Andy North, winner of the 1978 U.S. Open, climbed the hill at the 15th hole of the Glen Abbey golf course in Oakville, Ontario, during the second round of the Canadian Open. Looking for his ball in the right rough he muttered, “I don’t want to play golf. I don’t want to play anymore.”
Tom Kite, who has won more than $96,000 for hitting golf balls this year, approached the same hole and, after watching his seemingly perfect tee shot land near the pin, then roll back to the foot of the green, he looked skyward. “Great hole. Jack, great hole.”
The Jack is Nicklaus, who designed the course, and the hole was just one of the many that broke the golfing vagabonds’ hearts during the Open’s four days on the fourth weekend of June.
It is a bizarre game this—infantile in its apparent simplicity, depressing in its technological hyperbole, yet in the words of one of its masters, Ben Hogen, it is a game “that no one has ever conquered and no one ever will.”
Opening day of this Open was sundrenched, - uncharacteristically becalmed. In the words of Jack Newton of New South Wales, Australia, the pros “shot the lights out.” Newton darkened Nicklaus’ usually smug Glen Abbey visage by shooting a seven-under-par 64, breaking the course record by three shots. Tom Watson, winner of an unheard of $353,874 and four tournaments before Oakville, shot a 66. Twenty-three of the tourists broke par, including Lee Trevino, with a 67.
The second day dawned bright but with sufficient hint of a sadistic wind brewing in the northwest. Lee Trevino birdied the first hole, birdied the eighth, and then approached the ninth.
He, and Hale Irwin, the recently crowned U.S. Open champ, prepared to loft their second shots over the pond that guards the green. Trevino found the sand trap, Irwin the water. Trevino jogged ahead, glanced down and yelled back into the wind, “Come hit it. You can see the top of the ball between waves.”
After Irwin thwacked his ball to the back of the green, Trevino warmed the > hearts of Sunday golfers everywhere, o His shot from the trap travelled but a í couple of feet before rolling back into | the hole he had just dug in the sand. ^
Trevino . double bogeyed. “A pro shouldn’t double bogey unless he loses the ball, but I did.”
As the afternoon wind whipped (gusting to 25 m.p.h.) and the temperature dropped, the scores soared. Nicklaus was smiling again.
Friday’s weather was idyllic compared with Saturday’s offering for Round 3. Watson headed into the wind with a three-shot lead over Trevino, Newton and D.A. Weibring, all at four under par. Thirteen players were under par when they teed off. At the end of the
day, there were three. “This course is designed to be played in 90° weather,” said Trevino, “not 30°. I’m from Texas and I’m just not used to wearing that many clothes.”
The biggest change-around anticipated on the final day was the weather. It was Day 1 all over again, the brooding darkness to the west having galloped past, gave way to a cleansing though strong wind, and sunshine.
With Watson, apparently destined to
become the first pro golfer to win $400,000 in one season, comfortably ahead by three strokes, the field concerned itself with second place. But the duffer’s nightmare, washed in greens and blue, visited Watson that afternoon. Apart from the tee and green, the third hole is a pond. Watson’s shot splashed just short of the far bank. Taking the penalty stroke, his provisional from the ladies’ tee landed and rolled back just short of the water. His chip shot barely reached the edge of the green. He chipped again and sank the putt for a triple bogey and joined Trevino at three under par.
On the fourth tee, Watson pushed his ball to the right. It struck the asphalt cart path, bouncing 60 or 70 feet in the air, heading for the trees and more trouble. Instead, it hit a woman spectator just behind her ear as she walked through the woods (she wasn’t seriously hurt) and ricocheted back to the fairway. Providential—for Watson — but ominous.
The leaders and the massive gallery wound their way into the windswept valley which shapes five of the last nine holes. Trevino bogeyed the 11th to give back his share of lead, but as he curled in a short putt for birdie at 13 Watson bogeyed the 12th and Trevino had the lead for the first time.
The gallery sensed the dramatic turn and the roars that greeted Trevino as he approached each green were not lost on Watson, downwind.
Trevino bogeyed the 17th, to fall to two under and, looking over his shoulder, not knowing Watson’s score, he cranked a one-iron 230 yards, over the pond that wraps around the 18th, and birdied to finish three under—the only player under par. It was more than enough.
Watson finished with a 78, one over. Ben Crenshaw quietly slipped in at even par to finish second. Burnaby, B.C.’s Jim Nelford had a fine tournament, finishing at four over.
The strange and dramatic departure from excellence by Watson had given Trevino his third Canadian Open. (“Watson’s triple bogey and bogeys on five of the last seven holes was what it took for me to win.”) Handed the cheque for 63,000 84-cent Peter Jackson dollars, Super Mex smiled. “That’ll buy a lot of tacos.”
As Trevino partied that night, the rest of the pros were packing up to head for the next tour stop in Memphis. And the Open itself will be carted off to the Royal Montreal Golf Club, (the oldest golf club in North America) for next year’s go-round. But in 1981, they’ll be back at the monster Jack built, muttering under their breath, quietly cursing the fickleness of this strange game, and waiting for the wind to blow.
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