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Buick Open Rolls into Warwick Hills

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There never has been another year, or Tommy Bolt, like 1958; and why not? He grabbed an early win in the Colonial at Fort Worth, then parlayed it into his greatest success, the U.S. Open, which he led wire-to-wire at Oklahoma's Southern Hills Country Club.

To be sure, the colorful player they called Thunder Bolt was on hand in Tulsa last month to reminisce about that year amidst the Tiger Woods commotion and the ga-ga Petief Goosen goings-on that followed. But Bolt also had time to recall his participation in the first-ever Buick Open at Warwick Hills CC that followed.

Bolt's jut-jaw and Bob Hope-like ski snoot were at their proudest tilt as he remembered leaving the Open with that great victory and heading for Michigan and the Tour's first-ever $50,000 tournament (it was staged in June that year).

Bolt's memory is razor sharp at age 81, befitting his new club affiliation with Razor Clubs, and he practically bubbled as he reported. "I played my first round with them the other day and shot 72, podnuh," he chortled. (Talk about shooting your age!)

Anyway, Bolt enjoyed his experiences at Warwick and he'll be watching via TV from his summer home at Cherokee Village, Arkansas, when Rocco Mediate defends his title in the newest Buick, August 9-12 at Warwick.

"It was a great thing, one of the first big-money tournaments we had on the Tour," Bolt recalled. "It's a good course with good greens. I'll tell you, if you missed the greens up there you shudda been run off that course. And at 7,000 yards it was pretty long."

Warwick was subsequently shortened and revised a bit and became a fine course, but Bolt agrees that that first-year course was not a good track with white chalk marks making pock marks all over to denote free drops for ground under repair ... repair, indeed. Grass simply hadn't taken root yet.

No matter, the big bucks were out there and Al Tomato Face was in high spirits. What the hell, he had just won the U.S. Open so what's not to like; besides, there were other perks.

"I played in most all the early tournaments up there. Jerry Rideout was a great guy and he did a great job," Bolt said, remembering the former Buick PR poobah who assisted Waldo McNaught in the inaugural years and later was the Buick tournament director. „He gave us those Buicks to drive, boy ... you couldn't beat the price," Bolt said with a loud guffaw.

Other long-time observers of the Buick Open scene recall Bolt's bombastic Buick bow. He came in fresh from his Open victory and tooled into Warwick in a big Cadillac and quickly asked about the new courtesy Buicks. Officials being hot to publicize their brand didn't fancy the thought of the Open champion herding that big Caddy around so they hastily rounded up the keys.

Alas, Bolt had other ideas. His young Flint caddie, Reuben Arceo was guarding Bolt's big golf bag nearby and Terrible Tommy flipped the Buick keys to him, saying: "Here's your car for the week, son."

Nice deal, but it caused Reuben a little grief that week. Police viewed the courtesy car cruising a Flint street one night and feared the auto, with Bolt's name emblazoned on the side, might be stolen. They stopped the car and Arceo had to do some fancy explaining to prove he was entitled.

Meanwhile, Bolt opened the tournament with three-under 69. "I drew all the people for two or three rounds since I was the Open champ," he said. "I was in it, right around the lead for three rounds."

One of the quickest wits, yet one of the quickest tempers on the tour, Bolt nevertheless had one of the finest swings ever, too. His famous trigger temper wasn't quite as bad as advertised, but he concedes he let more than a few tournaments get away. That wasn't the excuse this time, but Bolt slipped from his opening 69 to 72, then a weekend 72-74 and tied Doug Ford (or Doug Buick, as his caddy bib billed him at Warwick) for fourth place at 287.

Billy Casper won that original Buick at 285, one shot ahead of Ted Kroll and Bolt's old traveling companion of the mid-50s, Arnold Palmer.

"I got mad and lost my concentration, I blew the tournament," Bolt said.

But his memories are fond. "Players make more money nowadays, but we had more fun. When you get money involved, it becomes a business and they have to be all serious, which eliminates the fun."

Bolt, age 81, still enjoys life and golf,and he'll be parked in front of his TV when they tee it up in another Buick ... and the memories will come flooding back.


August 2001 Issue Table of Content
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