My Shot: David Graham

David Graham was one tough guy on a golf course, but 25 years after winning the Open at Merion, he shows his sensitive side. Pass the kleenex, please.

David Graham

David Graham, photographed March 20, 2006, at Scotty's Gun Club in Kalispell, Mont.

June 2006

Age 59 • Whitefish, Montana

It's been 25 years since I won the U.S. Open at Merion, and it's a good thing they have video, because I can hardly remember a thing about the final round. I was in a daze, in the zone. The details—every fairway hit except the first, a hole I birdied; every green hit except landing on the collars at No. 9 and No. 11, leaving me 25 feet from the hole at most—were a blur until it was over. In fact, the only clear memory is a bad one, my three-putt at the fifth hole. Isn't that odd? Some people felt the 67 I shot was the best closing round ever in a U.S. Open. Well, it would be nice if I could have seen it.

In 1996, Merion invited me to its 100th anniversary. It was called Merion Cricket Club well before they opened the golf course there in 1912. Anyway, after the golf the membership gathered around the 18th green. As a band played, they had me walk from the 18th tee down the fairway, up and over the hill. When I appeared, they gave me the most wonderful applause I've ever heard. It was like coming home, really. My most thrilling day happened at Merion. The most heartwarming day happened there, too. And I'm glad to say I remember everything about it.

A couple of summers ago I developed a cough. I was at a tournament in Boston and figured I'd just play through it. I didn't feel much better on Saturday but played anyway, coughing all day. On Sunday I felt even worse. On the eighth green my caddie looked at me and said, "Boss, you look awful. You've got to go in." I told him, "I think I'll just hit this putt." I stood over the ball and collapsed. They got me to the hospital, and I wound up spending five days there. It was congestive heart failure, cardiomyopathy and one or two other things. The big muscles and small muscles of my heart don't work well together, and there's nothing that can be done except to give me lots of pills to manage it. That was the end of me as a golfer. It was almost the end of me, period.

Early in my career, I had a three-quarter backswing. I just wasn't comfortable taking the club back to parallel. In 1978, on the advice of Gary Player, I began swinging a weighted driver. I drilled big holes in a persimmon clubhead and poured hot lead into the holes, then poured more lead down the shaft till it was brimming. After it cooled I put a new grip on. This club stretched out my swing very nicely. I liked it so much that I took to actually hitting balls with it. That summer I swung the club back to parallel for the first time and played great golf. To this day, even with all the practice devices that are available, I don't think there's anything better for your swing than a simple weighted club.

David Graham,
my shot
Subscribe to Golf Digest
Subscribe today