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AMATEUR WEEK AT THE HERITAGE
Curry Kirkpatrick
December 07, 1970
For three days Lanny Wadkins and Steve Melnyk gave the touring pros lessons in the care and feeding of a hellish golf course. Then an old Master showed that patience counts for something
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December 07, 1970

Amateur Week At The Heritage

For three days Lanny Wadkins and Steve Melnyk gave the touring pros lessons in the care and feeding of a hellish golf course. Then an old Master showed that patience counts for something

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Sadistic pin placements, especially on the par-3s, made the first round a nightmare despite ideal playing conditions. Goalby, charmed by the setting, said, "I could shoot 50 coming home and still love it." He almost did. His 40 on the back nine Thursday spoiled a fine 34 going out. He was not alone. As the day dwindled and par held up, those who thought to inquire found that only twice in the last two years had par stood up so well in the first round of a tour event—once in this year's San Antonio Open, when Rod Funseth managed the only subpar round in sleet and hail, and at the U.S. Open at Hazeltine, where Tony Jacklin shot a 71 while everyone else was getting blown away.

Sure enough, just when everybody was preparing adjectives for the place ("horrible, horrifying, hard-boiled Harbour Town"), here came Homero Blancas back from the lighthouse behind 18 with a one-under 70, and all vowed to have tacos with their turkey that evening. John Miller may have done more than vow. A prolonged case of stomach cramps that struck him Friday morning didn't keep him from coming in with a 66, and when Melnyk carded a 67 (after a night of relatively restrained feasting and a visit to a home where Hollis Stacy, U.S. Girls Junior champion, was staying with her family) Harbour Town didn't seem quite so ominous.

But winning the Heritage was especially on Melnyk's mind. "I don't play in these things just for the experience," he said. "I want to beat the pros." It is no secret that Melnyk remained an amateur this year only so he might go to Spain for the World Amateur Team Championship and to St. Andrews for the Walker Cup in May. When he was not named to the World team despite his impressive record in the amateur ranks over the last two years, he felt jilted. "I guess I'm not one of the four best amateurs in the country," Steve said bitterly.

If Melnyk is not the best amateur in the country, then Wadkins certainly is. Lanny won eight amateur tournaments last summer, including the U.S. championship, and Harbour Town seemed perfectly suited to his driving game, which is startling in its accuracy, and to his feathery iron play. "I'm just bangin' it in and havin' some fun," he said after one day's round. "I know I can shoot par here."

At the end of the second round Miller (with a four-under 138) and Melnyk (one stroke behind) were the only players under par. The next day the two fell back into the field, as everybody suspected they would, but Miller fell too far back with his 80, while Melnyk birdied the picturesque 18th to hang onto a share of the lead. At that point, nine players, including Captain Arnie and one of his prot�g�s, Jack Lewis (who shot an amazing third-round 65), were within two shots of the top and 19 were within four.

But Goalby quickly unscrambled all that on Sunday with two birdies on the first two holes. Melnyk soon faded (to a final-round 77), but Wadkins still had a shot at the tournament until taking a double bogey on the 11th hole. "I wish I had that one to play over," said the young amateur.

There will be time for that later. The Heritage Classic—and the touring pros—have not seen the last of Melnyk and Wadkins.

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