The Greatest Golf Playoff Ever: Sunday, June 17th, 1962. And I Was There.

In politics on September 27, 2016 at 11:54 pm

The drive from Cleveland, Ohio, to Oakmont, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh, takes about an hour and a half.

I was driving my black VW bug which had trouble with headwinds on the Pennsylvania turnpike, so it’s hard to say exactly how long I was in the car. But it was early, a sunny Sunday in June. June 17th to be exact. And I was driving to a golf championship—the playoff—at Oakmont Country Club.

The Championship & the Contenders

Not just any championship. This was the 1962 U.S. Open playoff, maybe the most epic playoff ever, because the contenders were Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Palmer was clearly the favorite because he already had carved a mighty big niche for himself as one of the greatest golfers of all time. And he was only 33, with years ahead to score more wins.

Nicklaus was just 22, had never won a professional championship, let alone a major; in fact, he had only turned pro in ‘61, after winning the U.S. Amateur Championship the same year.

Palmer had already won the Masters and the British Open in ‘62 and was trying for his third Grand Slam victory.

Palmer was not only the favorite. He was also the state’s favorite, from Latrobe, the little Pennsylvania town where he grew up and learned to play golf from his father, who had been the pro and head groundskeeper at the local country club. The fans that gathered in Oakmont that Sunday were Pennsylvanians, except for a small number who had travelled up from Ohio to root for the boy raised in Upper Arlington, suburban Columbus, where his dad owned drug stores.

In 1962, young Jack was overweight. And the Pennsylvania fans were not politically correct. So you could hear jeers from the crowd, “Beat Fat Jack, Arnie.” “Show Ohio Fats who’s best, Arnie.”

The Pennsylvania gallery was cheering for their champion and booing his opponent as if it were a prize fight.

The Matches: through Saturday

When the championship started on Thursday, Gene Littler won the day, shooting 69. Nicklaus tied for ninth. Palmer tied for fourth. Both men were in the hunt, but off to a so-so start.

After Friday’s second round, Palmer jumped into a tie for first with Bob Rosburg, both at 139. The crowd sighed with relief.

On Saturday, believe it or not, there were still two rounds to play. Thirty-six holes, in 24 hours.

After the morning round, Palmer remained tied for first, now with Bobby Nichols; both with totals of 212.

First place is a comfort, but ties are iffy. Nobody could be sure Palmer would walk away with the trophy. They just hoped.

And then, that afternoon, what should have been the final round stretched out late into the day, the June sun blazing down on the bareheaded Palmer, cheered onward by “Arnie’s Army,” his loyal fans who knew they were watching somebody special swing a golf club while having fun doing it and racking up wins; and maybe, just maybe, they were watching the greatest golfer since Bobby Jones.

When the fourth round began, the talented young man from Ohio was in fifth place, tied with Gary Player. Both were teeing off with third-round totals of 214.

But, wait. Nicklaus and Player were only two shots behind first place. Two bloody shots. And anything could happen on the final round. Plenty of time for Palmer to bogey his way out of the win. But trying to displace Palmer was—in 1962—like trying to fell a giant with a slingshot.

Finally, when the last, white ball rolled into the little round eighteenth hole, the chubby guy from Ohio had made the impossible happen. He had tied the Pennsylvania giant. Both ended the day with 283. An average of 70.75, just below 71, par for the course.

Apparently Nicklaus had brought his slingshot.

Saturday Night

For Palmer and Nicklaus, Saturday night might have seemed long, perhaps sleepless, since when the sun rose there was still—Playoff Sunday.

At the Oakmont club bar Saturday night, the rich men who ran the steel companies and banks in Pittsburgh were downing their Scotch and sodas, very sure of themselves. Imagine what they were saying: “Who the hell is the fat blonde kid with the white cap? Sure he won the U.S. Amateur last year, but this is the U.S. Open. Palmer has the experience. Experience is what counts!”

The men at the bar weren’t really negative about Nicklaus. They knew he was good. Very good. But they thought there was plenty of time for him to make his mark in the years ahead. After all, he had just turned pro in ‘61. Talented new players were what the game needed. And Nicklaus had already proven he could match Arnie—at least up to a point. It was like hiring an MBA from Harvard who had a lot to learn, but would, someday, run the company.

So, if you were betting that Saturday night, you knew where to put your money. On the favorite, the man who had already won two majors in 1962. It was almost like money in the bank.


Sunday morning, 10,000 golf fans, including me, crammed onto the Oakmont course, eager to watch Palmer notch another major win. It had to be. If you dreamed big enough, you could almost hit a golf ball from Latrobe Country Club, a middle-class man’s golf club, to Oakmont Country Club, an old-fashioned, rambling, green-and-white structure with dormer windows on the second floor. The kind of club the men who ran the big companies in Pittsburgh liked. It felt like home.

In truth, Oakmont was 38 miles from Latrobe, where the local boy had walked beside his dad and learned the tricks of the game from a man who dedicated his life to it. No wonder he made sure his only son would follow in his footsteps. However, it required more than a father’s desire; it took talent, honed skill, and a burning desire of his own. The pro’s son proved he had it all. And more.

But at the end of the day, that hot June Sunday, a new golf superstar was born. His name was Nicklaus, and he was eleven years younger than the man who came in second. It was like watching a birth at Oakmont, a new generation coming into the world of golf.

Of course Arnie played very well that day, shot par, 71. But Jack, Jack just couldn’t be stopped; he was the young blood coming into his own, and he beat Arnie by two strokes, knocking two shots off par, winding up with 69. The U.S. Open Championship had a new fair-haired boy.

It wasn’t the way I wanted the match to end, but I clapped long and hard, along with everyone else, as the two men finished the 18th, shook hands, and Jack waved his cap and threw the winning ball into the crowd.

And as the years went by, Nicklaus went on to win three more U.S. Opens, as well as six Masters, three British Opens, and five PGA championships. It‘s an unbeaten record. So far.

Palmer, good as he was, and he was plenty good, couldn’t top that. Still, he won four Masters, two British Opens, and one U.S. Open, in 1961.

But on that Sunday in 1962, Arnie’s Army had to take it on the chin.

Nevertheless, I was thrilled, knowing I had actually watched two of the game’s all-time best play a duel in the sun; had seen a man two years younger than I win one of golf’s most sought-after titles.

It was more than worth it, driving all the way from Cleveland, and the day wasn’t over yet, for me. I had another stop to make.

Arnie’s Army, Continued…

One of the oddities about the ’62 Open was that both Palmer and Nicklaus smoked while they played. I watched them walk along the fairways, puffing away, then put down their burning cigarettes, smack the ball toward the green, pick up their smokes and continue toward the hole.

One article I read recently said Nicklaus watched film of that ’62 tournament and couldn’t believe his eyes as he saw himself smoking while he played. He said something like, “It was one of the sins of youth.”

I don’t know when Arnie stopped smoking, but I like to think he did. After all, he lived 54 more years, dying yesterday–September 25th 2016—at 87.

The last time I saw him on TV was in April, at the Masters. He had his arm through Nicklaus’s arm, and he stood there briefly for the cameras and the fans, in his green blazer that looked too big for his frail frame. He just didn’t look well, but you could see, it was still Arnie, giving it his best shot. And you could tell, this would be the last Masters he would ever attend.

But back in the day, one golfer said Arnie had hands like Rocky Marciano, and the arms of a steelworker. Though his dad was a professional golfer, there was something blue-collar about his son’s build and his carefree, I’m-having-the-time-of-my-life manner. And that included the insouciant cigarette between his lips.

In retirement, Palmer remained one of the most loved golfers who ever lived. There was that warm, convincing smile, his open friendliness. His personality also smiled through all those commercials he churned out over the years. He just seemed genuine, admired for not only what he had accomplished as a golfer, but who he was as a man.

One personal note: My sister-in-law and her husband once owned a franchise called “Arnold Palmer Dry Cleaners.” Sure, he only licensed out his name, but he made beaucoup bucks for doing so. It’s as if the whole country wanted a piece of the famous, popular golfer.

Annually, he hosted a PGA tournament at Bay Hill, the club he owned in Florida, southwest of Orlando. TV viewers loved listening to Arnie’s comments, as he joked with the announcers during the four-day event, and then watched him hug the winner on Sunday. It was as if Arnie himself was winning again, and we, in the TV audience or on the course, were still part of Arnie’s Army.


On that long-ago Sunday, Nicklaus took home the trophy and $15,000 in prize money; Palmer got the runner-up check, $8,000. And there was a bonus for each man, based on that day’s receipts from the play-off crowd–$2,500. Not too bad for 1962, and, if you didn’t count the practice time, only four days of work.

For their combined take-away that day, you could buy a pretty nice middle-class house in Pennsylvania or Ohio.

After the game, I got into my VW bug, but didn’t head back home to Cleveland. I steered my car west of Oakmont, drove into the heart of rural Western Pennsylvania, to Saltsburg, a tiny town—more of a village, really–25 miles away.

In Saltsburg, I stopped off at Kiskiminetas Springs School, the boys’ prep school on a hill overlooking the springs, where I had just finished my first year of teaching. At Kiski, I hooked up with the headmaster, Jack Pidgeon, and a fellow teacher, Zach Vlahos, and we played nine holes on the course that wound around the 200-acre school property. I couldn’t wait, inspired by what I had just witnessed earlier at Oakmont.

I had planned all along to stop at off at the “office,” and had packed my clubs—actually my dad’s old clubs–in the trunk of the VW.

I remember I lit up a cigarette while I was on the course, pretending I had something in common with Palmer and Nicklaus. It seemed to me then that if you were a serious golfer, you smoked. It seemed part of the game.

Of course, that was then.

Remembering a day 54 years ago is like digging things up in the attic. Sometimes, when you do that–dust them off, and hold them up to the light–they surprise you. Holding up that June Sunday in 1962, today, I realized what it was: A little treasure, still there, in all its amazing detail.

 Jim’s Daily Rant is owned and operated by James I. Greene.  All rights protected by copyright from reproduction without permission.

The Rant Interviews a Female Hillary Supporter

In politics on September 5, 2016 at 6:38 pm



 The Rant: What is it that most attracts you to a Hillary Clinton presidency?

Hillary Supporter:  Abortion.  I mean I know she will continue to stand behind abortion.  That’s what’s most important to me.

TR: Well, of course, abortion is the law of the land, according to the Supreme Court ruling.  So what difference does it make who’s president?

HS:  I think Trump would try to overturn that ruling.

TR: How?

HS: I don’t know, but he’s a right-to-life guy, and that’s dangerous to every woman who believes she has a right to decide that issue for herself.

TR: So I suppose you support Planned Parenthood?

HS: Of course.

TR: But that means you think every taxpayer must support abortion.

HS: Yes.  As you said, it’s the law of the land.

TR: But what about all those taxpayers who believe that abortion is either against their religious beliefs or against their personal sense of morality?  Why should their taxes go to support what they object to?

HS:  Like everyone else, they have to obey the law.  And Congress has voted to financially support the organization.

TR:  But you said every woman has a right to decide for herself, right?

HS: Sure.

TR: Well, then, why should those who oppose abortion be taxed to support it?   

HS:  No woman has to have an abortion if she doesn’t want to.  So what’s the fuss all about?

TR:  The fuss is about forcing people to support what they fundamentally oppose.  But, as Bernie Sanders might say, enough about the abortion issue.  What other issues do care about?


 HS:  Guns.  There are simply too many irresponsible gun owners in this country.

TR: How do you define “irresponsible”?  Are hunters irresponsible?

HS: Guns kill animals and people. How can anyone defend that?  Look at all the terrible murders in this country that have been committed with guns by crazy people.

TR: You seem eager to trample on an individual right supported by the Second Amendment.  So are you opposed to the Second Amendment?

HS:  It’s dated.  “Militias” are an anachronism.

TR:  But isn’t the whole point of that amendment to permit people to protect themselves against a government that would turn against the people?

HS: Why on earth do people need to protect themselves against the government when the government is trying to protect people from crazy murderers or lone-wolf terrorists?

TR: Do you really think that controlling the right to bear arms would have prevented the murders at Ft. Hood, San Bernardino, and Orlando?  Or the black-on-black murders in Chicago?

HS: I don’t know, but we’ve got to do something.

TR: Murder is already a crime that incurs punishment.  Are there any other issues that cause you to support Hillary over Trump?

Voting for a Woman for President

 HS:  Hillary will be the first woman president.  As a woman, that means a lot to me.

TR: So you’re voting for Hillary because she’s a woman?

HS: Absolutely.  It makes me proud to do so.

TR: Do you think gender is more important than competence?

HS: Hillary has far more competence than Trump.  Everyone knows that she’s one of the most qualified people to ever run for the office.

 Hillary’s Accomplishments

 TR: What would you say are her chief accomplishments?

HS:  Being a senator and Secretary of State.  Trump has only been a businessman.

TR: But what were her specific accomplishments as senator and Secretary of State?

HS: She’s had enormous experience.  Experience is what counts.

TR: You mean she’s had experience at running for one office and being appointed to another?

HS: Of course.  What else could I mean?

TR:  I think I understand.  It reminds me of a book I once tried to read called The Meaning of Meaning.  Or Bill Clinton’s famous statement: “It all depends on what the meaning of is is.”

 Hillary’s Private Email Server

 TR: How do you feel about Hillary’s having a private server, which is against government policy, and subjecting her emails to hackers around the world?  Didn’t that endanger privileged information, not to mention classified documents?

HS: That’s old news.  And it’s all been settled.  The FBI has exonerated her.

TR: But FBI director James Comey called her actions “extremely careless” and “reckless.”  And Comey admitted to a Congressional committee that she lied to Congress.  Is there any question in your mind that if she had been working in the private sector, she would have been fired for ignoring company policy and, even worse, broadcasting the company’s private information to its competitors? 

HS: No one has charged her with any illegal actions, so these conjectures are just charges– speculations–without proof.

The  Clinton Foundation

 TR:  What about the contention there was “pay for play” between the Clinton Foundation and Secretary Clinton?

HS: More charges and speculations without proof.

TR: Well, how do you explain, as Hillary stated, that she and her husband were “broke” when they left the White House and are now worth 238 million dollars?

HS: Obviously President Clinton was paid very well for his speeches.  Nothing illegal about that.

TR: But why is it that only ten percent of the money received by the Foundation goes to charity, while ninety percent goes for salaries and travel?

HS:  Again, those are only charges leveled by people who don’t like the Clintons and are supporting Trump.

TR: Do you think, despite all the “charges,” as you call them, that Hillary is trustworthy? 

HS: I think the Clintons are honorable people who have served the country and been maligned by a right-wing conspiracy.

TR: But many people think the media is biased in favor of Hillary.

HS: Once again that’s the right-wing conspiracy.  The mainstream media is as fair as it’s ever been.  Fox being the exception to the rule.


 TR: One more question: Do you think Hillary lied to the families of the four Americans murdered in Benghazi?

HS: I think she believed their deaths were caused by an anti-Muslim video.  As did the president.

TR: Yet she emailed her daughter that it was a terrorist act at the same time she insisted publicly it was motivated by a video?

HS: Whatever she told her daughter is a private communication that was never meant to be made public.  Therefore, the media has trespassed on her privacy.  That’s shameful.

Summing Up 

 TR: Thank you.  I think you’ve made it abundantly clear you support Hillary for the following reasons:

  • She’s a woman.
  • She believes everyone should be taxed to support abortion. 
  • She wants to amend or perhaps override the Second Amendment.
  • Her government experience includes disobeying governmental laws as well as lying to the public about the reason four Americans serving their country were murdered in Benghazi.
  • You believe the Clinton Foundation is a real charity, though it gives only ten percent of its income to charity. 
  • You believe there was no quid pro quo between the Clinton Foundation and Hillary’s position as Secretary of State, despite, as the Associated Press reports, half of her scheduled meetings were with donors to the Foundation.

Does that pretty much sum up your reasons for support?

HS: You simply prove my point about the right-wing conspiracy.

Jim’s Daily Rant is owned and operated by James I. Greene.  All rights protected by copyright from reproduction without permission.






In politics on August 1, 2016 at 4:18 pm

Let’s say you’re undecided about whom to vote for this November because you dislike both candidates.

Consequently, you may decide not to vote, which basically lets everyone else who votes decide the election for you.

Or you may decide to support one of the third-party candidates.  But what will that accomplish?  You know beforehand that your choice will lose, so all you are doing is telling yourself you just couldn’t make a decision about which major party candidate to vote for.

Why did you vote for Bush, McCain & Romney?

Now, zero in on what you have done in the past.  Let’s say you voted for the Republican presidential candidate in 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012.  Therefore, you voted for George W. Bush, twice; for John McCain and Mitt Romney once.

But why?

In each case you had no idea what Bush, McCain, or Romney would actually do once elected president.  You just hoped they would do what they said they would, or, more likely, you hoped they would do the things you thought were right.

But, in all cases, your hope was—could only be—based only on what they said in their campaign speeches.

Of course we all hope for the best.  Therefore basing your vote on hope seems like the only rational option—even if, ultimately, you get conned by the candidate, and he or she does the opposite of what was promised.

You also evaluated the risk of your decision.  You believed that should Gore, Kerry, or Obama win, the chances were much greater you would dislike—even detest—the policies they were likely to carry out.

What is the Republican Party?

Now consider your current election options.

If Hillary Clinton wins, do you sincerely believe the country will be better served than if Donald Trump wins?

Some well-known Republicans do.  They dislike Trump so much it seems they would prefer Hillary.


Is it because they believe losing will serve Trump right for being such a loudmouth, braggart, and ungentlemanly candidate?

And if that’s their reasoning, does it make any sense?  In other words, how does striking back at Trump help America?  Isn’t striking back at Trump more about their egos than about what’s best for America?

Perhaps you disagree and think that Trump is simply an intolerable choice.  Well, then…

Let’s assume that if enough people think like you and decide: 1) not to vote, 2) vote for a third-party candidate, or, 3) even, vote for Clinton.  Then, in a larger sense, they are voting against the Republican Party.   Here’s why…

It doesn’t matter if Trump isn’t your idea of what the Republican Party should be.  It also doesn’t matter what George Will, The National Review, or anyone else thinks.  The Republican Party is what the voters say it is.  And this year they want Trump for president.  That’s how the system works.

Are you really a Democrat?

And there are rippling consequences, depending on your choice.  Even if you think voting against Trump appeases your conscience, your conscience—sorry, Senator Cruz—is not the issue, because the results of the election affect everyone in the country, not just you.

In short, if Hillary wins, all of the policies that have been put into place by Barack Obama will continue because Obama is determined to continue his “legacy” through Hillary and is, therefore, willing and eager to campaign robustly for her election.

Is a third term of Obama’s policies what’s best for America?

If you believe that, then you are a Democrat.  No matter what else you tell your conscience.

Hillary’s America

In other words, if you believe in open borders, higher taxes, more welfare and subsidies, increased debt, some sort of gun control that inhibits ownership, and no serious military buildup or significant military advance against ISIS, you should vote for Hillary.

Why pussyfoot around with not voting or voting for a guaranteed loser?

It all comes down to the same thing: If you vote against Trump, one way or the other, you are directly or indirectly helping elect a president who will nominate more liberal judges and dig this country ever deeper into socialist policies with less individual freedom for everyone.

It’s not a complicated choice.

What’s at stake in 2016?

The reason you vote for the Republican candidate this time is the same reason you voted for Bush, McCain, and Romney, whether you actually liked them or not.  You hope for the best, and you don’t want what Democrats are selling.

That’s what the previous elections were about.  And that’s what’s still at stake in 2016.

Anyhow, that’s what Socrates would do, if he were a Republican.

Jim’s Daily Rant is owned and operated by James I. Greene.  All rights protected by copyright from reproduction without permission.