Readers of The First Call share recollections related to the year's second major
Question of the week [May 8-14]: What are your best memories of the PGA Championship?
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Mine is from the 1976 PGA Championship at Firestone Country Club. I believe it was in the second round when Jack Nicklaus hit the cut 9-iron third shot out of the trees on the right side of the 16th hole. I was in the landing area at the bottom of the hill when I heard the ball clatter through the trees, not knowing who hit the shot. As the gallery parted, here came Jack. I held my position and found myself right behind him when he hit the shot. Not knowing at the time, that weekend may have changed the course of my life. My father and I ventured over to Akron for the long weekend from our small hometown in western Pennsylvania. It was my first taste of the PGA Tour.
Taking it all in, I struck up a conversation with Steve Hulka as he sat by himself on David Graham's golf bag on the edge of the putting green. I asked "How does one get started caddying on the Tour?" Steve responded very politely and we had a great conversation. Between seasons from the local golf course I worked at for a couple of years out of high school, I found myself in Orlando for the winter when I drove to Rio Pinar Golf Club and met a great gentleman who Monday qualified. Then on to Jacksonville for the Tournament Players Championship ... another parking lot, another bag and made my first cut. After catching the caddy fever, I drove to the west coast the following January and met an exempt player after he finished top 60 the previous year. Over the course of the next six years he won twice, and totaled multiple top 10s. I started seeing the world.
When an employment opportunity arose in Scottsdale, Arizona, I landed here and have been in the golf hospitality industry for the last 30 years. Thanks to the PGA Championship (and my forgiving parents).
The best memory I have of a PGA Championship happened in 1992 when I took a picture of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus together playing a practice round at [Bellerive Country Club]. Later, they each signed the photograph, which I have today.
The 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, stands out. The tournament was played on a truly iconic property in perfect weather and that set up for a great golf tournament. More importantly, we got a shocking, but wonderful, surprise when Phil Mickelson turned back the clock to win the title. It was a special week of golf culminating with such a surprising conclusion and champion.
It was the 1970 PGA Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at Southern Hills. Arnold Palmer and Dave Stockton were in the final pairing on a very hot and steamy day.
I was very thirsty and after the fifth hole I went to a concession stand by No. 6. Lines were very long and by the time I got my Coke Arnie and Stockton were on No. 7. Before I could catch up to them there was a big roar. I had missed Stockton holing out his second shot for eagle. Of course, he would go on to win his first major.
I attended the 1982, 1994 and last year's PGA — all at Southern Hills with my son. It’s a special place to me.
My favorite PGA Championship memory is the classic David and Goliath golf showdown between Tiger Woods and Bob May at Valhalla Golf Club in 2000. But Goliath won this one.
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