One Sunday in the spring of 1976 my wife, myself, and a fellow intern headed from Durham to Greensboro to take in the final round of the Greater Greensboro Open. As most of you probably know, the GGO went on to become The Wyndham Championship that is being played this week. The tournament left Sedgefield Country Club after 1976, but returned 32 years later and is played there now.
It’s funny how well golf holes stick in your mind. I can recognize certain features of the holes at the Wyndham, even though I never played them, they’ve certainly undergone changes, and my only contact with them was one afternoon 35 years ago. I’ve always suspected that if I returned to play the courses of my youth I’d hit the same crappy shots I did when I was a teenager because my old memories would take over my brain and direct the ball to familiar ground.
The only exception to this rule that I know of is a course I played during the summer between my junior and senior years in high school. It was a relatively new course (in 1966) a few miles from the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. I had a few hours to kill before my flight several years ago and drove over to see it and my old house. I could hardly recognize the course because the pine trees had grown so much – in fact, I could hardly see the holes that ran along the roads, and they were wide open when I played them as a teenager. I’d be safe from the influence of the past if I played there now.
Anyway, back to the GGO. Al Geiberger went on the win in 1976. I had to look that up, although I could remember that whoever won was a tall, thin guy that could be easily seen over the heads of the spectators. We didn’t follow Geiberger a lot because we were more interested in two other players.
Sam Snead had a long and successful career in Greensboro, and was still playing the GGO in 1976. He was 63 years old and far out of the lead, but he had played well enough to make the cut. His swing was a butter smooth in person as it was on film, if not more so. We forgot about the rest of the tournament as we followed him, as I think most of his gallery did.
As Snead neared the end of his round, we dropped back to watch Lee Trevino. Trevino had a smaller gallery, and it was easy to get right up to the edge of play where we could listen to his constant chatter. The contrast of Snead and Trevino, both in swing mechanics and behavior, made for an interesting lesson in different ways to play the game.
That afternoon remains one of my most enjoyable golf watching days. I was amazed at how far the pros hit it back then, and their drives were chip shots compared to today’s pros. I haven’t been out to a tournament for several years, but need to do it again. The only problem is I can’t see as far as they hit it these days.