The followers of The Great Depression Tour had waited 8 long weeks to see a man from Georgia, with close ties to the Augusta National Golf Club, win a tournament. Finally, at the 9th stop, played on the sands of southern New Jersey at the Pine Valley Golf Club, they got their wish.
But when the strains of “Georgia on My Mind” greeted the winner, Bobby Jones was not the one being serenaded. Rather it was his lifelong friend “Big Ed” Dudley who had finished atop the leaderboard, coming in at 10-under par 270 (66-70-69-65), and winning the event going away,
The 6’4″ Dudley, who had been personally selected by Jones to be the club professional at Augusta, a post he then held for 25 years, had taken the lead away from Ralph Guldahl on the 53rd hole and began the final round with a one-stroke lead. There were four in hot pursuit.
But Dudley carded a perfect round on the final day, five birdies and 13 pars, and none of the four ever really had a chance.
The native of Brunswick, Georgia, the top-rated putter on The Great Depression Tour, was having his problems both of the tee and with his approaches, but had stayed in contention during the early rounds with a string of long putts that had salvaged par after par. On Sunday, that all changed: The 28-footer that he sank on the par-4 second hole was now for birdie. as was the 10′ putt on the following hole, a 213 yard par-3. The 5-iron off the tee that had had split the surrounding sand dunes perfectly on number 3, was proof that Dudley was going to take some beating on this day.
And even on a dead calm day with the course playing a bit under par, no one was about to break the course record of 64 and pose himself a serious threat.
Thanks to another birdie on the short number 8, the easiest par-4 on the course, Dudley took the turn with a 4-shot margin over Guldahl. In complete control, he topped off his 65 with two more birdies on the back nine. At the end, a trio of golfers led by the fast-closing Frenchman, Arnaud Massy’, along with Henry Picard and Vic Ghezzi all finished three strokes astern of the winner.
For a time it looked like Guldahl would repeat the victory that he had scored at the tour’s first stop at Hoylake, where he had defeated Dudley by 6 strokes. The duo had slugged it out until a string of birdies in the final round put Guldahl far ahead, and he’d finished at 17-under par with Dudley runner-up.
At Pine Valley, the Texan, who won two U.S. Opens in a three-year span, before mysteriously losing his swing and his game along with it, had again started strongly with a pair of 67’s, and was still flying high at 8-under par through 46 holes; his closest pursuer, Dudley, was three shots back. But Pine Valley wasn’t Hoylake. Rather than a string of birdies, Guldahl now bogeyed three in a row: On the short par-4 11th hole, his approach was fat and he missed a 9′ putt. On the even shorter par-4 12th, it was the same story and a 7′ putt slid past the hole. The meltdown continued when he muscled up on his tee shot and hooked it into the heavy rough under the trees. Another 5 -another bogey – and Guldahl was done for the day.
Arnaud Massy’, the Frenchman who had been wounded at Verdun in 1916, fashioned his best golf at Pine Valley. He hit 78% of the greens in regulation, but missed several 10′ putts down the stretch. Vic Ghezzi, a native of New Jersey and the favourite of the large gallery, crept to within a stroke of the lead early in the fourth round, wielding an unerring putter. But the heady air proved to be too much, and immediately a couple of errant drives led to a couple of bogies, and abruptly ended his challenge. The last was Henry Picard, who posted his fifth consecutive finish in the top-7, although without a win. Picard leads the tour in the “All Around” category, and is third behind Jones and Byron Nelson in scoring average.
These two legends, both still looking for their first win on The Great Depression Tour, logged their worst performances to date, At 6-over par, Jones placed 29th – out of the top-10 for the first time. At one-over, “Lord Byron” finished in the middle of the pack, but remains the leader in Greens-In-Regulation at 66%.
Nine tournaments and nine different winners. The tour remains in New Jersey and takes the short trip north to Paramus where it will conclude at the Ridegewood Country Club – yet another severe test designed by A.W. Tillinghast, who designed Bethpage Black and had a hand in the re-designing of Pine Valley, two of the other stops of The Great Depression Tour.
While Nelson and Jones are always the favourites, especially Nelson who had been the pro at Ridgewood in the early 30’s, Dudley’s name has now got to be considered as well. At the 7th stop, he closed fast with a splendid 64 and just missed catching Al Espinosa at “The Black”, posting another second-place finish. His win here shows a preference for the Tillinghast design, be it the long 7,400 yards at Bethpage, or Pine Valley’s 7,000.
After the tournament at Ridgewood, The Greatest Generation Tour will begin its ten events in England at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club. After the customary five tournaments in the United Kingdom, the 40 golfers, including Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Bobby Locke, and Jimmy Demaret and their entourages will board the luxurious Queen Mary at Southampton for a trip across the Atlantic, docking at Hilton Head, South Carolina and the Harbour Town Golf Resort. The five events in the USA will all take place in the South.