“NOBODY TAKES MISSISSAUGUA APART”

The four fearsome holes of golf’s toughest test

Treacherous greens and unfair fairways will spike many of the big guns among 150 of the world’s top golfers competing in the $100,000 Canadian Open. George Knudson, Canada’s front-running ace predicts where—and why—they’ll come to grief

JACK BATTEN July 3 1965
“NOBODY TAKES MISSISSAUGUA APART”

The four fearsome holes of golf’s toughest test

Treacherous greens and unfair fairways will spike many of the big guns among 150 of the world’s top golfers competing in the $100,000 Canadian Open. George Knudson, Canada’s front-running ace predicts where—and why—they’ll come to grief

JACK BATTEN July 3 1965

The four fearsome holes of golf’s toughest test

“NOBODY TAKES MISSISSAUGUA APART”

Treacherous greens and unfair fairways will spike many of the big guns among 150 of the world’s top golfers competing in the $100,000 Canadian Open. George Knudson, Canada’s front-running ace predicts where—and why—they’ll come to grief

JACK BATTEN

THE VALLEY of the Mississaugua Indians, two dozen miles west of Toronto, rests under the shade of enormous elm trees and soaks in the waters of a gently flowing river called the Credit and a couple of its meandering tributaries. When the white man arrived, the first thing he did was dam up one of the tributaries, knock down some of the elms and replace them with eighteen tees, greens and fairways.

Six of the eighteen holes at Mississaugua Golf & Country Club — the Indians fled the valley but bequeathed their name to the white-man’s gaming ground — wind spectacularly along the southern rim of the valley, and the rest circle, cross, crisscross and slope perilously into the rivers on its floor. The view of all this splendor from the clubhouse is breathtaking, even to members fresh in from bouncing their tee shots off the elms and into the tributaries.

But Mississaugua has a lot more going for it than outdoor aesthetics. It is, for one thing, steeped in fifty-nine years of golf history. It has been the site of some classic amateur golf struggles and has produced from its own fairways three Canadian Amateur champions, the Thompson brothers, Bill and Frank, in the 1920s and the current champion, Nick Weslock. On four occasions it has acted as host to the Canadian Open, each one a distinctly memorable golfing event. And this July, in a grand crescendo of cash and famous sporting names, when Mississaugua again entertains the Open, it will make a good deal more golf history, on a scale that the club's early members, the ones who chased the Indians out of the valley, would never have dreamed possible.

The 1965 Open is easily the richest of all Canadian Opens. Its prize money comes to one hundred thousand dollars, exactly fifty thousand more than it awarded last year. Low man in after the Open’s seventy-two holes takes home twenty thousand dollars; the fiftieth low score is good for two hundred dollars. And these figures are enough to make the ’65 Open the most name-strewn of all Canadian Opens. All the touring pros have filed their entries, from Arnold Palmer to Kerm it Zarley and everyone in between — “everyone,” as golf fans are aware, being a fellow called Nicklaus. They'll all be there in mid-July, the owners of the names that Sunday-afternoon TV has made familiar to a generation of arm-chair caddies — Cupit, Boros, Player, Sanders, Casper. Nichols, Rodriguez — all out there striding down Mississaugua’s fairways.

Golf’s Big 3, and a Canadian who may upset them

/ continued overleaf

NO. 3: A PUTTER’S NIGHTMARE

PAR THREE, 217 YARDS: George Knudson remembers Mississaugua’s third without much joy. In 1962, in a CPGA playoff against Alvie Thompson and Stan Leonard — which Thompson won — George hit his tee shot five feet from the pin, then took three inelegant putts. “All the greens at Mississaugua are small.” Knudson says, “but the third green is small and tricky. It's as

hard to read as any I’ve ever putted.” George plans to use a two iron or three wood off the tee and to hit for the right side of the slightly elevated green. “The slant runs left and a ball hit to that side won't hold the green. The trap on the right will probably get a lot of play, but that’s better than chipping up from below the green. You've got to earn your birdie on this hole.”

NO. 14: THIS 3 PLAYS

LIKE A 5

PAR THREE, 220 YARDS: Mississaugua added thirty yards to the fourteenth's length this spring by moving the tee farther back into the woods. “Now it's a long, tight, very rough par three,” Knudson says. “You've got to be awfully true off the tee with your long irons to play the hole properly.” He expects the lagoon that guards the left front of the green to give the pros fits. “When the pin is placed on the left — and 1

expect it'll be there for most of the tournament — and you go for the hole with your tee shot, your ball will catch the water if it’s a shade off line. Otherwise. if you play a conservative tee shot to the right side of the green or to the centre, you'll have to count on sinking a long putt for your birdie. And that's tough because the green has plenty of knobs and contours and you can’t be sure you've figured out all of them.”

continued ! The 1965 Open will be unique, too. for a reason that is pure chauvinism. For the first time since Karl Keffer of Royal Ottawa won in 1914, this is an Open that boasts a Canadian professional whose chances of winning have been tested under the strongest fire, which is to say, under the fire of the pro tour. (This claim, I'd better point out to golf buffs who are reaching for their copies of Canadian Golf Records, deliberately omits any reference to the Open of 1954, when Pat Fletcher of Saskatoon finished in front and when someone named Bill Welch of Kennewick, Washington, who

came second, was practically the only American golfer entered in tli competition.)

The potential Canadian hero is, of course, George Knudson, wh was born in Winnipeg twenty-eight years ago and who now plays on of Toronto’s Oakdale course. Knudson has been on the profes sional golf tour off and on since 1958 and steadily since 1961. Hi game in that time has done nothing but improve. During his struggling years, between 1958 and I960, he either missed the thirty-six hole cutoff or failed to qualify for play at all in twenty-five out of tin

THE BIG CHIEF

NO. 12: GAMBLING ON

FAR FIVE. 537 YARDS: “The player who can handle the stretch from the eleventh through to the fourteenth is the player who’ll win the Open.” Knudson says. “Those four holes are the real test on this course.” And the backbreaker of the four is the twelfth, respected by Mississaugua members from time immemorial as the Big Chief. Twelve demands everything from a golfer: strength, skill and a touch of gambler's luck. “To get your birdie, you must go for the green with your second shot.” Knudson says, “and that means positioning your drive as far

down the left side of the fairway as you can hit it. That’s the only way you’ll have a clear look-in at the hole. The two big elms at the right front of the green block you out from any other spot on the fairway.” The green itself is diabolically set on a come-back slope twenty yards beyond the river, and, like most of Mississaugua’s greens, it’s full of breaks and rolls, hard to hold, and not much bigger around than Chi Chi Rodriguez’s waistline. According to Knudson, “a lot of guys are going to find themselves very happy with a bogey here.”

thirty tournaments he entered. But by 1965, qualifying was hardly a problem, now, Knudson is invited to tournaments — even, for the first time this spring, to the most exclusive of all coif tournaments, the Masters Invitation at Augusta, Georgia.

In 1961, Knudson took home $5,692 from the tour; in 1964, the figure was $27,967, and this year, at his present rate of winning, he could eas.Iy double the amount he banked a year ago. For Knudson will be coming into the Canadian Open from as hot a winter and spring season as any pro on the tour has had. He tied for fourth spot

in the Los Angeles Open (and won $3,300) and tied for third in the Lucky International ($3,400) to start the year, and in a stretch of four consecutive tournaments in mid-spring, he finished tenth ($1,800), tenth ($2,400), second ($11,500) and fourth ($4,366). And somewhere just to the rear of him in all but two of those tournaments was Arnie Palmer.

Knudson’s game will have to be at its soundest for Mississaugua, a course that demands exacting, controlled-nerve, thinking-man’s golf. Mississaugua plays at only 6,825 yards,

continued on page 40

NO. 11: TOUGH AS THREADING A NEEDLE

PAR FOUR. 439 YARDS: Mississaugua. unlike most of the courses the touring pros battle, isn't made for power hitters like Palmer and Nicklaus. Instead, it puts a premium on accuracy off the tees. Eleven is a case in point. “A drive down the left side of the fairway means a wasted stroke," Knudson points

out. “because the line of trees that divides the eleventh and twelfth prevents you from going for the green with your second. You have to draw vour shot off the tee down the right side.” But not too far: the rough on that side is as tight as Mississaugua's greenskeeper can make it.

The trick isn’t to murder the ball—it’s

to keep it in play

continued from paye 17

which makes it a comparative miniature beside the 7,200-yard-plus behemoths the touring pros are accustomed to confronting. But it's an exquisitely difficult miniature. The greens are uniformly small and decorated with an exasperating variety of rolls and contours. The fairways arc luscious hut not noticeably roomy. And the layouts of almost all the par-five and par-four holes put a premium on positioning the hall off the tee rather than on blind power. No one, Mississaugua members don’t mind pointing out, has ever taken their course apart.

Each of the four previous Canadian Opens played there has been won by a golfer with a proven record for sound tee-to-green golf — Sam Snead, Jim Eerrier, Craig Wood and Walter Hagen — hut none of them exactly demolished the course. Nor has anyone else. There have been brilliant individual eighteens, like Ben Hogan’s sixty-five in the first round of the 1942 Open and the course competitive record sixty-four, shot by Alvie Thompson, a Toronto pro. in a playoff for the 1962 Canadian PGA title. But few golfers have fathomed Mississaugua’s mysteries two days running. After his sixty-five. Hogan fell swiftly hack to the field, and Craig Wood, playing nonsensational but steady golf, went on to take the Open that year with a 275. Thompson’s sixty-four was a matter of putting, something that can happen to any course on any pro’s hot day. Thompson wasn’t merely hot, he was torrid; he needed only twenty-five putts in eighteen holes, which is close to the number some golfers I know customarily use up on the front nine.

There’s something about Mississaugua’s special challenges, too, that has stimulated some classic head-tohead contests. Two of its four Opens, typically, have needed playoffs to decide the ultimate first-place finisher. In 1931—the year Mississaugua’s fine professional. Gordon Brydson, arrived in the pro shop — an unknown young British golfer named Percy Aliis sizzled around the back nine of his final round in thirty-two to tie the great Walter Hagen for the lead. The two men split the winner’s share of the gate receipts evenly, $836.80 each, but marched out next day for a thirtysix-hole match to determine the official Open champion.

The turning point in the playoff came in the afternoon round, with Hagen two strokes up, at the fourteenth hole, a nerve-racking par three that requires a precisely hit tee shot. Hagen wasn't precise enough. He knocked his drive into the lagoon that curls around the left side of the green; Allis, with the door wide open, landed his on the green twenty feet from the cup. Hagen was permitted to drop his ball beside the lagoon with a onestroke penalty, then proceeded to chip up six inches from the pin for his bogey four. The chip so unnerved poor Allis that he three-putted, and the door slammed shut on him.

In the 1938 Open, another veteran,

Lighth°rse Harry Cooper, stood on the seventy-second tee u'ith his second consecutive Canadian Open championship in his hip pocket — until he hooked his tee shot into the orchard next door, shanked his approach, missed a putt, took a triple-bogey seven and stumbled into a lirst-p'ace tie with a twenty-six-year-old pro fresh from the hiPs of West Virginia: Sam Snead. Next day, in an eighteen-hole playoff, both men shot brilliant pressure golf and scored a pair of sixty-sevens. They stopped for lunch and pushed on for another nine. Suddenly it w'as no contest. Gordon Brydson, who refereed the match, recalls that Snead’s short game on the last nine w'as nearly flawless. “When Sam wasn’t knocking chip shots stiff to the pin,” Brydson says, “he was sinking long putts from just off the apron.” Snead demoralized Cooper w ith four birdies in nine holes and took the match and the Open by five strokes.

Mourning for two birdies

Mississaugua’s distinguished past notwithstanding, the most formidable assault on its fairways and greens lies just ahead, and recently, George Knudson made a scouting trip out to the course to prepare himself for the assault and to test his memories of Mississaugua. (His most recent memory is all bad: he, along with Stan Leonard, was on the receiving end of Alvie Thompson's phenomenal putting in the 1962 CPGA playoff.) Knudson didn’t need to walk any farther than the pro shop to learn about one change in the course that's being introduced in a toughen-up-for-the-Open program. Mississaugua’s par, Gordie Brydson told him. has been cut back from a severe seventy-two to a brutal seventy; the fourth hole, a 489-yard downhill par five, now' plays in a regulation four, and so does the thirteenth. until now a 472-yard, par-five water hole. There. Knudson mourned, go two sure birdie holes.

“The trick to scoring w'ell at Mississaugua isn’t just to knock hell out of the ball,” Knudson said out on the course. “The trick is to keep the ball in play. The roughs are as tight as the greens are small, and it’s almost impossible to control the ball coming out of a tight rough well enough to hold a small green.”

On Knudson's reasoning, speculation about an Open winner must run beyond the usual members of the pow'er elite. “The guys who w'ill look good here are the guys who are straight off the tee and can handle their long and middle irons for those second shots to the green. I can see how Jim Ferrier won. He’s got Mississaugua’s kind of game. Of course, Palmer and Nicklaus can always come in a winner.”

Knudson’s own game will look good at Mississaugua, too. He is a strong iron player, especially with the four iron through the eight iron, and though his short game is in-and-out (“When Em putting consistently, it’s consistently lousy”), he has found a bonus this spring in his driving game. Knudson is hardly one of the physical

giants of the tour—he is five-foot-ten and his w'aistline measures about the same distance around as Jack Nicklaus’ bicep — but beginning with the Masters, w'hen he broke in a new set of long-shafted woods, he has been hitting the ball like a big man and adding between twenty and forty yards to his tee shots. In three of his four Masters rounds, he consistently outdrove his playing partners — Julius Boros by twenty yards. Jack McGowan by forty and Billy Maxw-ell (another light-hitting but sweetly accurate sw'inger w'ho’ll welcome Mississaugua’s layout) by the length of a sh’rt parthree hole. And on his f urth round, he found himself matching lee shots yard for yard with Tommy Aarons, one of the longest hitters among the pros.

Knudson comes into the Open with a couple of other assets on his side — ambition and confidence. “I don’t feel any particular pressure on me to win,” he says. "But you can he damn sure I want to. I’d trade this tournament even up for the three I’ve won on the tour.” As for the confidence, Knudson conducts himself with the utter candor of a man who simply knows he is very good at his profession.

"This is where I’ve wanted to be since I was sixteen years old,” Knudson says. "Before I came on the tour, I had to work around the pro shop at Oakdale and I hated it — giving lessons, selling golf hats. I must have acted like a miserable little s.o.b. in those days. I don’t know why Bill Hamilton, the pro there, didn’t throw me out. But he didn’t and now I’m one happy golfer.”

And one winning golfer. ★