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BEST.TEAM.EVER.
JOHN GARRITY
June 11, 2012
In the early '60s San Francisco's Abraham Lincoln High was undefeated over a four-year span, and although a young man named Johnny Miller never lost a match, he wasn't even the Mustangs' best player
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June 11, 2012

Best.team.ever.

In the early '60s San Francisco's Abraham Lincoln High was undefeated over a four-year span, and although a young man named Johnny Miller never lost a match, he wasn't even the Mustangs' best player

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Miller, who returned to the Olympic Club as a BYU sophomore and tied for eighth in the 1966 U.S. Open, frustrated San Francisco golfers of the era like no one else. "When Johnny was a freshman, he was five-foot, 105 pounds," says O'Kane. "He was a little assassin. He couldn't reach some of the par-4s with two drivers, but you'd find yourself 1 down on the 18th tee. Every time!" "And he was never in the trees," says Nelson. "Nobody hit it straighter. His irons flew like darts."

Which of Lincoln's stars was the best ball striker? They say it was Paul O'Kane, Tommy's older brother, who turned pro after graduating in 1962. "Paul was maybe the best I've ever seen," says Nelson, "but he couldn't putt." Paul tried everything from hypnosis to a six-pound putter, but nothing worked. "To the day he quit, he still hit a one-iron as well as anyone I ever saw," says brother Tom. "But that last three feet, oh man, you had to close your eyes." Paul O'Kane, who died two years ago, worked three decades as a San Francisco fireman.

I earned a letter for golf," Lunn said recently. "I looked at it just the other day, when I was putting together an album for the club. And I saw Johnny two years ago at the Legends of Golf. That's the only tournament we play anymore." Asked when he'd last been to Lincoln, the teaching pro smiled. "Probably the day I graduated. But I'd love to touch base with those guys again."

Miller, who may be able to see his alma mater from the NBC tower at the Open, said, "We don't see each other much anymore, but we're still close. We're all good friends."

Of the three visitors to the gym, only O'Kane had been back since graduation. "I worked with the golf program in 2007," he says, looking up at the championship banners. "It was good, but I didn't feel that the kids had the golf bug. One young man did; he was a very fine player and ended up getting a full scholarship to USF. But the rest of the kids...." He shrugs. "We loved it so much. Harding Park and Olympic were the greatest playgrounds in the world for kids who loved golf."

"We had the bug," says Nelson.

"We really had the bug," says O'Connor.

They all smile.

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