Pennsylvania’s Art Wall arrived at Pebble Beach for the Crosby Pro-Am at the height of his career. Wall had won two times on the PGA Tour in 1958 and just two weeks before the Crosby he had led the L.A. Open going into the last round only to be done in by a 63 from Ken Venturi, which left him in second place. Wall opened the tournament with a 69 at Cypress Point and followed it up with a 65 at Monterey and a 70 at Pebble Beach. His 204 total carried him into the final round with a four-stroke lead over Jimmy Demaret.

On Sunday Wall began his round with birdies on the first three holes and he completed the front nine in 34 strokes. He was now seven strokes in front of Demaret and eight ahead of Gene Littler. A birdie on the 10th hole put Wall nine in front. On the next seven holes Wall carded one birdie, one par, four bogeys and one double bogey. Standing on the 18th tee Wall held a one-stroke lead over Littler, who was paired with him. Wall and Littler both reached the 18th fairway safely with their drives but Littler proceeded to hook his #4 wood second shot over the seawall and into Stillwater Cove. Wall completed the hole with a bogey six for a 75, giving him a 72-hole total of 279 and a two-stroke victory over Littler and Demaret.

The tournament was televised from 6 pm to 7 pm Eastern Standard Time, but the TV viewers didn’t see the final putts as the allotted time ran out and the network moved on to the next show. First prize from the $50,000 purse was $4,000 and Wall also won the pro-am in partnership with the national amateur champion, Charley Coe, for another $2,000.

That year Wall went on to win two more tournaments and the Masters. At the Masters he birdied five of the last six holes on Sunday to win by one stroke over Cary Middlecoff. Wall finished with a 66 and only one other player broke 71 that day. That finish, one of the greatest in Masters history, seems to be nearly forgotten. In 1959 Wall was the PGA “Player of the Year”, won the Vardon Trophy for the lowest scoring average, led the PGA Tour in money winnings and earned a spot on the Ryder Cup team.

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