NCGA Golf

Spring 2019

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California since he started at the San Fran- cisco Chronicle in 1965. He became a colum- nist at the San Francisco Examiner in 1979 and now freelances for numerous media outlets. Spander has been honored by Au- gusta National (he's set to attend his 53rd Masters this April), the Rose Bowl (66 of the New Year's gridiron classic, if you count the times he sold programs there) and the Pro Football Hall of Fame (41 Super Bowls, including this year's New England Patriots victory). Barkow, 86, grew up in Chicago, played college golf at Western Illinois (and quali- fied for the 1971 U.S. Amateur – "one of my biggest thrills," he says) while making his name writing and producing for "Shell's Wonderful World of Golf" and as an editor for Golf Magazine and Golf Illustrated. Barkow has written 12 books, including a biography of Sam Snead and a history of the PGA Tour. He moved to the Bay Area in 2002. They both agree on the fundamental appeal of writing about golf – its abundant personalities and rich history. That in- evitably leads to compelling stories. "What makes our business interesting are the personalities," Spander says. "There's no better sport than golf because you get to know people. I've always enjoyed that." Among the people Spander and Barkow got to know a bit: Hogan, who was famously gruff. Barkow, as a kid, became fascinated by Hogan while watching him play in the Tam O'Shanter tournaments outside Chicago. Decades later, when the PGA Tour launched the Ben Hogan Tour in 1990 – a precursor to today's Web.com Tour – Barkow sat down for a long interview with Hogan. Their chat yielded uncom- mon insight. "I discovered if you called him Ben instead of Mr. Hogan, he eased up a little," Barkow says. "Then he knew you weren't intimidated. He was a great in- timidator." Spander recalls seeing Hogan during a practice round before the 1966 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club. A TV interviewer asked players for brief interviews as they walked from the No. 2 green to the No. 3 tee, and virtually all of them – including Nicklaus – complied. Hogan stopped ever so briefly, said, "No," and kept walking. Most of Spander's interactions with players were longer and more fruitful. He remembers casual, late-afternoon chats with Nicklaus on the practice range, back in the day when writers had more access to players. But Spander's best relationship with a PGA Tour player was Miller, the San Fran- cisco native whose 25 wins (including two majors) propelled him to the Hall of Fame. Spander covered Miller's rise to stardom for The Chronicle, most memorably his final- round stampede to win the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont. Spander and Miller remain good friends to this day. "Johnny is very open, and not just on television," Spander says. "I remember at Pebble once, he had a chance to beat Nick- laus (in the Crosby) and he came into the press room and said, 'Boy, I shanked that ball.' You never heard a golfer say 'shank.' But nothing bothered Johnny." ••••• Spander and Barkow own rich recollec- tions of all five U.S. Opens at Pebble Beach. Tom Watson produced the signature shot in 1982, of course. Watson, already immersed in a riveting rivalry with Nick- laus, was in danger of losing his lead when he stunningly holed his chip shot on No. 17 in the final round. Barkow still marvels at Nicklaus' expres- sion in the scorer's tent. "Jack was really down and depressed when Watson's shot went in," Barkow says. "You could see it in Jack's face. His reaction was, 'Oh my God, the guy holed out.'" Ten years later, in '92, the wind became the biggest storyline. Tom Kite weathered the conditions, holing his chip shot on No. 7 on his way to victory. Barkow, following Kite at the time, remembers how impressed he was with the way Kite deftly handled the "incredible" gusts alongside Carmel Bay. It didn't hurt, as Barkow points out, that Kite grew up in Texas and had plenty of experience playing in the wind. One of Spander's enduring memories of the 1992 Open was unrelated to the out- come – Nick Faldo climbing a tree on No. 14 in search of his ball. The television image of Faldo shaking the branches was classic, but, alas, he never found the ball. In 2000, only one player ultimately mat- tered: Tiger, Tiger, Tiger. Spander always flashes back to Woods' second shot on No. 6 in the second round, when he muscled a 7-iron shot out of the rough, up the hill and onto the green to set up an eagle putt. "It's not a fair fight," course reporter Roger Maltbie said on television at the time. He would get no argument from our writers/historians. "Tiger was in a different world," Barkow says. "He would have beaten anybody that week, including Nicklaus, with the kind of golf he was playing." Ten years later, in 2010, came probably the least compelling of Pebble's five Opens. Woods surged into contention on Saturday, but he, Dustin Johnson and other big- name players faltered in the final round. Graeme McDowell persevered and won at even par. "It's funny: At Olympic Club the 'wrong guy' won every Open and at Pebble the right guy won it until McDowell," Spander says. "He was a pretty good player. It's just that nobody expected it." That's the beauty of golf, as Spander and Barkow know better than anyone. Ron Kroichick covers golf for the San Francisco Chronicle. 54 SPRING 2019 | NCGA.ORG Bird's-eye-view of the magnificent stretch of holes, Nos. 6-8, at Pebble Beach. EVAN SCHILLER

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