Monday, November 26, 2007
Grant Spaeth Interview - Part II of IV
This interview took place at the Stanford Golf Course on Oct. 8, 2007. The interviewers were Lyman Van Slyke, Bob Stevens and Rich Peers, members of Stanford.
INTERVIEWER: So, the Stanford team won the NCAA in ’53.
GRANT: Yes, ’53 at the Broadmoor.
INTERVIEWER: Talk about that.
GRANT: Well, I don’t think we thought we could win, number one, but we knew we were good players. But it’s not as if we ran into other golf teams around the country the way they do today. I notice the Stanford team has been in Chicago, Florida, Japan and will go to Hawaii, meeting these other teams. That didn’t happen at all, only the west coast teams and we’d play matches against them. So there was no sense of comparison and we really didn’t know going in whether we were good, relatively good, or not. It was 36 holes, six players and four lowest scores, so we went out played and we practiced a lot and talked a lot about the golf course. It was up high and so you had to make some adjustments to your golf game because the ball went further and how do you calibrate that? So we just spent a lot of time talking about that. And we just went out and played. I don’t recall anything special about that first round. I remember on the second round I realized the pressure and I wrote a long letter to my dad and Sandy Tatum and said, I think we’re about there if we can really turn it on tomorrow. So I can remember having a lot of pressure and excitement, and it worked out.
INTERVIEWER: What was the buzz, if any, about who the hot teams where?
GRANT: Well, there was LSU with Eddie Merrins who was the pro down at Bel-Air Country Club. They were the hot team, but beyond that there were Texas teams. North Texas State had been the power and Houston hadn’t appeared, but there were a lot of good players kind of banging around in the Texas/Oklahoma world, but again, I didn’t really know that much. There weren’t that many amateur tournaments and certainly not a lot of tournaments where we were exposed to the good players, but LSU was the one we beat and it was the favorite by a wide margin coming in. And frankly, I think they had a better team then we did, but they didn’t those two days. [chuckles]
INTERVIEWER: So it was four days of medal play?
GRANT: Two days.
INTERVIEWER: Two days of medal play.
GRANT: And the low 64 went into match play, that’s the way it was structured then. I don’t think they can fit all the schools any more and that’s why it’s been reduced: the number of players and the number of scores.
INTERVIEWER: What shape was the course in?
GRANT: Perfect. Colorado Springs – the course has since been changed, but it was just a good, solid golf course, and happily enough the 17th hole was one you could get on in two.
INTERVIEWER: Par 5.
GRANT: Par 5, yes.
INTERVIEWER: I take it you reached it in two.
GRANT: I did. I had a good round. I had 71-68.
GRANT: That wasn’t the medalist, but it was number 2 medal and we won by two shots.
INTERVIEWER: Who was the medalist? Do you recall?
GRANT: I don’t. I’ve got that stuff somewhere. I’ll find it for you.
INTERVIEWER: Was that your career best performance?
GRANT: Well, sure!
INTERVIEWER: Obviously, under the circumstances it was.
GRANT: Absolutely. The moment, you know, one of those special moments. One thing I do want to add here is that when I was in high school, I was very much involved with Stanford golf as a caddy. The NCAA was here [in 1948 – editor]. I had all kinds of jobs. I was in charge of measuring the long driving contest on the 10th hole, but as a result of being a kid and Eddie Twiggs being here and Sandy Tatum being a family friend, I heard all about Lawson Little, Charlie Seaver. I mean the idea, I learned that Charlie Seaver if he had won his semi-final match at Merion in 1930, he would have played Bobby Jones. That’s how good Charlie Seaver was. Maybe better than Lawson Little, who won the U.S. Amateur twice and the Amateur twice in Britain. And then there was Art Doering – who, I don’t know what happened to him, but he was on the professional tour for a number of years. And then there was the wonderful player who owned the course record.
INTERVIEWER: Bud Brownell?
GRANT: Bud Brownell from Monterey, who I don’t have a sense of, but everybody just thought he was the most wonderful golfer ever to appear and he had this extraordinary round of golf of 63. You can image what the clubs where that they used. And then, as a caddy, here I am caddying for Bob Rosburg, Bob Cardinal, Tom Lambie from Phoenix and a couple of others. And they won the NCAA in 1947. And they should have won in ’48, but Eddie Twiggs kicked Rosburg off the team.
GRANT: He kicked Rosburg off the team because Rosburg was bought in a Calcutta at the Peninsula Golf Club and so he had an obligation to the guy who bought him and so he played in the morning, as I recall against USC, because I was caddying, and he didn’t show up for the afternoon match against USC because he had this obligation, and so Eddie kicked him off the team and as a result San Jose State won the NCAA I don’t know whether you want to put that in the history of Stanford golf…
INTERVIEWER: We have to tell it all.
GRANT: Well, you want to verify it. Ask Rosburg. That’s someone you have to interview.
INTERVIEWER: Was Venturi on the San Jose State team?
GRANT: Later, that was later. Venturi is a year older than I am. So he would have been class of ’53 probably at San Jose State.
INTERVIEWER: Actually Dick McElyea confirmed that story. Before he died they did an interview with him and he has the same story about Rosburg being booted off.
GRANT: Oh good.. Booted off! And just think about that as a decision by a coach. Facing the NCAA at your home course. Think of the edge!
INTERVIEWER: So it was here at Stanford.
GRANT: Oh yes, yes. So I was all wrapped up as a kid before coming to Stanford in the traditions of Stanford. Remember that Sandy Tatum won the NCAA individual [editor – in 1942] and he was hired by my dad as an Assistant Dean.
INTERVIEWER: Who was?
GRANT: Sandy Tatum. Yes, and then he in turn knew Warren Berl and George Traphagen, another name, and Dee Replogle. These were fellows on the teams that won in ’41 and ’39, I think it was. So I was raised as a kid in the Stanford tradition.
INTERVIEWER: That’s neat!
GRANT: By virtue of Tatum and my dad, and just being here.
INTERVIEWER: Did Sandy always have that stop at the top of his backswing?
GRANT: Apparently, certainly as long as I’ve known him, but somebody said he might not have had it as a younger golfer, but basically he stopped for a long time.
INTERVIEWER: So, in those days, how far are the long hitters getting it out off the tee?
GRANT: Well, I can remember Warren Daily hitting it where the boys hit it today, maybe slightly shorter, but he was hitting 4 irons into one. So that’s 1953. He was very long, he exploded on the ball. It wasn’t a smooth piece of work, which, it’s my impression that club head speed is generated effortlessly these days and it goes a long way. Warren got away with exploding at the ball, but he was huge, huge. He got it out to the trees on 12. Knocked it on 15.
INTERVIEWER: From the tee?
GRANT: Yes. I wasn’t short. I won the NCAA driving contest. They used to have a driving contest. You got three balls. The one longest ball was one prize. Three in the fairway and length. I won that won. [laughs]
INTERVIEWER: How far did you hit it?
GRANT: I can’t remember. It was up there in the first hole at Colorado Springs.
INTERVIEWER: So what ball did you use?
GRANT: Well, my recollection is that we used Spaulding Dot. Then along came Maxfli and at the NCAA in Houston, I hit a shot that didn’t reach the green and I hit it out of the bunker and then hit a putt and it only went half way. And then I looked at the ball and it was oozing white stuff, so I never played a Maxfli again. [laughing]
INTERVIEWER: You literally creamed it! [more laughing]
INTERVIEWER: And what clubs did you carry? When did the 14 club rule go in? That isn’t so terribly old, is it?
GRANT: You know, I can’t tell you. All I know is that Lawson Little, Stanford graduate, triggered it by playing at Prestwick in the British amateur with something like 32 clubs.
INTERVIEWER: It was something like 1938.
GRANT: I believe it must have happened before the war, but I could be wrong. The big golf meeting occurred in 1952 in England, at which point the “stymie” was eliminated and the rules of golf of the two countries were unified, in other words.
INTERVIEWER: Except the two balls were still in play for a while.
GRANT: That’s right. And so the areas in which they didn’t agree, they called them kind of local rules or local options and they’ve spent the last ensuing 50 years getting rid of all those. So that now, I think the last agreement was we insisted on permitting the play of an embedded ball in the rough if the local golf course chooses to invoke that rule. The rule of golf is you can only get relief from an embedded ball if it’s in a closely mown area. So that’s the one, I believe to this day, residual difference, but it was settled by giving a local option.
INTERVIEWER: Isn’t there a similar difference on whether you get line of sight relief if you’re putting from off the green …
GRANT: That’s the other one.
INTERVIEWER: … and there’s a sprinkler head in your way.
GRANT: Sprinkler head in your way within two club lengths. If this Club were to choose to do so and it could choose to do so on the 3rd green. The new 3rd green has that problem, it’s a local option. And the reason is that in the United States you can get a lot of rough that is close to the green and the idea being it can permit someone to change the shot from being in the rough to putting. Seems too lenient, given American golf. In Britain, as you well know, it’s hardly ever an issue.
INTERVIEWER: You’re almost always putting.
GRANT: You’re putting from 50 yards. They were doing that at the Walker Cup at County Down, they were putting from enormous distances.
INTERVIEWER: So, what clubs were you carrying?
GRANT: I can’t remember. McGregor woods. They were the primo. I carried three woods, yes. No 4 wood.
INTERVIEWER: Did you call them driver, brassie, spoon?
GRANT: Well, I used to call them that, but I was raised by an English mother, but that’s what we called them. Though we used to fudge with the lofts. So I’ve got a hunch my 3 wood was a 3 _ wood. My brassy was 2 _.
GRANT: Slightly weaker – a little more height.