By HUGH QUINN
Tanglewood Park is marking the 40th anniversary of one of only two PGA Championships ever played in North Carolina.
The layout, back then known as Tanglewood’s West Course, is now simply referred to as the Championship Course. It was the first venue in the state to play host to the PGA Championship since Pinehurst No. 2 in 1936.
Tanglewood West was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and opened in 1958. He was called back in a few years before the PGA to upgrade the course to the level to host a major championship. It played to a stout 7,050 yards in the era of balata balls and Persimmon clubs. With his customary undulating greens and heavy fairway and greenside bunkering, Jones produced a course to challenge the finest players in the world. And it took one of them to win the 1974 PGA Championship – Lee Trevino.
Trevino had been one of the best players on the PGA Tour since his victory in the 1968 U.S. Open. For 14 straight years, Trevino would win at least one tournament on Tour, including six in 1971 and four in 1972.
Trevino wasn’t exactly on a major roll in 1974 prior to the PGA Championship. He skipped the Masters because he was on his soapbox about not being comfortable at Augusta National, missed the cut at the U.S. Open and tied for 31st at the British Open Championship.
At the PGA, players could not use their Tour caddies; they had to use local caddies. For Bob Whaling, a recent graduate of Davidson College and on his way to law school at the University of North Carolina in the fall, lady luck shined on him and he was picked to caddie for Trevino. Calling it “my 15 minutes of fame,” Whaling recalled Trevino’s announcement on the practice range: “what a wonderful country we live in, where else could a Mexican have a lawyer for his caddie.”
Jack Macauley, a sportswriter for the Winston-Salem Sentinel, and later the voice of Wake Forest basketball and football, reported that Trevino had been struggling with his putting but “Trevino found an old putter in the attic of the home he stayed in during the PGA Championship and played with it.” Macauley emphasized that “Trevino never stopped talking with fans, caddies and fellow competitors. The better he played, the more he talked.”
For another caddie, fate stepped in. Jack Rickard was assigned to Buddy Allin, but Allin had to withdraw shortly before the event, leaving the caddie with no bag. The caddie assigned to Jack Nicklaus knew little about golf so Jack asked for a replacement before the first round. Rickard received a call from the caddiemaster, a friend of his, on Wednesday and he was offered Nicklaus’ bag. He thought it was a joke at first but it wasn’t. “Nicklaus was very easy to work for – he told me to be there 30 minutes before tee time and never asked for help with yardages or reading putts.”
After Round 1, Hubert Green, Ray Floyd and John Schlee shot 2-under par 68s and led by one over 62-year old Sam Snead, Tom Watson, Eddie Pearce, Leonard Thompson, Bobby Cole and Nicklaus. Player and Trevino opened with 73s. Hale Irwin withdrew prior to the tournament due to the pending birth of his child. (Historical footnote: President Richard Nixon announced that he would be resigning his office the next day at noon.)
In Round 2, Schlee continued his excellent play with a 67 to take a one-shot lead over Green, who shot his second consecutive 68. But the story of the day was Player’s 64 to move into a tie with Cole for third place. Trevino also improved with a 66 to move up to sixth.
After 54 holes, Trevino was now the leader after firing another 68 for a 207 total. Nicklaus and Cole were one shot behind.
The final round proved to be very exciting with Trevino, Nicklaus and Cole jockeying for the lead. Macauley reported that “Cole was still in the hunt until the 71st hole when he whiffed a shot trying to escape the left rough under a pine tree and made double bogey.” Also on the 71st hole, Trevino, playing in the final group alongside Nicklaus and Green, hit his approach to 20 feet but three-putted. Whaling said “he turned towards me and gave the choke sign.” His lead over Nicklaus dropped to one going to the 72nd hole of the tournament.
Nicklaus led off and hit a 3-wood into the middle of the fairway. Trevino, hitting driver, also found the fairway ahead of Nicklaus. With the hole cut in the back right of the green, Nicklaus hit a 4-iron to the fringe, about 23 feet from the hole. Trevino hit a 6- iron to about 18 feet. Nicklaus’ ball had some mud on it but could not be cleaned because it was on the fringe. He made a great putt but it didn’t break as much as anticipated and he marked his ball. Now it was up to Lee to two-putt to win the tournament; after missing the first putt and feeling a lot of pressure, he asked Nicklaus and Green if he could finish out. Request granted and Trevino finished off his par for a 4-under par 276.
Nicklaus finished second at 277 and four players – Snead, Cole, Green and Dave Hill tied for third at 279. Trevino won $45,000 and Whaling, his law school bound caddie, received $4,000.
Trevino would go on to win one more major 10 years later in the PGA at Shoal Creek. As a member of the Champions Tour, Trevino won again at Tanglewood in the 1993 Vantage Championship.
Note: Tanglewood Park is celebrating the 40th anniversary August 4-10 by hosting a week-long tournament for all players. Play any time that week and for a $5 entry per round, the player is entered into the contest. Those players who shoot the lowest rounds from each of the tees will win prizes.
Call 336-703-6420 for more information.