Go ahead, hand it to Huston, but don't forget about San Antonio. Let the record show that there were Texas-sized differences between last week's Hawaiian Open, at which John Huston finished 28 under par to break the PGA Tour's four-round scoring record, and the 1955 Texas Open, at which Mike Souchak (left) shot one of the two 27-under scores in Tour history ( Ben Hogan had the other, in 1945) in conditions many competitors remember as the worst they've ever seen.
In Hawaii, there was poi. In Texas, there was mud. So much of it that the players hit their tee shots off mats all week. Where there wasn't mud, the ground was frozen. "The weather that week was pretty tough—horrible, in fact," says Arnold Palmer, who finished sixth. "It snowed, and it was very muddy. You were two inches taller when you finished than when you started with that great Texas caliche on your golf shoes."
San Antonio had been sunny on Thursday and Friday, but toward the end of Saturday's third round a two-club blue norther came rolling in, changing everything. "It caught me on the 14th hole, and the temperature dropped 15, 20 degrees," Souchak says. "It got damn cold by the time we finished." Still, he birdied two of the last five holes for a 64. That night it snowed, a light dusting that greeted the players when they awoke for the final round. "I've seen more rain and I've seen more wind," says 1959 PGA champion Bob Rosburg, "but the combination, there wasn't much worse than that."
Rosburg, who was paired with Souchak on Sunday along with Canadian pro Jerry Kesselring, had to stop frequently to pry the mud off his cleats, using a knife he'd lifted from the breakfast table. Players heated their hands over fires that were built on the tees. It was so cold that 10 players called it quits. Rosburg was almost one of them. He was four over as he trudged up the fairway of the par-5 9th, and he was cold. "Souch, I'm not playing very well," Rosburg said. "I'm going to quit."
Souchak was alarmed. Rosburg had won on Tour and was a calming influence, and his departure would leave Souchak with only Kesselring, who was lost in the middle of a 77. "Don't you dare quit, Rossi," Souchak said. "I'm about to win my first tournament, and I'm scared half to death. Don't leave me. Everybody else is playing poorly too."
Rosburg eagled the 9th and decided to play on. Souchak, of course, won easily, and he set one of the most enduring records in the game. A former lineman and kicker at Duke, he shot 60-68-64-65 for a 257. "We all knew it was an amazing score," says Peter Allis.
Hogan was also bumped down a notch by Huston. The Hawk shot 27 under at the Portland Invitational. Souchak's 27 under has always received greater play, though, because it was really two records in one. Since it was shot on a par-71 course ( Hogan's and Huston's were on par-72s), Souchak's stroke total was lower. So the Holy Grail of golf records remains the 257, shot on 6,400-yard Brackenridge Park, a muni that now has an expressway running through the back nine.
A number of things about Souchak's '55 Texas Open win suggest some special forces at work. Souchak was born on May 10, 1927, was 27 when he broke the record, shot 27 on the back nine on Thursday, had 27 under-par holes in the tournament (25 birdies, two eagles and two bogeys) and had 27 putts in the first and the final rounds. When Souchak woke up on Sunday morning, about to make history, it was not only "colder than Willie-be-damned," as Souchak says, it was 27 degrees.