FORE July August 2009 : Page 37

SHORT DRIVES/LONG DRIVES APresidential inauguration S he had been a beauty, eliciting praise from those who knew her well. But now she was nearing 70 and in need of more than a little nip and tuck. This lady is a golf course, a muni, who in her dotage had been neglected, even disparaged, and had fallen on hard times. That happens in cities, where the money is tight and priorities change, even a city such as San Francisco, where image is of considerable importance. It is, after all, the self-proclaimed City that Knows How. When it came to Harding Park, however, nobody knew how. Except Frank (Sandy) Tatum an attorney, a Rhodes Scholar, a one-time NCAA champion at Stanford in the early 1940s, and a former president of the United States Golf Association. Primarily because of Tatum, who turned 89 in July, Harding Park was renovated and eventually chosen as the site of the 2005 Presidents Cup matches. To Tatum, golf is less a sport than a passion. A few years back he authored a book, A Love Affair with the Game. The title is anything but hyperbole. He could FORE Magazine • July/August 2009 Harding Park’s 86-year history sets the stage for The Presidents Cup By Art Spander play golf. He can write golf. He can design courses, one of which is the Links at Spanish Bay done in conjunction with TomWatson and Robert Trent Jones II. He can save golf courses. Warren G. Harding, the 29th President of the United States, died from either a stroke or a heart attack while visiting San Francisco in 1923. Two years later a new golf course, created at the western edge of the city on dunes land near the Pacific, opened and was named in Harding’s honor. Elegance is supposed to be the property of private clubs, such as Olympic Club across the road, designed by the men who designed Harding, SamWhiting and WillieWatson. But Harding, with its routing along Lake Merced, was no less deserving or demanding than its neighbor. The PGA early on thought Harding worthy of tournaments, and so greats such as Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus competed there. Seemingly forever, the San Francisco City Amateur Championship has been a fixture at Harding, and in 1956, Ken Venturi defeated E. HarvieWard in a city final which lured an estimated 10,000 fans. www.scga.org continued on page 38 37

Short Drives/Long Drives

Art Spander

A Presidential inauguratioA Presidential inauguration<br /> <br /> Harrdiing Parrk’’ss 86--yearr hiissttorry ssettss tthe ssttage fforr The Prressiidenttss Cup<br /> <br /> He had been a beauty, eliciting praise from those who knew her well. But now she was nearing 70 and in need of more than a little nip and tuck. This lady is a golf course, a muni, who in her dotage had been neglected, even disparaged, and had fallen on hard times.<br /> <br /> That happens in cities, where the money is tight and priorities change, even a city such as San Francisco, where image is of considerable importance.<br /> <br /> It is, after all, the self-proclaimed City that Knows How.<br /> <br /> When it came to Harding Park, however, nobody knew how.<br /> <br /> Except Frank (Sandy) Tatum an attorney, a Rhodes Scholar, a one-time NCAA champion at Stanford in the early 1940s, and a former president of the United States Golf Association. Primarily because of Tatum, who turned 89 in July, Harding Park was renovated and eventually chosen as the site of the 2005 Presidents Cup matches.<br /> <br /> To Tatum, golf is less a sport than a passion. A few years back he authored a book, A Love Affair with the Game. The title is anything but hyperbole. He could play golf. He can write golf. He can design courses, one of which is the Links at Spanish Bay done in conjunction with Tom Watson and Robert Trent Jones<br /> <br /> II. He can save golf courses.<br /> <br /> Warren G. Harding, the 29th President of the United States, died from either a stroke or a heart attack while visiting San Francisco in 1923. Two years later a new golf course, created at the western edge of the city on dunes land near the Pacific, opened and was named in Harding’s honor.<br /> <br /> Elegance is supposed to be the property of private clubs, such as Olympic Club across the road, designed by the men who designed Harding, Sam Whiting and Willie Watson. But Harding, with its routing along Lake Merced, was no less deserving or demanding than its neighbor.<br /> <br /> The PGA early on thought Harding worthy of tournaments, and so greats such as Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus competed there.<br /> <br /> Seemingly forever, the San Francisco City Amateur Championship has been a fixture at Harding, and in 1956, Ken Venturi defeated E. Harvie Ward in a city final which lured an estimated 10,000 fans.<br /> <br /> Venturi grew up playing Harding, where his father Fred became the pro, working out of a tiny, stucco building. Johnny Miller was a Harding regular. In 1970, Tom Watson, then a Stanford freshman, played in his first city tournament. History was everywhere.<br /> <br /> But soon, so was withered grass and torn up greens.<br /> <br /> Maintenance virtually ceased. Play did not.<br /> <br /> Harding was a mess, with wildflowers blooming on many fairways and mud patches visible on others. It looked like, well, a battered muni, not the course Venturi, the 1964 U.S. Open champion once said “was as good as any country club around.’’ The Presidents Cup was a needed addition to world golf and to the PGA Tour, which controls the regular schedule of tournaments but is little more than a functionary at the majors or the long-standing Ryder Cup, which beginning in the 1920s involved teams from the United States and Europe.<br /> <br /> The old Scottish game now encircles the globe.<br /> <br /> The Masters in 2009 was won by a South American, Angel Cabrera, who also took the 2007 U.S. Open.<br /> <br /> Trevor Immelmen of South Africa was the ’08 Masters champ, and Geoff Ogilvy of Australia was the 2006<br /> <br /> U. S. Open winner. Vijay Singh, from Fiji, has a Masters and two PGAs. Ernie Els of South Africa has won two U.S. Opens and a British Open.<br /> <br /> Yet none of those players, or anyone else from Japan, Korea, Australia, Taiwan, South Africa, or South America, golfing nations all, was eligible for the Ryder Cup. A void needed to be filled.<br /> <br /> The Presidents Cup, started in 1994, supported by the PGA and other tours and played biennially in alternate years with the Ryder Cup, provided the opportunity that was missing.<br /> <br /> And if it doesn’t have the tradition of the Ryder Cup, The Presidents Cup has offered excitement — the U.S. won in 2005 on Chris DiMarco’s putt. And laughs; Woody Austin tumbled into a water hazard after trying to extricate his ball during the 2005 matches.<br /> <br /> The Presidents Cup also has featured Presidents, or at least their endorsement. Barack Obama is the latest to accept the role as honorary chairman for the 2009 Cup, scheduled Oct. 8-11 at Harding. Whether Obama actually will attend is problematical, but the only head of state who did not was President George<br /> <br /> W. Bush in 2005 because he was preoccupied with Hurricane Katrina.<br /> <br /> The late Gerald Ford, a golfer known for his appearances in various pro-ams including the Bob Hope Classic and AT&T, was honorary chairman when The Presidents Cup began in 1994 and his successor George H.W. Bush accepted the role in<br /> <br /> 1996. The Cup was held in even years but when the Ryder Cup was held off in 2001 days after 9/11, the two tournaments switched, the Ryder Cup going in even years, The Presidents Cup in odd years.<br /> <br /> Every active head-of-state or government in the host country has served as honorary chairman, U.S. presidents Bill Clinton (2000) and George W. Bush (2005); Prime Minister John Howard in 1998; South Africa President Thebo Mbeki in 2005, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada for the 2007 Cup, held at Royal Montreal.<br /> <br /> Obama, as Ford, the elder Bush and Clinton, has been photographed swinging away at the little white, dimpled ball, particularly when he returned to Hawaii for a post-election vacation, verification that whether one favors the right or left has no bearing on his intentions of smacking a shot down the middle.For San Francisco particularly, golf has been an egalitarian game.<br /> <br /> In a metropolitan area of 49 square miles there are numerous courses open to the masses. Lincoln Park, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, is a charmer. Harding Park was a tester. Then it was a disaster.<br /> <br /> Tatum, who had entered the City more than 40 times, felt a treasure had been lost and started a crusade to restore the course to what he once knew. There was the usual opposition from city fathers, but Tatum had an idea, which eventually came to fruition. No PGA Tour event had been held in San Francisco since 1969. Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was eager to re-establish a presence and, by holding a tournament at a muni, assist in building a headquarters for The First Tee, the program which helps young golfers. Finchem also liked the idea that top-name pros would play the same course as the guy around the corner.<br /> <br /> Finchem promised Tatum that if he could bring about the renovation (to cost around $16 million), the Tour would come to Harding once every three years, if not for a regular tournament then, because of lack of space on the grounds, a special event, a World Golf Championship, a Presidents Cup.<br /> <br /> The promise was kept when the American Express Championship was held in October 2005, Tiger Woods beating John Daly in a playoff. Now it’s time for The Presidents Cup.<br /> <br /> In 1998, when the U.S. Open was held at Olympic, maybe a half-mile away, Harding, at its shabbiest, was utilized as a parking lot. Daly, irrepressible, opinionated, and enthralled with the new Harding, insisted, “They should have played the Open here and parked cars at Olympic.’’ Somewhere, Sandy Tatum was smiling.

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