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The Cap - 1991 PGA Championship at Crooked Stick

Autographs at '91 PGA event cap a perfect golf day

By Rick Kreps


An autograph seeker I am not.

Through my job with the newspaper, I've been in plenty of situations to get the signature of many famous people. I've always declined to do so because I've always felt it was a silly, superficial intrusion. Sort of dehumanizing too.

Instead, I've opted for a handshake and a word of admiration when the proximity and occasion arose.

My thinking about autographs changed slightly when Steve Holzinger, friend and golfing buddy, and I visited the final practice round for the 1991 PGA Championship at Crooked Stick Country Club near Indianapolis. Steve had secured a pair of tickets for the event and we both looked forward to seeing the pros tee it up.

During practice rounds at PGA events, cameras are allowed on the course and the pros traditionally are accommodating to autograph hounds. Steve and I both took cameras, but Steve took another item too.

Steve had with him what we now simply refer to as "The Cap."

Steve had purchased a white, baseball-style cap from Crooked Lake Golf Course (Columbia City, Ind.) Pro Bill Schumaker a few days before our PGA sojourn. Steve isn't an autograph hound either, but he had a great idea for the day.

He thought it would be neat to try to get some pro golfers at Crooked Stick to sign a cap from our home course, Crooked Lake.

It was a great idea!

By the end of the day, Steve had the following signatures on The Cap:
* Byron Nelson
* Jack Nicklaus
* Greg Norman
* Nick Faldo
* Ray Floyd
* Ben Crenshaw
* Hale Irwin
* Fuzzy Zoeller
* Ian Baker-Finch
* Fred Couples
* and, of course, Bill Schumaker

You need to understand that there was a crush of autograph hounds when the golfers exited each green. For Steve to get these signatures, he had to hustle and really work at it.

The reason Steve worked so hard was because he was able to have Jack Nicklaus and Byron Nelson sign The Cap very early in the day. At that point, we understood that this could be a very special cap.

How Steve got Byron Nelson's autograph is an interesting story.

I had recognized Nelson on the practice tee talking with pro Tom Watson. The elderly Nelson, tall and distinguished, was using a cane and sporting a tan fedora. I don't think may people recognized him, but it didn't really matter anyway. There was no public access to the practice tee, so Steve didn't expect to get his autograph. It was memorable just to see him, though.

Later that morning, however, Steve was standing near the cart path on the third hole when a chauffeured golf cart came speeding along with none other than Byron Nelson as passenger. The cart left the path for a moment near where Steve and I were standing - and a tire briefly became stuck in some wet turf.

Steve immediately offered The Cap to the man in the cart with the request, "Mr. Nelson, will you sign my cap?"

When Steve uttered those words, about a dozen ears perked up and, just like piranha, autograph seekers started zeroing in on the cart.

Nelson saw this developing and quickly took The Cap and Steve's pen in hand and declared, "I'll sign just one."

With the legend's autograph in hand, Steve walked away with a smile on his face as wide as the backswing of eventual 1991 PGA Championship winner John Daly.

Byron Nelson and the golf cart quickly sped on. Steve and I were definitely in the right place at the right time.

It made our day.

And it definitely "makes" The Cap.


 

Revised: 01/06/2011 - Article Viewed 22,288 Times


Written By: Rick Kreps

Rick Kreps Rick Kreps is publisher of The Pilot News Group of newspapers based in Plymouth, Indiana. He has been a newspaperman for 30 years and an avid golfer and golf fan his entire life. He wrote this column as editor of the Columbia City (Ind.) Post & Mail in August, 1991.


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