The Premier golf
course in Longview, Texas will never be selected as a U.S. Open site for
reasons which do not whimper for explanation. At the same time, the short, piny
nine-hole layout is not the easiest ever conceived for man or midget.
Every hole has a
tight boundary separating it from the Premier Oil refinery or from a cluster of
pine trees or an east Texas road or a field. It has greens that make a trading
stamp swagger with bigness. It also has tees, grass, flags, bunkers and rough.
It is, in short, a legitimate par 70 golf course, although the kindest
adjective for it might be sporty.
To score well at
Premier one must drive the ball very straight because of the boundaries, hit
approaches and chips with finest caution and, as on any course, sink putts.
Last week Homero Blancas, one of the most promising young players in the
nation—amateur or professional—did all three and shot the lowest competitive
round in the history of U.S. golf.
13 holes and eagled another for a 15-under-par 27, 28-55, a totally shocking
and peculiar figure that doesn't sound like the score of any game at all and
looked to sports page readers like the funniest typographical error since Eli
Grba started pitching.
The occasion was
the final round of the 72-hole Premier Invitational, a familiar event on Texas'
vast summer circuit for amateurs—the same circuit that for years has been
preparing the Hogans, Nelsons, Demarets, Burkes, Maxwells and Cupits for a
course measured 5,002 yards for the 18 holes of Blancas' incredible journey. He
began the round five strokes out of the tournament lead after believable scores
of 69 and 70 and an extraordinary 62. He won by five after he had finished
hitting 17 greens in regulation figures, chipping in once for his eagle and
taking only 20 putts.
Blancas is one
of those University of Houston golfers who have contributed to Coach Dave
Williams' six NCAA team championships in the past seven years. A 24-year-old
Mexican, he is five feet 10, weighs 180 pounds, can hit the long ball and
innocently says in a voice that reminds you of a young Desi Arnaz, "It
doesn't scare me to make a lot of birdies."
Paired with a
teammate, Fred Marti, at Longview, Homero didn't believe the score he was
shooting. "I was just trying to win," he said. "Fred told me I was
six under after six, and I said, 'That's not right.' I figured it up and I was
wrong. Later he told me I was 12 under through 14, and I argued with him. But I
added it up and he was right again."
Blancas, who won
the Southern Intercollegiate and was runner-up to Houston teammate Kermit
Zarley in the NCAA finals, finished his round with the flourish of a 40-foot
birdie putt on 17 and a gimmie birdie on the par 5 18th. He mysteriously missed
one birdie putt of two feet and made only one long putt, the one on 17. Most of
the birdies ranged from eight feet in. On all of the par 4s at Premier his long
and accurate drives left him no more than an eight-iron approach, and usually a
"It is wise
to take out the driver on only four holes there," Homero explained. "On
the other holes you ought to drive with an iron to stay in bounds.