Bob Goalby
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Bob Goalby: Finding Peace 50 Years Later

1968 Masters champion Bob Goalby on the De Vicenzo disaster, funny characters on tour and much more.
With Guy Yocom
March 26, 2018

GARY PLAYER SAID IT BEST: "We spend 10 hours a day at the course playing and working on our games, so the least we can do is take two minutes to make sure our score is correct." Knowing how strict The Rules of Golf are on that, it's hard to argue with Gary. What's funny is, scorecard mistakes continue to be made. At least once a year I'll read about some mishap, and I'll think, Oh, no, not again.

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WHEN I CAME OFF 18 after the final round of the 1968 Masters, everyone, myself included, thought I had tied with Roberto [De Vicenzo]. I walked directly to the scorer's table just behind the green. It was a little chaotic. Roberto and Tommy Aaron were sitting there, as was my playing partner, Ray Floyd, and I believe an official. I vaguely wondered why Roberto was still there, when he'd been two holes ahead of me. I remember saying something to Roberto along the lines of, "I guess we'll be playing together tomorrow." But Roberto didn't say anything. He seemed lost in thought. I wasn't alarmed by that. My attention was all on checking and signing my scorecard. When I finished, I left the table and was lingering near the green. Sam Snead had hung around to watch me come in, and he and Doc [Cary] Middlecoff approached me. Doc, who had just finished his hole coverage for CBS, said to me, "You just won the tournament." I said, "What the hell are you talking about?" I looked up at the scoreboard, and it showed Roberto and me both at -11. Then Doc, who was privy to what was being said through his TV headgear, said, "Roberto screwed up his scorecard."

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WHAT HAPPENED WAS, Tommy Aaron was playing with Roberto and kept his scorecard. For the 17th hole, Tommy wrote down a 4 for Roberto when Roberto actually had made a birdie 3. It's up to the player to check his scorecard and make sure it's right, because after you sign it and leave the area, that's it. I always was careful to check and double-check my card, putting actual check marks by the individual holes. Most players do some form of that, because errors like that happen all the time. I mean, every week, because if I'm playing with you, I'm not as careful recording your scores as I am my own. Looking back, I played with Roberto on Saturday of that Masters. I kept his card. After we sat down to go through them, I hadn't gotten past my first hole when Roberto tossed his in and left. I happened to get it correct, but it's a good thing I did. It was just his way. Eventually, it cost him.

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THE PRESENTATION CEREMONY wasn't what it could have been. I sat next to Roberto and did what I could to console him. There's video of me patting him on the leg. I felt no elation, nothing like you'd expect from winning the biggest tournament of your life. It was awkward. It was tragic for Roberto, but it was equally unfortunate for me. I never did get full credit for what I'd done. I played damned well, especially the last day [the 66 matching De Vicenzo's amended score].

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I STATED AT THE TIME that I wished there could have been a playoff, but what I meant by that was, I wished perhaps that the penalty had thrown us into a playoff rather than me winning outright. As it was, there was no way I was going to refuse the victory. To do so would have been very disrespectful to Augusta National and the Masters. And it would have been a one-man mutiny against The Rules of Golf. Consider for a minute how many golfers would have refused to accept rulings in the future had I done that. How many would have imposed their own codes as to what was "right"? I was not about to put myself above the game.

Augusta National

Goalby receiving his green jacket from Gay Brewer.

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I RECEIVED HATE MAIL like you wouldn't believe, telling me I was the worst son of a bitch who ever lived. One guy wrote, "They ought to put you and Sonny Liston in a sack of concrete and dump you in the ocean." The negative-to-positive ratio was 10-to-1 negative. The letters piled up, and every one of them hurt. For some reason, I've kept that hate mail. I don't know why. Maybe to one day explain to people what the experience was like.

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IT SHOULD BE KNOWN THAT ROBERTO [who died last year at 94] and I were friends before that Masters and for many years after. Not like brothers, but to the point that we partnered in two Legends of Golf tournaments.

RELATED: Roberto De Vicenzo and the 1968 Masters: When the game held its head in its hands

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I'LL TELL YOU A STORY I've kept mostly to myself all these years. It's a true story because the man who told it to me, the late Jack Tuthill, had as much integrity as any man ever. Three weeks after the 1968 Masters, Roberto won the Houston Champions International tournament. Jack was tournament director for the PGA Tour and was on-site. He told me that Roberto left the scoring tent without signing his card; the penalty is disqualification. Jack told me he struggled with himself at that moment, because on one hand there was the letter of the law, while on the other was the unholy mess that would arise if Roberto was DQ'd by, of all things, another scorecard incident. What do you do? Jack searched for Roberto, found him and brought him back to sign his card.

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TUTHILL HAD A LOT OF INTEGRITY. He was working as an official at the Masters in 1972. On the second hole, Arnold Palmer left a bunker shot in the bunker, then whacked the sand with his club in anger. Jack immediately hit Arnold with a two-shot penalty for grounding his club in the bunker. It was absolutely the right call, but after the round officials convened and decided to rescind the penalty. That kind of thing happened at Augusta on occasion. This one did not sit well with Jack. He felt belittled by it. He refused to work as an official there again.

‘There was no way I was going to refuse the victory. … It would have been a one-man mutiny against The Rules of Golf.’

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ONE OF THE TV NETWORKS seized on the idea of a head-to-head match between Roberto and me. Within a couple of days, the offer came in: We'd play that Thursday at Firestone in Akron, and the offer for me was $90,000 [Goalby made $20,000 at the Masters to De Vicenzo's $15,000]. I don't know what Roberto was offered, but I declined. Put yourself in my spot. If I agreed and Roberto beat me, I in essence lose the green jacket. If I win, it's a nice bit of cash, but so what?

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SAM SNEAD AND I PLAYED practice rounds at the Masters together for many years. I always came ready to play, because Sam had a huge following there and treated it like the tournament itself. He also loved to bet, and when he won, he would insist on getting paid on the 18th green. "Hey, boy, you owe me $10," he'd say so all the patrons could hear him. But when you beat him, he fled to the clubhouse. You had to collect in a corner of the locker room, where nobody could see.

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IN 1960, Sam and Mickey Wright partnered in the old Haig & Haig Scotch Foursome, a mixed-team event. Sam was still a dynamite player, Mickey was the best woman there was, and everyone figured they'd win by 10. On the first hole, Mickey bombed a drive, and Sam hit the approach to three feet. Mickey missed the putt, and Sam grumbled within earshot of Mickey, "I guess I'll need to hit the goddamned thing closer next time." Can you imagine saying something like that to any partner, let alone Mickey Wright? But that was Sam. It really upset Mickey. They both played lousy and didn't contend.

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SAM WAS THIS AMAZING PHYSICAL SPECIMEN. Not only did he have super-long arms—he wore a 36-inch sleeve—he had enormous thighs and huge calves, which I thought were the source of his great agility and balance. Coming off the second green at the Masters in a practice round one year, Sam chose to go over the gallery rope rather than use the walkway. The rope was about 20 inches off the ground, and Sam casually jumped over it, clicking his heels in midair as he flew to the other side. It might not sound like much, but try it. He was in his 70s at the time.

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IN THE FINAL ROUND of the 1967 U.S. Open at Baltusrol, I was paired with this unknown guy from Texas. His name was Lee Trevino, and he finished fifth, one stroke ahead of me. I told my wife, "Don't worry, this guy will linger, but he won't last." Dumbest prediction I ever made. Years later I made the mistake of telling Lee what I'd said. For years he'd begin his speeches with, "Bob Goalby said I'd never make it." He got a big kick out of hanging me out to dry.

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ONE TIME I WAS PAIRED with Jerry Barber. He was a feisty little guy, only 5-5 but a heckuva player. He won the 1961 PGA Championship hitting a tee ball that rarely went more than 220 yards. He also looked for every advantage and was not above pulling a little gamesmanship. On the first hole of this tournament, after I'd marked my ball with a dime, Jerry walked over and put a penny on top of my coin. "What the hell are you doing?" I asked. Jerry said, "I can see the glare from your dime when I putt." I didn't like that, but I let it go. On the next hole, he covered my dime again, and I started to boil. On the third hole, he came again toward my dime, which wasn't near his line. As he stooped over, I said, "Jerry, if you cover my dime again, I'm gonna cover you." I meant it. Jerry backed off, but that's how it was in those days. You had to stand your ground.

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THERE WERE SO MANY CHARACTERS. You've heard of Moe Norman. In 1958, during one of his tries on the PGA Tour, we were playing in New Orleans. After Saturday's round, Moe was in second place. Doug Ford and I invited Moe to dinner at Morrison's Cafeteria. Moe said, "I'm going home tomorrow night. I'm out of money; out of money"—he said everything twice. Doug said, "What do you mean? You've been making money, and you're going to make more. How could you be out of money?" Moe explained he'd been given $1,500 by the Canadian PGA to play the American tour, and that he'd gone through it paying expenses. "But what about the prize money you've made?" Doug asked. Moe said, "Oh, that's my money. I'm not going to spend my money." Like I say, he was a character.

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BILLY CASPER used to visit wounded soldiers in hospitals in Vietnam. He was a great humanitarian that way. One day, my nephew, Jay Haas, was walking on the beach near Charleston, S.C. He started talking with an older guy who also was out walking. It turned out that the man had been a captain in the Army, had been wounded badly and was close to taking his own life. He said Billy saved his life. Jay got the man a ticket to the Masters, and there was this moment when Jay brought Billy over to greet the captain. It was the most emotional thing I've ever seen.

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IN HIGH SCHOOL, I fouled out of 14 straight basketball games. When someone took the ball from me, my first instinct was to get it back. I'd get a little aggressive. One time I fouled out before halftime, which really made my coach mad. "You're no damned good to me sitting on the bench," he said. But it didn't sink in. I'd do anything to protect what was mine, including the basketball.

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WILT CHAMBERLAIN never fouled out of an NBA game. He also revealed a personal stat of sleeping with 20,000 women. A buddy of mine from Kentucky told me he was very upset by that. When I asked him why, he said, "Because Wilt beat me by one."

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GROWING UP DURING THE DEPRESSION made you careful with money. As a pro, I was pretty frugal. I felt like I had to be, because the first four tournaments I won, I collected a total of $8,000. You'll find it hard to believe, but in 1958 I played every tournament, 42 in all.

‘At some point, we have to acknowledge that golfers today are better in every way.’

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CORAL GABLES OPEN, 1960. Final round, I'm playing with Arnold Palmer and have a two-stroke lead playing the last hole. I hit the green, and Arnold's in the bunker. So if he gets up and down, I still have three putts to win. As my caddie, Walter Montgomery, breaks through the people onto the green, damned if he didn't accidentally kick my ball off the green. It was a one-stroke penalty, and the rules said I had to play from where my ball came to rest. Walter kicked the ball into a tough spot, too. Arnold hit his bunker shot close. Standing over the pitch I thought, This is a tough way to make a living. Fortunately I chipped to five feet and made it to win by one.

Augusta National

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I'VE READ A FEW PEOPLE say that if Nicklaus was in his prime and playing today, he'd be as long as Dustin Johnson. I'm not so sure. Jack was immensely powerful, but keep in mind, he was only 5-10. Dustin is 6-4 and has long, sinewy arms. The width and length of his swing arc are incredible, and he has the strength to go after it. Even allowing for equipment, I doubt Jack could keep up with some of these guys, at least not with the driver. At some point, we have to acknowledge that golfers today are better in every way. If they weren't, it would mean my generation didn't do a good job bringing them along.

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THE BEST CURE FOR A HOOK is to turn 88 years old. I play three times a week but don't hit the ball hard enough to curve it an inch one way or the other. I'm so short I can hear the ball land—without turning up my hearing aid.

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UNTIL 1965, I fought a hook with my driver something awful. At Colonial that year, Ben Hogan took me to his plant in Fort Worth and gave me a club that was stamped "3" on the bottom but was really a strong brassie, or 2-wood. "Don't show this club to anyone," he said. This club was incredible. It was bored 3 degrees open and had a very deep face, with very little roll from the sole to the topline. The ball came off low, hot and straight, with very little spin. It rolled forever. At the 1967 U.S. Open at Baltusrol, I had the longest drive of the week at No. 17—308 yards—and my driving game was transformed. I'd crush a tee shot out there and then hold the club so they could see only the "3" on the bottom.

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I BROKE THAT BRASSIE before the 1968 Masters, and the fear of the hook came back. I tried everything. For a time, I traveled with a 20-pound metal bar in the trunk of my car. I'd swing it with my left arm only, thinking that it would build up my left side while keeping my right side in check. It kind of worked, but the fear of the hook never did go away.

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EARLY THAT SUNDAY AFTERNOON at Augusta in '68, while I was on the range warming up before the final round, the parking lot filled up. In those days, the overflow spilled onto the range. Just as I reached for my driver, a Pinkerton guard said, "That's it, the range is closed." There was no use arguing with the guy. So on my way back toward the course, I stopped at a small short-game area near the clubhouse, teed a few balls and launched them into an area where I knew there were no patrons.

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I WALKED TO THE 15TH TEE right in the thick of it. Understand, I was a good player, but not a world-beater. I won 11 tournaments, played the Ryder Cup. But the Masters is a different animal. I knew that what happened over the next 40 minutes could change my life.

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AT THE 15TH, I was feeling the heat. I hit a huge drive and had only a 3-iron left. I hit it solid, a nice draw that stopped eight feet from the hole. And then I made the putt for eagle. On the wall of my home in Belleville is a letter, framed, to me from Bobby Jones. There's a part where he says, "I was particularly thrilled by your exquisite second shot to the 15th, which was the finest I have seen played to that hole." Jones was present when Gene Sarazen made his double eagle there in 1935, so that's some high praise.

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I WAS ON THE GREEN at 17 but a long way from the hole. I left my first putt well short, which is what tends to happen when you're choking like a dog, and missed the par putt, my only three-putt of the tournament. On 18, my tee shot clipped a tree branch on the right and left me a long way to the green. My caddie that week was Frank Stokes, known as Marble Eye. He wanted me to hit a 3-iron, and I thought it was a 2-iron. He told me the 2-iron was too much club. I told him, "If you're wrong, you know where this club is going." I hit the 2-iron anyway, but I took something off it due to Marble Eye's advice. I hit it to the back of the green and lagged my first putt down to four feet. I felt I needed that putt to tie and was very nervous, which made me angry at myself. As I stood over the ball I growled to myself, You choking [expletive], stand up there like a man and hit the [expletive] thing. Forgive my language, but that's what I said. I took two quick practice strokes, then drilled it dead center.

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AT THE CHAMPIONS DINNER, Cliff Roberts always invited players to give suggestions to make the tournament better. One year, Art Wall, who won in 1959, suggested that more attention be given to starting times for past champions. He complained that he'd had many that were very early and late, and that he was embarrassed by them. When Art got home, a letter from Cliff was waiting for him. It included every one of Art's tee times from 1959 on, and it turned out they all were excellent. Art told this story on himself. He said he kept quiet at the dinners after that.

‘The letters piled up, and every one of them hurt. For some reason, I've kept that hate mail.’

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ONE YEAR I TOOK MY MASTERS GREEN COAT home with me to get it tailored. It was getting a little tight, and it's a pain trying to get it tailored at Augusta. I had the coat on when I got off my morning flight, and darned if I didn't get a call from Augusta National that same afternoon, asking me to return it immediately. Heaven knows how they found out I had it.

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LAST YEAR, MY ALMA MATER, Belleville High School, installed artificial turf on the field. They named it Bob Goalby Field. I don't cry easily, but at the dedication ceremony, people said such nice things about me that tears came to my eyes. That never happened in golf. Even though I won the Masters, it's the memory of quarterbacking Belleville to a 6-0 win over East St. Louis High School in 1946 that thrills me the most. I still dream about it. As I see it, naming something after you in your hometown is the greatest honor a man can have.

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WE'RE AT THE 50-YEAR mark of that Masters, and history is being kinder to me. Young people especially don't know about the controversy because it was so long ago. To them, I'm just a Masters champion. They'll say, "That's so cool. What year did you win? Can you tell me about it?" And I tell them about how I shot 66 on Sunday, the overflowing parking lot and the letter Bobby Jones wrote me about my shot to the 15th. Time is allowing me to be at peace and to feel even more proud and satisfied.

RELATED: Jaime Diaz's profile of Roberto De Vicenzo in 2006


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