PORTLAND, Ore. – A 60-year anniversary celebration of the 1947 Ryder Cup, held Sept. 14 at Portland Golf Club, was highlighted by Billy Casper’s emotional keynote speech.
No American golfer has more Ryder Cup appearances or more points won than Casper. With his sensitive view of golf history and his understanding of how the game can bring people together, Casper is the embodiment of the Ryder Cup.
Furthermore, Casper has emerged as perhaps the most compelling speaker in golf. For me, listening to him reminisce about the Ryder Cup and golf in general has been the biggest treat of the year.
With men in tuxedos and women in evening dresses and Casper being Casper, this was a remarkable evening.
• • •
Casper and Miller Barber once left the Ryder Cup (yes, the actual Ryder Cup) in the overhead compartment of a train car.
Busy playing gin rummy and talking, they completely forgot about the Cup.
OK, there were no secret agents to steal away the prize. To the great relief of Casper, it was later retrieved.
Other stories told by Billy Casper:
• “Payne Stewart loved the Ryder Cup more than any player I ever saw.”
• “Maybe the Ryder Cup I remember most was the one in which Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin were playing each other in singles (1969, at Royal Birkdale) and that match was going to decide the Cup.
“On the last green, Nicklaus made a three-and-a-half footer, then picked up Jacklin’s coin, which was about 3 feet from the hole. The result was a tie (the first in Ryder Cup history).
“Let me tell you, we were a little irate. Sam Snead, who was the captain, was a lot irate. You look back and think what a great gesture it was, but at the time all of us were mad at Nicklaus.”
• “I remember rooming with Gary Player. At night, he was down on the floor doing pushups. He asked me, ‘Bill, do you do any exercises?’
“I answered right away. ‘Yes,’ I told him, ‘right before bed. Let me show you (he starts slapping his oversized stomach, first with the right hand, then the left). That’s it.’ ”
• “It seems like Arnold Palmer and I were always rivals. It wasn’t just the 1966 U.S. Open (in which Casper erased a seven-stroke deficit on the final nine holes of regulation play and then beat Palmer in an 18-hole playoff).
“When the Senior Tour came around, Arnold and I disagreed about golf carts. Most of the players wanted them, and so did I. Well, Arnold didn’t.
“After it was decided in our favor, Arnold came up to me and said, ‘I hope you get your cart stuck up to the axles in mud.’ ”
• “The Champions Dinner at the Masters is always interesting. After I won, we had prime rib. Sandy Lyle had haggis. Mike Weir served elk. Nick Faldo, fish and chips. Tiger Woods had hamburgers and milk shakes.
“Byron Nelson ate one of those hamburgers and said to me, ‘Man this tastes good, but don’t tell my wife. I’m not supposed to eat them.’ ”
• “Tiger does two things better than Nicklaus ever did. One is his short game. Second is his imagination. It’s the imagination that impresses me the most – it is un-be-lievable.”
• “Sure, I was a pretty good putter for a long time. I did really well with that old Ray Cook (mallet) putter.
“Finally I stopped using it. My wife and I have 11 kids, so you never know what’s going to happen to things. When I saw the Ray Cook again, the lead plugs (in the sole of the putter) were gone.”
• • •
Portland Golf Club has been the site of numerous tournaments since its founding in 1914.
In addition to the 1946 PGA Championship and 1947 Ryder Cup, the club hosted the Western Open, U.S. Senior Open. U.S. Senior Amateur and a number of PGA Tour events in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.
Billy Casper won four PGA Tour titles at the club – three Portland Opens and one Alcan Open.
• • •
Results of the 1947 Ryder Cup, won 11-1 by the United States team (all matches were 36 holes):
FOURSOMES: Porky Oliver-Lew Worsham (U.S.) def. Henry Cotton-Art Lees, 10 and 8.
Sam Snead-Lloyd Mangrum (U.S.) def. Fred Daly-Charlie Ward, 6 and 5.
Ben Hogan-Jimmy Demaret (U.S.) def. Jimmie Adams-Max Faulkner, 2-up.
Byron Nelson-Herman Barron (U.S.) def. Dai Rees-Sam King, 2 and 1.
SINGLES: Dutch Harrison (U.S.) def. Fred Daly, 5 and 4.
Lew Worsham (U.S.) def. Jimmie Adams, 3 and 2.
Lloyd Mangrum (U.S.) def. Max Faulkner, 6 and 5.
Porky Oliver (U.S.) def. Charlie Ward, 4 and 3.
Byron Nelson (U.S.) def. Art Lees, 2 and 1.
Sam Snead (U.S.) def. Henry Cotton, 5 and 4.
Jimmy Demaret (U.S.) def. Dai Rees, 3 and 2.
Sam King (GB&I) def. Herman Keiser, 4 and 3.
• • •
Chad Campbell approached Casper after his speech and asked meekly, “Mr. Casper, would you sign my program?”
Casper replied, “Yes, I’d be happy to do that, but please call me Billy.”
Campbell: “Thank you, Mr. Casper.”
Casper: “It’s Billy.”
Campbell: “I can’t call you that, Mr. Casper.”
Reflecting on the Ryder Cup, Campbell said, “Tiger Woods probably wants to win the Ryder Cup more than anybody on the team.
“It gets construed that Americans don’t want to win, but that’s not true.”
Then he added, “Talk about pressure in the Ryder Cup. (On the first tee) I couldn’t feel the golf club, I couldn’t feel my hands, I couldn’t feel my body.”
• • •
Brian Whitcomb, president of the PGA of America: “According to Zinger (Paul Azinger), he (Chad Campbell) will be a three-time Ryder Cup member.”
Campbell played in the 2004 and 2006 Ryder Cups, compiling an overall record of 1-3-2.
• • •
Verne Perry, who caddied in the 1947 Ryder Cup and later would turn pro and become a national vice president of the PGA of America: “All we knew was that a bunch of golfers from England and Scotland were coming over, and we were going to beat their butts.”
• • •
Chief executive Sandy Jones of the PGA of Europe: “Robert Hudson (the Portlander who personally paid all the expenses of the 1947 Ryder Cup team from Great Britain and Ireland) was a great visionary for the game.”
Hudson, a distributor of groceries and produce, had deep feelings for golf professionals and the PGA of America. After the success of the 1946 PGA Championship and 1947 Ryder Cup, Hudson was named to the PGA’s powerful advisory committee and eventually became its chairman.
He was named Man of the Year in 1947 by the Golf Writers Association of America, and today he is rightfully remembered as the man who saved the Ryder Cup.