"I knew I had it then," Dave said later. "That was the shot."
You could total it up at that point. Palmer had finished second in the PGA for the third time in his career. (His Army may be surprised to learn that it was his 10th second-place finish in major championships. He has eight firsts.) And the PGA had another young man, like all of those Al Geibergers, for a champion. Name of Stockton. Friend of Geiberger.
In every way Southern Hills fretted and worked to see that the championship was run smoothly and better than any other PGA—and the club succeeded. The tournament didn't have the atmosphere of the tired old PGA Championship. It had more class than that. It was more like a U.S. Open in the look of the club and the course and in the general conduct of the tournament.
Southern Hills is simply one of the truly fine and beautiful clubs in the country. The large, elegant white clubhouse sits on a hill surrounded by elms, and the course swoops down below, winding through trees and creeks. From high points one can see the small but polished city of Tulsa popping up over the treetops. The mood of it all is old but not ancient—roomy, classy, quiet and, well, rich.
To people of the Southwest, Southern Hills has been famed as a great golf course and fine club since it was built in 1935. In 1958 it got national recognition as the host to the U.S. Open, the one Tommy Bolt captured. It got another boost in 1965 when it held the U.S. Amateur that Bob Murphy won. And now it has staged the PGA.
Southern Hills falls splendidly into the category of clubs that have marvelous courses and facilities, not to forget hardworking members who like to put on a good tournament. Clubs like Cherry Hills, Oakland Hills, Oakmont, Winged Foot and Merion. It does not yet have their prestige, but it should—and will.
Typical of Southern Hills" enthusiasm for the PGA Championship was the way the club tried to dazzle the visiting writers. When 10 straight days of over-100° heat in Tulsa had left the press—as well as real people—worried about the weather for this tournament, Southern Hills decided to change it. They hauled in 100 tons of air conditioning for the blue-and-white-striped press tent, decorated the posts and ceiling wires with Christmas icicles, placed huge cardboard snowmen outside the entrace doors and ran around serving champagne breakfasts to the literati. The club even gave considerable thought to how it ought to dress for the PGA. They hired Designer Bill Blass to outfit the lady scorers and the 400 other tournament volunteers in simple white dresses, trimmed in blue, with wide-brimmed hats.
The PGA Championship, which of course is one of the four major pro tournaments of the year, may one day be able to look back and see that in Tulsa it regained much of its faded importance. It has been rattling around on too many Columbines and Pecan Valleys for too long. Southern Hills marked a turn for the better.
The PGA has some other prestige places lined up for future championships. Oakland Hills in 1972, for example, and perhaps Canterbury in 1973. First, however, the championship must go to Palm Beach Gardens in Florida next February. That is the PGA's own golf club near Palm Beach, and it is a good one, if not the best that the late Dick Wilson ever designed. But February? It's interesting to consider what that means.
Among other things, it means that the PGA Championship in 1971 will be the first rather than the last of the Big Four, that it will precede even the Masters. The decision to play it then was not an attempt by the PGA to take any glory away from Augusta, as some at first believed, nor to explore the publicity possibilities of that earlier date. The fact is, it was written into the contract the PGA has with the owner of Palm Beach Gardens that the big championship had to be played there "sometime." February of "sometime" was the best month for the course, so six months from now there'll be another PGA Championship. Then things will return to normal again for '72 and thereafter.