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Getting the shaft

We have all known a professional disaster dodger, the kind of person who says, "I was supposed to have been on that plane, but my wife paints with acrylic, and her exhibition was opening at the museum." For a variety of reasons in 1981, I somehow became a professional big story misser where the game of golf was concerned.

For instance, when Arnold Palmer won the U.S. Senior Open, I was vacationing on another continent. If I had known that Arnold was going to win his first tournament since Hannibal crossed the Alps, I would have made other arrangements. The best and most dramatic finish of the year came at the U.S. Women's Open when Pat Bradley and Beth Daniel made about 7,000 birdies each, and Pat finally won despite her Aoki-style putting stroke. I had a jaw that had swollen to the size of Aoki, which was why I was at the dentist instead of at the U.S. Women's Open.

Certainly the most moving day of the year was at the U.S. Amateur when Nathaniel Crosby, by winning the tournament, did more for it than anyone since Bobby Jones. I would have liked to have been there to watch the grateful tears streaming down the faces of the USCA officials, but I was home transferring all of my Bing Crosby 78s onto cassettes.

All in all, the biggest moment of the year came when Jerry Pate dived into the lake after winning the Memphis Classic. That peculiar antic put golf on the front page for the first time since Ben Hogan's comeback in 1950, which was the first time since Jones completed the Grand Slam in 1930, which was the first time since Francis Ouimet had made America aware of the sport in the first place by scoring his startling upset over Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in the 1913 Open. Ouimet, Jones, Hogan and now Pate. I can't remember exactly why I wasn't there for Pate's performance, except that I had seen Memphis before and I presumed it hadn't changed.