In the long-ago summer of ’67, I went with a couple of friends to a day-long golf match at the Toronto Golf Club, the third-oldest course in North America. We were there to watch two of the game’s leading players go head-to-head for Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf, a very popular TV program of the time.
American Mickey Wright, a winner of 82 LPGA championships and 13 majors, was matched against a young Canadian amateur, Marlene Stewart, who went on to become the only person ever to win the Australian, British, Canadian, and U.S. Amateur Championships. Both women have since been elected into the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Florida.
My friends and I were rooting for the Canadian, of course, and after nine holes, she was up by one. We had rushed ahead and strategically placed ourselves behind the ninth green, by the path the players would use on their way to the tenth tee.
As they left the green, the women stopped to be interviewed by the co-hosts of the program, two revered PGA golfers, Jimmy Demaret and Gene Sarazen, by then both retired from the game. Demaret had won 31 tour events during his career, and was the first three-time winner of the Masters. Sarazen, known as ‘The Squire’, had won seven major championships, and is one of five golfers to have won a career grand slam—a U.S. Open (twice), a PGA Championship (three times), the British Open, and the Masters. Both of them are also in the Golf Hall of Fame.
These four people were, indeed, superstars, and there they were, standing right in front of me as the camera rolled, taping proceedings for the hour-long telecast scheduled for later in the season.
I don’t remember what was asked and answered during the interview; it took place, after all, fifty-three years ago. Nor do I remember being conscious at the time that I might be captured on film directly behind the celebrity foursome. And I do not remember ever seeing the program when it was eventually broadcast.
– 0 – 0 – 0 –
Many years later, my eldest daughter, Tara, had married a young CPGA golfer, head professional at one of Ontario’s premier golf courses. We went with them on a week-long golfing holiday to Myrtle Beach, where we played several of the outstanding courses in the area. At the end of one particular day, after enjoying a lovely dinner, the two couples withdrew to our separate bedrooms to read, watch TV, or, in my case, fall asleep.
Sometime shortly after I had done just that, my daughter burst into our room, face alight with excitement.
“Dad! Dad!” she cried.
I wakened immediately, alarmed, worried something was wrong.
“Dad!” she said, plopping herself on the bed beside me. “Did you ever go see a golf match at the old Toronto Golf Club?”
“Huh?” I managed.
“Dad, years ago, Marlene Stewart played a match with Mickey Wright, and it was taped for Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf. Were you there?”
Sitting up now, I tried to remember. “Yeah, I think maybe I was. I would’ve been in my early twenties, before I got married. Why are you asking me now?”
“I knew it!” my daughter said, clapping her hands. By now, our son-in-law, Adam, had joined her in our room.
“This is unbelievable,” he said. “I was fooling with the remote and stopped on the Golf Channel. By chance, there was an old black-and-white program showing a game in Toronto, so we watched it for a bit. The guys hosting it were interviewing the two women playing the match, and there was a young guy standing behind them, right in the middle of the screen.”
My daughter cut in. “I thought, ‘Holy cow! That guy looks a lot like my dad, but younger.’ And just as I was thinking that, Adam said, ‘I think that might be your dad standing there. How old is this program?’ So, it was you?”
The memories were slowly creeping back. “I guess so, yeah,” I said. “I was standing really close to them after the front nine, and I think you’re right. They did stop to be interviewed.”
“Did you get an autograph from any of them?” Tara asked.
“Nope,” I said, seeing it again through the mists of time. “As I recall, Marlene Stewart wasn’t much older than I was, and kinda cute. I’d have been more likely to ask for a date.”
They laughed at that, even my wife, and then my son-in-law said, “I’ve seen you play. You should have asked for a lesson!”
We all laughed at the truth of that, but honestly, I’d been much too shy at the time to ask for any of those things—an autograph, a date, or a lesson.
To this day, I have never seen that program. And I know my memories of being there at the match have been warped by the intervening years. But I do remember those people—Demaret, Sarazen, Wright, and Stewart—just as they were then, frozen in time. Golfing legends.
I was certainly starstruck in the moment. And I could never have imagined reliving the experience through the eyes of a grown daughter half a century later.
Wonderful world of golf, indeed!