LAST MONDAY NEAR THE END of an hour-long phone conversation, a retired West Coast sportswriter who shares my interest in the old-time PGA Tour players said what I often think: They won’t be around forever.
Three days later 15-time tour winner Mike Souchak died in Florida, an ex-Duke football player who hit the golf ball long distances and threatened to win several majors, including the 1960 U.S. Open. Souchak held the tournament scoring record (257) for decades until Mark Calcavecchia broke it in recent years.
Along with players such as Gene Littler, Dow Finsterwald and Bob Rosburg, Souchak was considered one of the new guard of tour pros in the mid 1950s. It was a Wake Forest grad named Arnold Palmer who emerged as the superstar of the group.
Mike Souchak was on my call list, someone I hoped to talk to soon. The last year and a half I’ve had the good fortune to talk to many of the legends, some at Champions Tour events and some on the telephone.
Most recently, I talked to Tommy Bolt, a very good golfer with a legendary temper. It was a thrill to talk to a player who routinely sat in the locker room and cussed at and cut up with Ben Hogan. Bolt was a colorful character who didn’t walk on egg shells around the great Hogan. I think Hogan appreciated that.
Others, like Souchak, have passed away or are now in poor health. Masters champion Gay Brewer, who I met in Savannah, died last year. U.S. Open champion Orville Moody, who I rode shotgun with at the Senior Players Championship in Baltimore last summer, is now in a nursing home. Orville had a massive stroke and can no longer play golf.
So I’m sorry I missed you, Mike Souchak. I’m sure you had great stories and anecdotes to share about your life in pro golf. I just didn’t pick up the phone in time to hear them.
−The Armchair Golfer
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