Tuesday, January 22

Nixon Upset Highlights President Golf Matches

From the ARMCHAIR GOLF archives.

Nixon dispatched FDR.
ALL BUT ONE OF THE FAVORITES advanced in the opening matches of the Presidents Golf Championship at Augusta National Golf Club. In a stunning upset in the Eagle Bracket, No. 13 seed Richard Nixon defeated No. 4 seed Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

“No, I’m not surprised I won,” Nixon said. “People have counted me out before. I guess I showed them again.”

Top seeds John F. Kennedy and Dwight Eisenhower cruised to victory on an overcast day at Augusta. Summaries of the opening matches are below, followed by a listing of the bracket semifinal matches.

EAGLE BRACKET

#1 Kennedy defeats #16 Grant, 10 and 8
Tournament favorite JFK closed out No. 16 seed Ulysses S. Grant in the minimum number of holes. Grant was clearly uncomfortable on the golf course and didn’t finish out on several holes. At one point during the match, a muttering, cigar-chomping Grant disappeared into the pines and forfeited several holes before reemerging on the 9th hole. Grant also attempted to “free” his caddie. When Kennedy was asked to comment about his opponent, he said, “Grant was a better president than people think.”

#8 Obama defeats #9 Reagan, 1-up
As expected, the Obama-Reagan match-up was a tight contest characterized by a lot of conceded putts. The two men enjoyed each others’ company and were heard laughing all the way around Augusta National. Tied when they reached the final hole, Reagan’s mental error on the 18th green cost him the match. After tapping in for his bogey, Reagan mistakenly gave Obama a 10-foot par putt.

#5 George H.W. Bush defeats #12 Wilson, 4 and 2
George H.W. Bush built a large early lead but faltered in the middle of the match as Wilson doggedly played on, winning several holes due mostly to Bush’s mistakes. The match was dormie when the pair arrived at the par-3 16th, where Wilson hit eight tee shots into the water and lost 4 and 2.

#13 Nixon defeats #4 Roosevelt, 2 and 1
In the most surprising match of the day, Richard Nixon wielded a hot putter at just the right moments to turn back the heavily favored FDR. Nixon’s usual highly erratic play did not hurt him in the match-play format. Roosevelt admitted his game was off and called Nixon “fortunate.” Buoyed by his opening win, Nixon said he liked his chances as he marched to the practice tee.

FREEDOM BRACKET

#6 George W. Bush defeats #11 Taft, 5 and 4
With George W. Bush’s late afternoon win over William Howard Taft, both Bushes advanced to the second round in their respective brackets, preserving the possibility of an all-Bush final. Yet, speaking on the condition of anonymity in the locker room, one president said the Bushes would soon fold. Even though Taft’s game was wild (he never found the fairway), the jovial president said he immensely enjoyed the atmosphere and would stick around until the conclusion of the tournament.

#3 Ford defeats #14 Johnson, 6 and 5
Gerald Ford breezed to a first-round victory over LBJ, who swore after every shot and bitterly complained about the difficulty of the golf course. Ford played well in what many considered to be a tune-up match and appeared to ease up when his lead grew to a sizable margin. Johnson held up play on several holes and, to the embarrassment of the Secret Service and a handful of spectators, relieved himself in Rae’s Creek. When the match was decided, LBJ shook Ford’s hand and reportedly told Ford to kick Kennedy’s ass if they met in the finals.

#7 Clinton defeats #10 Harding, 1-up
Bill Clinton narrowly escaped with a victory over an upset-minded Warren G. Harding. Hitting a flask as often as his driver, Harding played boldly while Clinton constantly argued with the match’s official scorekeeper. Clinton managed to prevail and also won most of the side bets. The two were last seen headed for the par-3 course where they planned to continue playing (and betting) until darkness forced them to the clubhouse for an all-night card game.

#2 Eisenhower defeats #15 Coolidge, 9 and 7
Never in doubt, Dwight Eisenhower’s one-sided match with Calvin Coolidge was a study in contrasts. Whereas Ike thoroughly enjoyed the game and Augusta National Golf Club, his golfing home turf, “Silent Cal” looked and played like a man in a chain gang. Eisenhower approached the match as a practice round, attempting shots that he felt he would need later in the tournament. When asked about his day at Augusta, Coolidge uttered four words before trudging to a waiting car. “A waste of time.”

Quarterfinal Matches

Results of the following matches will be available next Tuesday.

EAGLE BRACKET
#1 Kennedy vs. #8 Obama
#5 George H.W. Bush vs. #13 Nixon

FREEDOM BRACKET
#2 Eisenhower vs. #7 Clinton
#3 Ford vs. #6 George W. Bush

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