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Teatime with Harold Hilton
John Garrity
July 18, 2006
The man who gave his name to famous flameouts puts Phil Mickelson's Winged Foot collapse in perspective
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July 18, 2006

Teatime With Harold Hilton

The man who gave his name to famous flameouts puts Phil Mickelson's Winged Foot collapse in perspective

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I waited.

"The newspapers, the radio, the telly, they all say your man collapsed. He--what's the current phrase?--choked!" Hilton snorted. "They say it's the worst collapse since that Frenchman gave it away at Carnoustie or since Palmer squandered his seven-stroke lead over Casper." Hilton started to mumble. "Snead, maybe ... Greg Norman at Augusta...."

I waited.

"I simply feel a bit ... neglected."

I suddenly got his drift. "You feel slighted because they no longer mention ... you?"

Hilton gave a few short, quick nods. "It's foolish, I know, but I used to be the benchmark for conspicuous collapse," he said. "There was probably not a player in the world who attempted to throw away more matches through temporary fits of insanity. On this side of the water they called them Hilton Episodes."

This was news to me, although I vaguely recollected that something extraordinary had happened to Hilton at Apawamis Country Club, where he had become the first foreign-born player to win the U.S. Amateur.

"I was 6 up on Fred Herreshoff with 15 to play in the final," Hilton said, reading my mind. "Criminally overconfident, I gave away the entire lead over the next 13 holes." Showing his gift for understatement, Hilton added, "I was not blessed with the ideal temperament for playing golf."

"But you won that tournament."

"That's true, I won on the 37th hole. I won with a par, which I accomplished by hitting a spoon into the rock bed by the 1st green, from which graveyard the ball ricocheted down onto the green. I believe the Apawamis members still refer to it as Hilton's Rock." He indulged himself with a wan smile. "Poor Herreshoff! My good fortune shook him so badly that he skulled his approach shot and made bogey."

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