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Whiskey and fisticuffs at the US Open

by | Jun 15, 2022

This week’s US Open returns to The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts where in 1913 American 20-year-old amateur and local kid Francis Ouimet created golfing folklore by beating two of the giants of British and indeed world golf at the time, Harry Vardon and big-hitting Ted Ray, in an 18-hole play-off.

The trio tied on 304 and in extra time Ouimet shot 72 – a brilliant return back then, Vardon 77 and Ray 78. All this is well-known in the game’s history. But perhaps lesser-known is an incident after round one that year when Ray, who had a violent temper, and fellow Englishman Wilfred Reid, were tied for the lead. They had dinner together and got into a whiskey-fuelled, heated argument about British politics. Without warning, Ray stood up and punched Reid in the nose. As Reid struggled to his feet, Ray landed another blow and blood was streaming down Reid’s face when a waiter separated the two. Both men then left the scene and the next day neither made mention of the incident.

This is one of the curious happenings over the years in America’s national open-sourced from the official US Open Almanac.

Like in 1908 when Fred McLeod, with only eight clubs in his bag, won at the Myopia Hunt Club after a playoff with Willie Smith. The greens were so fast that Mike Brady took nine putts on one green. On the fourth green, Ernie Way lost his way by hitting a putt that rolled down a ridge, off the green, and into a swamp. He never found the ball.

In 1920 the aforementioned Ray took the honours at the Inverness Club in Ohio on a score of 295, pretty good going in those days. And who says players back then couldn’t hit the ball a long way? At the 320-yard, par-4 seventh Ray drove the green in all four rounds, two-putting for birdie each time.

In 1934 at Merion CC in Pennsylvania: Olin Dutra (ever heard of him?) won on 293. In the final round Bobby Cruickshank’s poor second shot at the 11th was headed straight into Cobb’s Creek, only to hit a rock and rebound onto the green. “Thank you, Lord!” the golfer cried and tossed his club into the air. But as it came down it hit him fair and square on the head, knocking him to the ground. Fellow competitor Wiffy Cox rushed across to see if he was okay and when this was confirmed, proceeded to mimmick a boxing referee and counted him out. Cruickshank and Cox tied for third on 295.

In 1940 at Canterbury Golf Club in Cleveland, Ohio, a 47-year-old Walter Hagen closed out his US Open career as only he could. He was late for his third round starting time of 10:35 and roared up to the first tee in a taxi after his playing partners had already hit. Red-eyed after a night of partying, “The Haig” stumbled out of the cab and fired a tee shot down the fairway. As he walked away he said to the starter, “Hey, you forgot to check if I have any extra clubs. I have one!” At that, he pulled a bottle of Canadian Club whiskey from his bag, a leftover from the prior evening.

In 1946, also at Canterbury GC, Lloyd Mangrum beat fellow Americans Vic Ghezzi and the great Byron Nelson in extra time. Nelson was only 34 and about to quit competitive golf and become a gentleman farmer. The radio broadcast of the tournament was sponsored by Gillette razor blades and after losing in the play-off announcer Bill Stern asked Nelson for his comments. “Bill,” said Nelson, “just give me one of those things you’re advertising and I’ll slit my throat!”

Fast forward to 1973 and many believe Johnny Miller’s closing 63 (for a 279 aggregate) was, and still is, the greatest round in Major golf history. He came from six shots back to win by one from John Schlee at Oakmont. But spare a thought for Schlee, an astrology buff, who said he was playing well because “Mars is in conjunction with my natal moon”. He must have thought the planets were out of sync at the start of the final round when he double-bogeyed the first hole after driving into a hedge. But he recovered well to shoot 70.

1994: Ernie Els, at 24, announced his arrival on the world stage by beating Colin Montgomerie and Loren Roberts in play-off action following a three-way tie on 279 at Oakmont. In the 18-hole playoff, Monty shot 78 to fall away while Els and Roberts had 74s which meant extra holes. Els clinched the title at the 20th by sinking a nervy four-footer for par. “My biggest fear if I missed that putt wasn’t losing the US Open, but the fat klap I’d get from my old man (father Neels),” Ernie later said with a chuckle.

South Africans, of course, have excelled in the US Open. Gary Player won in 1965 to complete the Grand Slam, Els also took the honours in 1997 while the Goose prevailed in 2001 and 2004.

There are five of our boys in the field this year – Louis Oosthuizen, Branden Grace, Shaun Norris, Erik van Rooyen and MJ Daffue. Let’s hope they do well, and – please guys – no fisticuffs, and no whiskey.

Written by Randpark Club member Grant Winter.


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4. A member is not entitled to a refund of golf fees in the event a competition or round is cancelled due to weather.

5. The notional base number of rounds for a CLUB10 and CLUB20 playing cards is 10 & 20 respectively regardless of any reference to an unlimited playing card. When these golf round thresholds have been completed the cost of the playing cards has been consumed. The rounds cannot be carried over to the following financial year, and thus lapse on 31 March.

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1. Upon the club receiving this application form, signed terms and conditions, letter of good standing from previous club and credit check approval, an invoice will be sent and membership will only become active upon full upfront payment of all applicable fees and/or signature of a debit order arrangement and payment of first instalment. If a debit order arrangement is signed, the first instalment of membership is payable via EFT, there after the debit order arrangement will take effect.

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9. The Club may suspend a member that is in default on his membership fees paid on debit order if that debit order is not successful. The Club will inform the member of this and the member has 3 business days to rectify his/her account. If the 3 business days lapse without any payment of outstanding amount the club reserves the right to suspend the member.  Membership will only be reinstated upon receipt of amount in arrears. If a member has 3 consecutive failed debit orders without arrears being paid up, the Club may cancel his/her membership given twenty business days' notice in writing to remedy this breach and the member fails to do so. When a member is suspended he is not deemed to be a member.

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14. By signature hereto, the member expressly acknowledges he has read, and understands, the following disclaimers from the Club Constitution and the Club Bye-Laws.

15. General disclaimer: Randpark Club does not accept liability or responsibility whatsoever in respect of death or injury of person or destroying or damage to property or loss of any nature, whether arising from negligence or any other cause including lightning, which is suffered by any member or any person who enters the club premises and/or uses the golf course or any other amenities or facilities provided. Members and other users of the Club facilities use the facilities at their own risk and are advised to insure themselves for loss and injuries they may suffer and for claims against themselves.

16. A member is not entitled to a refund of golf fees in the event a competition or round is cancelled due to weather.

17. Vouchers which may be given to a member upon joining are given on a complimentary basis and do not form part of the subscription.

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