When I watch the Wyndham Championship I like to compare the course to the one I saw when I went to the Greater Greensboro Open in 1976. That was the last year the tournament was at Sedgefield before moving to Forest Oaks. It returned to Sedgefield in 2008. The course has changed some over the 26 years since I was there, but the holes are still recognizable to me.
My memory of the ’76 tournament was a bit fuzzy, so I looked up the details. I remembered that Al Geiberger won and that Lee Trevino was close down the stretch. It turns out that Trevino came in second. Trevino sticks in my mind because we followed him for a few holes and were entertained by his constant chatter. I don’t recall any ropes in 1976, and I know there weren’t all the grandstands. We could sit almost on the fringe of the green as the players putted, so it was easy to hear and see everything.
Miller Barber came in third, but I don’t recall watching him at Sedgefield. My memories of him are probably contaminated by when I watched him at the Houston Open in the ’60’s. His swing was unforgettable and all my images of him are on the course in Houston.
The most interesting part of looking at the stats from ’76 was the payouts. Geiberger got $46,000 for winning. That’s a little less than 5% of what today’s winner will get. Inflation plays a small part, but I can assure you that the 2 bedroom, 1 bath house I sold in Durham, NC in 1976 is not worth $600,000 now. I’d guess it’s $175,000 max, and likely less. It’s just a lot more lucrative to be a pro golfer these days.
Nicklaus was the leading money winner in ’76, and he won $276,000 that year. I remember Nicklaus winning a seniors skins game competition a few years ago and commenting that the check he got for that silly-season event was the largest check he’d ever received for playing golf. I think he got about the same for that skins game as he got for all of 1976.
It’s too bad the purses in my games haven’t changed like they have for the pros. It was a big day for me if I won or lost $5.00 in ’76, and it isn’t much different now. When we say it’s a 2 buck Nassau, “buck” isn’t slang for something else. They still don’t have ropes lining the fairways while I play, either. Maybe there’s a connection there?