Roger Maltbie, the five-time PGA Tour winner who has been a roving reporter for NBC since 1991, has always been known as a free spirit. The carefree nature of the Modesto, Calif., native made him popular company, a good choice to do TV work and susceptible to moments of silliness and levity. In honor of Jolly Roger’s 65th birthday today, here is a list of lucky No. 7 Maltbie Moments:
7. Maltbie wears a pair of garish patchwork quilt pants from the Raggedy Ann & Andy collection on the final day of the inaugural Memorial Tournament in 1976 and beats Hale Irwin in a playoff. Golf World magazine puts the splendiferous pants front and center on its cover.
6. Staying with the ’76 Memorial, in the scheduled three-hole playoff with Irwin, both players start birdie-par on 15 and 16. On the par-4 17th, from 176 yards out from the middle of the fairway, Maltbie pulls a “little 4-iron” that’s headed for an embankment left of the green. Against-all-odds, the ball strikes a half-inch-wide gallery-rope stake and caroms onto the green hole high 20 feet from the cup. Maltbie two-putts to tie Irwin’s par, and then rolls in a birdie putt on 18 to win.
5. Maltbie enhanced his good-time attitude by signing with Michelob in 1982. He dons a Michelob visor and becomes part of its Advisory Staff along with 16 other male pros and five women. Among his duties, we assume, is trying the product from time to time.
4. Maltbie was proclaimed the PGA Tour’s first “switch-putter” after putting it to practice in late 1989/early 1990. On putts breaking to his left, he would putt right-handed. On putts breaking right, he would putt left-handed. Sometimes he would switch sides on the same green. He made the switch to feel comfortable over all putts.
3. While visiting major winner David Graham’s home in Dallas in May 1984 for a cookout along with fellow pros such as Wayne Grady and Seve Ballesteros, Maltbie and the others persist in getting Graham, a noted club tinkerer, to let them see clubs he had in a garage workshop. After looking at irons and putters, the group left for the kitchen. Maltbie lingered with the clubs, however, and emerged looking like a “chrome luna moth,” with irons down his pant legs, down the back of his shirt and along his arms. After a laugh, host Graham twirled Maltbie around and headed him back into the garage to reclaim his irons.
2. In attempting to qualify for the 1984 U.S. Open, Maltbie was at the 36-hole sectional qualifying site, where he employed a caddie to drive a cart for the grueling day. He walked alongside at first, but soon was hitching rides to hunt for lost balls or ride to a green or go uphill. When he got done with the first nine, a rules official asked about a report of him riding a cart. When Maltbie said he’d done it about six times, the official said, “I’m sorry Roger, but that will be another 12 shots on your card.” It gave him 48 for nine holes, and he withdrew for the day. Jolly Roger had failed to remember riding was prohibited under all conditions of play.
1. And the reigning champ of Maltbie stories that started his legend is from his win at the 1975 Pleasant Valley Classic in Sutton, Mass. This was in his rookie season, and he had won the Quad Cities Open and PVC in back-to-back weeks. In the evening’s revelry of July 20, Maltbie either left or lost track of the $40,000 winner’s check at T.O. Flynn’s tavern in Worcester. He couldn’t locate the check the next morning and had to ask the sponsors for a new one. The original was eventually found amid the floor debris and was put in a frame on the tavern’s wall.
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