NCGA Golf

Spring 2019

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52 SPRING 2019 | NCGA.ORG And that was just one week in two careers full of memorable moments. Spander and Barkow, longtime chron- iclers of the game, are Northern California golf-writing treasures. Maybe they haven't seen it all, but they've seen a lot – enough to share terrific stories about the five previ- ous U.S. Opens at Pebble Beach and time spent with legends such as Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller. Ahead of this year's Open, we gathered with Spander and Barkow for breakfast at a diner in Oakland, where they both live. The ensuing, hour-long journey through the game's history was alternately educa- tional and entertaining. Among their most vivid memories: that '72 U.S. Open, the first time America's national championship came to Pebble Beach. Barkow found himself crouched behind the par-3 17th tee during the final round, when Nicklaus arrived with a three- stroke lead. Nicklaus already had won the Masters in '72, and here he stood on the brink of pocketing another major. He grabbed his 1-iron, now essentially an extinct club, and smacked a 20-to-30-yard hook by Barkow's estimate. The ball bounced once, clanged off the flagstick and stopped inches from the hole. "Everyone went crazy," Barkow says. "That shot didn't win the tournament – he was going to win anyway – but it obviously locked it up. If we had cell phones in those days, all of us (writers) walking down the 18th fairway would have been on the phone booking Muirfield for the British Open. The (Grand) Slam was in play." Spander also was there in '72 – he's cov- ered all five U.S. Opens at Pebble and plans to return for No. 6 in June – but he told a more personal, surprising story. He went to the cart shed to conduct interviews after the second round (that's where players hung out in those days), with scores soaring amid typically rugged course conditions. One player asked Spander about the 36-hole cut, and he quoted an NCGA of- ficial who predicted a crazy-high number. Dave Hill, a 13-time PGA Tour winner and runner-up in the 1970 Open, didn't like the answer, mostly because he struggled the first two days (74-78) and might not stick around for the weekend. He pulled out five $100 bills, slapped them on the table and proposed a bet on the cutline. Those stakes were steep for Spander, who declined – prompting Hill to call him "a gutless ----" as he leaped over a table and took a swing. Spander ducked. Hill missed...but not the cut. ••••• Spander, 80, grew up in Los Angeles and attended UCLA, but he has been writ- ing about golf and other sports in Northern F orty-seven years later, Art Spander remembers evading a punch from one temperamental player during the 1972 U.S. Open. Al Barkow recalls watching the majestic, sweeping arc of one of the most storied shots in Open history. "What makes our business interesting are the personalities. There's no better sport than golf because you get to know people . I've always enjoyed that." —Art Spander Art Spander (left) and Al Barkow have chronicled golf and other games around the globe, but count some of their fondest memories closer to home. ROBERT KAUFMAN

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