Lee Elder and the Masters

Lee Elder and the Masters

Every golfer has a dream to play in the Masters once in their lifetime, some achieve this dream very quickly during their 20s while some take time like Lee Elder.
 
Lee Elder had a rough childhood and he became an orphan at age 12 following the death of his father and mother and along with other African Americans, Lee was constantly shifting from one city to another until he got into Los Angeles, California and lived with her aunt.
 
Lee fell in love with the game during his school years and the only way Lee could come near to playing golf was through caddying which he did in his school years later, Lee was drafted into the US Army, he and his Colonel had the same passion for golf and the Colonel allowed Lee to play golf in his spare time and when he returned home, Lee joined the United States Golf Association Tour for black players, a tour specially built for the African American golfers and he was very successful in that tour as during one season Lee won 18 out of 22 events and after earning a good amount of money, Lee decided to play in the PGA Tour and he got qualified to play in the PGA Tour by finishing ninth out of 122 participants in the qualifying school.
 
Lee had a great career in the PGA Tour where he won four events but his first victory at the 1974 Monsanto Open was a life-changing one because that victory gave Lee a chance to compete in the US Masters Tournament by doing so he became the first African American golfer to play in the Masters and for Lee, those five days in Augusta National Golf Club were his greatest time and achieving his life long dream of playing in the Masters at age 41.



Lee Elder playing in 1975 Masters Championship (Photo Credit: Niel leifer/Sports Illustrated)
 
Lee would return to the Augusta National Golf Club five more times and his final Master's appearance came in 1988 where he missed the cut.

1979 US Ryder Cup Team


Lee standing fifth from left (Photo Credit: thefriedegg.com). 
 
Apart from the Masters, his 1979 Ryder Cup was another great achievement which Lee feels was a once in a lifetime opportunity and Lee was blessed to make a Ryder Cup debut at age 45 and luckily the US won the 1979 Ryder Cup.
 
After playing for more than a decade on the PGA Tour, Lee decided to make a shift to the Senior Tour (now, PGA Tour of Champions) from the 1980s and Lee was more successful on the Senior Tour as he won 8 events from 1984-1988. A few years later, Lee called time after playing professional golf for more than two decades.



From the left Lee Elder, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus (Photo Credit: Getty Images).
 
In 2020 November, Lee got a call from the chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club and he asked Lee if he is interested in being an honorary starter for the 2021 Masters which Lee gladly accepted and two days earlier, Lee broke another record by becoming the first African American honorary starter for the Masters along with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
[COVER PHOTO CREDIT: AUGUSTA NATIONAL]
 

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April 10, 2021 - By Dhruv Trivedi

Jack Nicklaus Birthday Special: Jack and the White Fang

Jack Nicklaus Birthday Special: Jack and the White Fang

One of the most intriguing chapters in Jack Nicklaus's professional career was the White Fang or Acushnet Bull’s-Eye putter.
 
Till 1966, Jack Nicklaus dominated the game of golf by achieving a career grand slam and winning 20 PGA tournaments from 1962-66. Nicklaus started 1967 by winning the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am in late-January and for the next four months Nicklaus didn’t got a single win in the PGA Tour and not only that, Nicklaus also missed the cut in the 1967 Masters despite being a two-time defending champion (1965 and 1966).
 
Reason behind downfall:
Jack Nicklaus's poor putting was the reason and from April to June 1967 Nicklaus tried to figure out ways to bring back his game as he would spend hours on the putting surface and change his stance but nothing worked as the ball was refusing to go inside the cup.
 
The best thing a man can give:


(Photo Credit: GOLF.com).

During mid-1966, future PGA Tour Commissar Deane R. Beman was practicing with Jack Nicklaus and he saw Nicklaus struggling in his putting and Beman offered him the old Acushnet Bull’s Eye Putter and within few attempts Nicklaus had started making putts and slowly he started to like the putter. Originally, the putter was of Beman, he used it in his pro years and later, he passed on the putter to his friend Fred Mueller so, the current owner of the putter was Mueller and he had no problem in giving it to Nicklaus and the Golden Bear borrowed the putter for the upcoming US Open in Baltusrol.
 

Changes done in the Bull’s Eye Putter:

(Photo Credit: USGA).

When Deane Beman was using the putter, he had sprayed white colour on the club head for reflecting the light falling on the club face, named it the ‘White Fang’ and Nicklaus liked the putter but he was not comfortable with the grip so, Beman inserted a pencil on the top of the grip and broke the other part of the pencil, both Nicklaus and Beman tied the pencil with the grip through a leather rope and here it was, a perfect putter for Nicklaus, now the only thing he needed to do was to practice and improve his putting game.
 
1967 US Open:
Jack Nicklaus went to Baltusrol for the 1967 US Open and a perfect event for testing his new putter and in round one Nicklaus was ranked outside top ten for scoring +1 and in day two the putter was showing some sigh of positivity as Nicklaus was second in the leaderboards following a 67 in round two, only behind Arnold Palmer. Nicklaus lost two strokes in round three to even par from round two’s -2 due to round three’s 72 and both Palmer and Nicklaus were tied at second as Amateur Marty Fleckman became the sole leader at -1.

 
White Fang comes to the rescue:
On day four, the overnight leader (Marty Fleckman) scored 80 so, the event was left with Palmer and Nicklaus who were paired together for last two rounds. Everyone in the stands wanted Palmer to win the US Open but that day Nicklaus prevailed his critics by scoring eight birdies through the White Fang in round four for 65 and in front of Arnie’s army and Palmer’s 69 couldn’t stop the Nicklaus storm as the 27-year-old Jack Nicklaus defeated 38-year-old Arnold Palmer and Nicklaus's first major victory was 1962 US Open and 1966 US Open was Jack Nicklaus’s second US Open win in four years.



Jack Nicklaus winning the 1967 US Open Championship (Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated).

One of the most important thing the putter did was that it brought Nicklaus's confidence back as he won three more events in the year to a total of six PGA Tour victories in 1967 season.
[COVER PHOTO CREDIT: USGA]
 

Referances: ABC News, Bleacher Report, Chicago Tribune, Golf Channel, Sports Illustrated, PGA Tour.

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January 21, 2021 - By Dhruv Trivedi

French Golfer Roger Lagarde dies at age 86

French Golfer Roger Lagarde dies at age 86

France has always had an impact on golf by either hosting major events like Ryders Cup or producing outstanding golfers like Arnaud Massey, Catherine Lacoste, Thomas Levet, and many more.
Four days earlier, golfing world lost French golf pioneer Roger Lagarde, born in 1934, Roger was always meant to be a golfer because his dad was a golf professor in a golf course named Golf de Rouen and he lived there.

It was in 1939, when 5-year-old Roger held a club in his hands and used to roam around the course and not long after, he started to understand the game of golf better and also participated in first professional tournament - International French Championship at age 19 and to everyone’s surprise this young lad of Mont-Saint-Aignan town, reached the final of France’s premier golf tournament, after defeating Ernest Arend Jr. of America in semi-finals later, faced Great Britain’s Harry Bentley in finals and defeated him. 45-year Bentley appreciated Lagarde’s achievement and said “A shy, modest, almost effaced young man, the Rouennais Roger Lagarde, son of a golf teacher, is better than "hope", he is a real champion. He proved it yesterday by masterfully and repeatedly coming out of difficult situations” [Excerpt from a French Daily Le Monde].

When whole France came to know about who Roger is and what he has achieved for his country in an international tournament, but that was time when he was sent for military service and just vanished from people’s eyes, returned on June of 1955 and for more than three years he didn’t played any competitive golf until, 2nd October 1958, when it was announced that second edition of St Andrews Open was going to held in France, than there was no better blessing for 24 year old Roger to play golf again, he had a good tournament but Rest of Europe lost the 1958 St Andrews Trophy against British Isles 1-13 where Britain Isles won both events first foursome 5-1 later, singles 8-4.



Eisenhower Trophy (Photo Credit: Flicker.com).

6 Days later after his first international call now, it was time for second one, because on October 8th 1958 Eisenhower Trophy or World Amateur Team Championship’s first edition was organized by International Golf Federation and for forming a team, from every nation four players were sent to world championship and Roger was fortunate enough to get selected in France’s Eisenhower team, France performed really well as they finished eighth in final leader boards out of 29 nations and Australia were the first winners of inaugural Eisenhower Trophy.
For next nine years, Lagarde played various national/international tournaments and in 1967 Lagarde was given the golden chance to become captain of France national golf team in upcoming European Amateur Team Championship (1967) held in Turin, Italy and in his first tournament as captain he led France to runner-up finish after losing to Ireland.
Two years later, in 1969 Lagarde played his second European Championship, the 6th edition of European Championship was held in Germany, France had a poor result in that tournament and they finished 12th in standings, this shocked the nation because two years back Lagarde’s team was the second-best team in 1967 to twelfth in 1969.



European Amateur Championship 
(Photo Credit: EGA Twitter Account).

8th European Amateur Championship was comeback tournament for Lagarde, France started their campaign strong by winning first team match against host’s Switzerland, where Roger was part of the winning foursome team and got a tie in singles match, France’s score 5.5 to Switzerland’s 1.5.
France’s next match was against 7th ranked team in leader boards, Wales and yet again Roger won his second foursome match of the tournament but this time he didn’t played singles which was later in evening and eventually, team France defeated Wales by 4.5:2.5 and back to back wins against host and Wales, led them to quarter-finals, were third place team fought to sixth place team so, it was France Vs Spain, was a very close game as France won first foursome game with Roger Lagarde, lost second foursome match.
Next were five singles match, France won first one, lost second one, won third one and Lagarde lost fourth game now, after two foursome matches and four singles matches, score was Spain 4:4 France, it was time for final decider game between Spain’s Miguel Taya and France’s Phillipe Ploujoux, France lost final game 1:0 and total score after fifth singles game was France 3:4 Spain and France lost the match by just one point.
Under Lagarde’s leadership France won two, lost one game in 1971 European Amateur Championship and finished 5th in final classification with an aggregate score of 377.
 
Big hurdle of 1972 :
Start of 1972 saw Mr. Etienne Guyot, President of Fédération Française de Golf or French Golf Federation (FFG) asked Lagarde to become a non-playing captain for France and 38 years old Lagarde had other plans as he instantly declined this offer because he thought that he had still so much golf left in him and by being a non-playing captain, you can instruct and guide your fellow teammates only off the field but can’t participate to play the sport.
 
But this decision led two things:
- By declining the offer, Lagarde had to give up his captainship after leading French side for four years (1967-1971) and pass on his captainship to Claudia Cartier who accepted the position of being non-playing captain of France in 1972.
 
- Year of 1972 was one of the best years of Lagarde’s career as by not taking the offer of non-playing captain and staying in the team as a normal teammate not only led him to focus more on the game but he also won three tournaments in one year namely, National French Championship, Frayssineau-Mouchy Cup, Murat cup.
Because of this, Lagarde was selected in two international tournaments, St Andrews Trophy and World Amateur Golf Championship or Eisenhower Trophy, same year.
 
First tournament was the 9th edition of St Andrews Trophy (Rest of Europe vs Great Britain and Ireland) played between 4th -5th August, 1972 and for the first time in many years rest of Europe won the first event of foursome 3-2 but lost badly in singles by 1.5-8.5 and next day on 5th August, Great Britain and Ireland won St Andrews Trophy for ninth successive time after Saturday’s nine singles match resulted in a tie and Rest of Europe lost St Andrews Trophy by 7 points.



Eisenhower Trophy team of 1972
(Photo Credit: International Golf Federation).

69 Days later, Lagarde played his second world amateur championship (Eisenhower Trophy) in 18th October, 1972 at Buenos Aires, Argentina.
France led by new non-playing captain Claudia Cartier finished tenth in overall standings and USA were the champions of 1972 Eisenhower Trophy.
Also, this was the last time Roger Lagarde played both tournaments, St Andrews Trophy (representing Europe) and Eisenhower Trophy (representing France).
 
After all this achievement finally in 1980, FAA president Guyot understood the value of Roger and returned to his proposal and restored him to the status of captain.
1981 European Amateur Team Championship was the last international tournament Lagarde played and was lucky enough to lead the France amateur national team in his final tournament as a captain and player.
Along with international tournament, Lagarde also won numerous national tournaments like 4 Gounouilhou Trophy champion, 7 French Cup and 1 Frayssineau-Mouchy Cup.



From left to right Philippe Ploujoux,
Pierre Lordereau and Roger Lagarde
(Photo Credit: Golf Club de Rouen).

Few years later, Lagarde retired from professional golf and 9 years earlier in 2011, he was again seen in public eye by holding a club in his hands, accompanied by Philippe Ploujoux and Pierre Lordereau his long time playing mates, as all three had been invited for celebrating 100 years (1911-2011) of Golf club de Rouen, the club where they started their career.
In March 26, 2020 Roger Lagarde died near Rouen (administrative division of France) at age 86.
The world of golf will miss the French golfing maestro.

------------------------------------------------------------------
References: French Golf Federation and Rouen Club of Mont-Saint-Aignan.
[COVER PHOTO CREDIT: GOLF CLUB DE ROUEN]

March 30, 2020 - By Dhruv Trivedi

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