Carolinas Golf Magazine

SPR 2019

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Page 21 of 51

For the next nine holes or so, the lead hovered between one and two shots. Dave Stockton, Kermit Zarley, and Dwight Neville each got close and fell back over that stretch, and Deane Beman stayed right behind Sam as well. On the 14th hole, the green resembled the fourth green, and once again the pin was in a nasty spot. Leaving the ball above the hole was no good, but that's just where Sam hit it. He had a 15-footer for birdie, but if the putt misses, there's no way to keep it within six feet of the hole. Sam stroked the putt, and it missed, rolling past the cup the inevitable six feet or so beyond. Rather than marking and letting Beman who was outside of six feet take his turn, Sam turned to Beman and said, "I'll finish." He knocked it in, and when Deane Beman then three-putted, that essentially took Beman out of the mix. At that point, Sam had a one stroke lead, but leaderboards were neither electric nor plentiful. So, on 15, Sam needed to be steady and play the odds. Unfortunately, his approach shot went just where it shouldn't, over the green and in a difficult spot from which to save par. Sam's short game skills bailed him out once more and he got up and down for his par. On 16, he finally had a short putt for birdie, and as he lined it up he thought, "if I make this one, I'm set." Bad thought, bad putt, no birdie. On the 17th tee, a par 3, Sam still held a one stroke lead. He hit a solid shot stop- ping about 15 to 18 feet from the cup. As he was walking down the fairway, Bob Wynn, the third player in the final group, turned to Sam and said, "I believe that's about your range." Wynn's crystal ball was right on as Sam made that birdie putt and stretched the lead to two strokes as he headed to the final hole. The 18th at Crow Valley is a par 5. It called for a cut off the tee for a left-hander, not the usual shape of Sam's natural draw. But he hit a good one, bending ever so slightly to the left and settling nicely in the fairway. Reaching the green in two was pos- sible, but Sam took note of the deep bunkers guarding the green and decided to lay up. He said to himself, "the only way I can lose this is by dumping this shot into one of those bunkers and getting a horrible lie." He hit a perfect layup to about 20 yards short of the green. When he got to the ball just short of the green, Sam looked to his caddie and said, "Clarence, I believe we've won this tourna- ment." Now, Clarence was not a regular tour caddie. Clarence Hilliard had just taken a week off of work at the local Alcoa Aluminum plant and just happened to end up looping for Sam. When Sam made that comment about winning, Clarence could have said something like "great job Sam, you did it!" Or, he could have said, "let's not get ahead of ourselves, Sam. Focus on this one shot." Or, as Sam recalls it, "Clarence just stood there. He looked like he was desperate to say something, any- thing, but nothing came out of his mouth. It actually relaxed me." Sam pitched the ball to about 8 feet from the pin. He lined up the putt and silently reminded himself of his two-stroke lead. His last thought, "don't be a hero, just cozy this up there and get the win." He drew back his trusty putter and rammed it much harder than he had intended. But the line was perfect, and the ball hit the back of the cup and dropped in for a three- stroke win. For Sam, all the stars aligned that week, and no one can take away from him that he is the very first U.S. born left- handed golfer to win on the PGA Tour. Sam continued to play on the Tour for a few more years, but the 1973 Quad Cities Open was his only victory. As Sam said, "it was a great experience being on the Tour, but I probably stayed a bit too long out there. It's a grind, and I'm not and never was a big 'socializer', so it's quite a lonely life. By 1975, our daugh- ter was born and I guess I wanted to be home more than I did to be on Tour." That said, it was not an easy decision to leave the tour. "It's hard to give up on your boyhood dream, much harder to give it up than if you had never had the chance in the first place. But when I look back at it all, I consider myself to be a lucky guy. I got to live out that boyhood dream even if it didn't turn out exactly as I had expected." Sam left the tour and for over 40 years he served as the PGA Head Professional at the Red Tail Mountain Golf Club just over the Tennessee line about 20 miles west of his home in Boone. He started there over- seeing the creation of the course as well as just about every other aspect of operating a golf course that you can think of. That did- n't leave much time for Sam to practice and play, but every now and again Sam made the time to play competitively. At age 54, Sam teed it up in the 2000 Tennessee PGA Section Championship and beat the kids. So if you are in the Boone area and you see a left-hander hitting a sweet draw and draining putts from all over, take the oppor- tunity to introduce yourself. You just might get to meet a really great guy, and the very first U.S. born left-hander to win on the PGA Tour. ■ Jeff Morris lives in South Carolina and is a retired law professor and a fledgling left-handed golfer (after 55 years of right-handed golfing). 20 | | S P R I N G 2 0 1 9 "When I look back at it all, I consider myself to be a lucky guy. I got to live out that boyhood dream even if it didn't turn out exactly as I had expected." —Sam Adams COURTESY OF THE JOH

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