Saturday, November 1, 2008

Kel Nagle - 1960 Giant Killer

In 1930 Bobby Jones won what has become know as the Grand Slam, the British Open, British Amateur, US Open and US Amateur in the same year. Hogan's 1953 campaign with wins at the Masters, British and US Open's is in my opinion the finest year anyone has had in golf. Byron Nelson's 11 Tournaments in a row in 45 wasn't bad either, but 1960 very nearly went down as the greatest of all were it not for 1960 British Open Champion Kel Nagle.

You see, Arnold Palmer won 8 tournaments in 1960 two of which were The Masters and the US Open. He also won the World Cup (then known as the Canada Cup) while paired with Sam Snead. Palmer, however, lost the British Open to Kel Nagle. Nagle, who was 39 years old at the time had played in only two previous Opens (one in 1950 and the other in 55) so most thought that the 54-hole leader would likely fade during the final round. But, Nagle did not fade and fired a solid 71 which deprived Arnold Palmer, who finished second, of his 3rd major of the year which would have matched the highwater mark set by Hogan in 1953. All the more remarkable was that Nagle's 10 foot putt to save par on 17 was holed after he heard the sonic boom erupt from the 18th as Palmer holed his putt for birdie on the final hole. Nagle holed his ten footer to hold his 1-shot lead and then whipped his second shot on 18 at St. Andrews's to within 4 feet assuring him an easy two putt and an incredible victory. Nagle beat Palmer at the height of his popularity and power and quite likely the pinnacle of his career. Palmer won the next two Opens in succession.

It is no secret that I am a huge Ben Hogan fan, but in fact the golfer who I admire most is Peter Thomson. It was Thomson who called fellow Australian Nagle "Mr. Accuracy, the Ben Hogan of Australia" and there is no reason in the world not to accept Thomson's assessment of Nagle.

Kel Nagle's game was built on accuracy and precision and deadly putting. He won 61 times in Australasia, won the Canadian Open, the British Open and 15 other tournaments of note. Long overdue, Nagle was finally inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2007.

You can visit his profile here:

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