It’s been 46 years, but people still ask Bob Goalby about the 1968 Masters Tournament.
“If he would have signed his card right, we would have tied, and we would have had a playoff,” Goalby told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh.
Goalby and Roberto De Vicenzo were tied after 72 holes of regulation play, and destined for an 18-hole playoff the next day. Instead, a mistake on De Vicenzo’s scorecard gave Goalby the championship that day.
“As it turned out, he signed for one stroke higher than what he had. He made a mistake on his card, and when you sign and turn it in, that’s what stands,” Goalby said. “Now if you sign for one stroke lower than what you had, you’re disqualified. He signed for one higher and it had to stand. So we didn’t have a playoff and I ended up winning.
“That was an unusual thing, but that happens every week: somebody doesn’t sign the card or they make a mistake. It just never happened at the Masters on the final round. Roberto’s birthday and everything behind all of it made it a fanfare. It was unfortunate for Roberto, but it also was unfortunate for me. I didn’t really get credit for winning a tournament like the average guy does. That’s the way it goes.”
Goalby’s not too shy to point out that his score — “the fourth lowest score at that time that had ever been shot at Augusta” — was what got him the green jacket, not a paperwork flub.
A glass-half-full kind of guy, Goalby found a silver lining to the tournament outcome.
“Before that, we just had a picnic table out by the green and the press could get around you and the TV and the different people and your friends. Now we’ve got a little wooden house (or) a tent that’s sturdy. Nobody can get in there. You can take all the time you want with your scorecard. They got an official scorekeeper in there, and nobody can get in there. Your caddy can go in with you and help you with your card. So there was some good that came out of the bad about the scorecard incident.”
Earlier this year, Goalby was part of the inaugural class of inductees into the Belleville Walk of Fame, an honor given as the community winds down its bicentennial celebration. He called the honor from his hometown second only to that of him winning the Masters.
Goalby remains involved in many charitable events throughout the community. He's helping raise money for synthetic turf football fields at Belleville East High School and Belleville West High School.
“I was kind of really surprised. I never dreamed that they’d put me in there,” Goalby said of the honor. “They’ve got a nice bronze plaque on the square in Belleville and they had a little ceremony a few months ago. It was a great pleasure and I was humbled and honored.”
Returning to golf and his love for the game, Goalby has seen other changes since he played. For starters, there’s the money.
“In my day, the first four tournaments I won, I won a total of $8,000 — $2,000 per tournament,” he said. “We didn’t have any commercial sponsors or television like they have now, so it was only the gate and a little pro-am money. They play for $300 million now. It’s unbelievable what they’re playing for and how much they play for each week. But there’s nothing wrong with that.
“I never have heard anyone in my era complain about the money. We lived good. We didn’t make a lot of money, but we got to play golf every day. We had the sun on our hair and the green grass under our feet. How much better could it be?”
Goalby played until 1977 on the regular tour, then on the senior tour for another 20 years. The 85-year-old said he still plays about five tournaments a year. When he started, golfers often traveled together. There were no endorsement deals; no TV crews; no airplane or expensive cars. “We scratched out a few nickels on pro-ams,” Goalby said. They worked to make money on the side, sometimes playing to earn a few bucks for a nice meal.
“Now they look like race car drivers with patches all over them,” Goalby said. “But there’s nothing wrong with that. They make good money.”
“The golf pros back in the ’30s and ’40s, they couldn’t make much money,” Goalby said. “They had to kind of get a little game on the side on a practice Monday and try to beat a schoolteacher, or peck on a schoolteacher enough to get a plate lunch.”
Goalby launched into a story about golf greats E.J. “Dutch” Harrison and Bob Hamilton.
“Dutch and Hamilton were pecking on this school teacher over at the North and South Open in Pinehurst, North Carolina, in 1936, during the Depression. In those days, they didn’t have a tournament every week like we do now. You might play two weeks and off three, so they were up there at the North and South about a week early and they were pecking this schoolteacher, getting enough to eat — a plate lunch every night.
“Anyway, this young guy comes along with a Sunday bag, carrying his own bag and he said ‘You boys have only three. I’d like to play along.’ Dutch said, ‘Son, you can play, but you’re gonna have to get in the games. We’re gambling here.’ He said, ‘OK, I’ll get in.’
“Well, at the end of the day, this young man had nine skins. Dutch had one skin and Hamilton had one. The teacher didn’t have any. The young man said ‘What time are you boys playing tomorrow? I’d like to play along.’ And Dutch said, ‘Son, we’re working this side of the street. You’re going to have to get your own game on the other side.’ And that’s how he met Sam Snead.”
Goalby was friends with Snead, who was known for his perfect swing.
“Snead had a natural rhythmic swing — probably endowed with one of the greatest timings of any athlete that’s ever played any sport,” Goalby said. “He could do anything.”
“He wasn’t really a hustler,” Goalby said of Snead. “What happened was, they wanted to play Snead, people did, and he beat them. He was the best player in the world. So they’d lose $300 or $400 to him and they’d say ‘Well, he hustled me.’ Well, he didn’t hustle them. They just played the best golfer in the world and they had to pay. If you go to the best lawyer in the world, you’re going to pay more than $300. He didn’t really try to hustle anybody, he was just that much better than everybody.”
Goalby said players are “better today, by far, than they were in my day.” Not as good as Snead, he said, “but otherwise, the kids are really good today.”
Looking at today’s golfers, Goalby said he expects a few more wins from Tiger Woods.
“He’s stronger than the average 39-year-old guy,” he said of Woods. “He doesn’t play enough. I don’t care who you are, if you don’t practice and play on the course, you can beat balls all day long on the range. That’s not the same as playing in tournaments. He’s got to get a little more tournament toughened again. He’s been skipping too many. I’m still a Tiger fan, and I believe he’ll be back. He’ll win six or eight, 10 more tournaments. Believe me, he will.”
“St. Louis on the Air” discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.