Strange But True: Five Dollar Putter

In July 1964, golfer Bobby Nichols went to a party at Owl Creek Country Club near his hometown, Louisville, Kentucky. Feeling restless because he was going to play in the PGA the following week, Nichols wandered into the pro shop and began to poke around the items offered for sale. He found a used putter that struck his fancy.

“How much?” Nichols asked.

“Five dollars.”

“I’ll take it.”

In the PGA tournament at the Columbus Country Club in Ohio, the putter began to earn back its purchase price. In the first round Nichols carded 64, scoring eight birdies. Four times he dropped the ball in from more than ten feet out.

In the third round the putter saved Nichols from disaster. He should have been way over par; instead, he shot a 69. Nichols made good a 10-footer on the first hole, a 20-footer on the second hole, a 15-footer on the twelfth and a 25-footer on the fifteenth.

The magic putter continued to serve him well in the fourth round. On the tenth hole he popped a beautiful 35-foot putt for an eagle. On the fifteenth, he made good a 15-foot tap, followed by one from 12 feet out on the sixteenth. But the putt that brought gasps from the crowd was the one on the seventeenth hole. From just over 50 feet away, Nichols rolled the ball into the cup. His putting had made him the PGA champ.

Incredibly, Bobby Nichols had made only 119 putts for the total of 72 holes. Even the great Jack Nicklaus had made 134 putts in the tournament. Nichols gave all the credit to the old putter he had picked up in a pro shop for five dollars.

From Strange But True Sports Stories by Howard Liss. Illustrations by Joe Mathieu.

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