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In any tennis fan's book, for Kramer, you read "the tops."
Also at Wimbledon were two American women to console the tennis world for the loss, through her retirement, of the incomparable Maureen (Little Mo) Connolly. The Wimbledon finalists were Beverly Baker Fleitz and Louise Brough. Mrs. Fleitz was the favorite, for she had defeated Louise four times in matches around the world. But, as it keeps happening around the world of sport, as it happened to that Navy football team of desire, Louise Brough played her heart out and won in a great Wimbledon finale that had everyone agreeing with the Duchess of Kent, who said, presenting the trophy, "Wonderful tennis. Finest I've seen in years." That might have applied to the entire tennis year as well.
And certainly the sentiment could have been applied to golf. Its year saw the passing, certainly not without glory, of the old guard as represented by Ben Hogan and Sam Snead; the rise of the young guard in the victories of Arnold Palmer in the National Amateur, Mike Souchak along the winter circuit, Jack Fleck in the National Open, and a triumph of the middle guard as the Masters was won by Cary Middlecoff. Young Peter Thomson won the British Open for the second straight time, but for sheer charm of manner no one would forget a golfer who won nothing but the affection of his galleries: Billy Joe Patton.
The outstanding event of the golf year was, of course, the National Open. Hogan, once more near his top form, apparently had won the title for the fifth time when out of nowhere came the young guardsman named Fleck, a handsome, 32-year-old public links pro who used Hogan clubs and imitated Hogan's style and carried the hottest putter in the tournament. With Ben deprecating premature congratulations in the locker room, Fleck came up to the 18th green with a seven-footer to tie—and sank it. Next day in the playoff, as Hogan met disaster on the 18th fairway, Fleck steadied through to win in as exciting a tournament finale since the gangling kid named Francis Ouimet beat the Britishers, Vardon and Ray, for the same National Open championship back in 1913.
Somehow these events in the competitive area of golf gave heart and comfort to the average player, for the game continued to grow as a participant sport. There were not enough golf courses (although there were more than 5,000 in the 48 states) to go around. This presented a problem, particularly in the large metropolitan centers, but golfers were determined to find space for their game even if it meant tearing down a bowling alley here and there. Herbert Warren Wind, the game's leading historian and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S golf editor, surveyed the scene from all angles and predicted that in time golf would become our national pastime.
Since the whole world of sport was now being covered from week to week, there was plenty of elbow room for such parochial enthusiasms. The wide range of sporting interests was reflected in the major stories the new national sports weekly printed. These threw the spotlight now on the bowlers, now on the skiers and again on the hunters, the fishermen, the sailing enthusiasts, the growing thousands of sports car partisans.
To get these stories and the pictures, correspondents and photographers ranged over the world. They were at Wembley for the English soccer Cup Final, at Wimbledon for tennis, in Mexico for the bullfights, the Pan-American Road Race and the Pan-American Games. They went on a boar hunt with Generalissimo Franco in Spain and stalked a tiger with the Maharaja of Mysore. They were in Moscow to report the victory of Samuel Reshevsky over Russia's world chess champion, in Le Mans for the famous (and this year, tragic) race of the world's fastest cars. The range was all the way from marbles to mountain climbing and yet, taking on pace and continuity in the week-to-week telling, it was all one story of one wonderful world.
More and more people discovered that they were becoming interested in what happened all around the world of sport. The baseball fan, to whom chess was a mystery, found himself fascinated by the skill and personality of a Samuel Reshevsky. The fisherman who had never seen a horse race was won over by Swaps and/or Nashua. The bowler who knew nothing of soccer sensed the heart-pounding excitement of the English Cup Final.
But it was not merely its excitements that boomed the world of sport. It was also the tremendous U.S. prosperity which gave people time and money for it. It was as if they felt it to be a better investment than the arms race which shackled the larger world.
It seemed eminently fitting that, in President Eisenhower, the U.S. had a genuine sportsman in the White House. And it seemed, too, that when he seized the initiative so brilliantly at Geneva, he spoke with the directness of the playing field and reflected the optimism of a world in which high hopes are part of every game.