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Once Again, Spotlight Will Shine on Oakmont

March 17, 1985|Shav Glick

Amy Alcott calls the Oakmont Country Club course, where the $250,000 GNA (for Great Northern Annuity) LPGA tournament starts Thursday, "the best kept secret in Los Angeles."

The 29-year-old former U.S. Women's Open champion has been playing golf in and around Southern California since she was 9, but until she ventured out to Glendale last week for a practice round, she had never seen the 60-year-old course.

Back before Amy was born, Oakmont played an important part in the history of golf in this area.

Twice, in 1935 and again in 1948, the PGA tour stopped at Oakmont. Macdonald Smith, a year after winning his fourth Los Angeles Open, won the 1935 Glendale Open there. He had recently been hired as the club's head professional.

In '48, Ben Hogan, four months after winning the U.S. Open at Riviera, shot a final-round 64 and won the second Glendale Open by two strokes over Lloyd Mangrum. It was Hogan's ninth win in 12 tournaments, and he collected $2,450. That increased his earnings that year to $35,547.

The GNA winner next Sunday will collect $37,500.

The most remarkable incident in Oakmont history, however, occurred Dec. 5, 1950, when one of the club's professionals, Ralph Blomquist, shot a 58, 14 strokes under par. He did it on nines of 28 and 30.

Hall of Fame professional Paul Runyan, a two-time PGA champion and a contemporary of Blomquist, still calls it "the most remarkable round of golf ever shot."

Blomquist, a big, blond belter from Sacramento who came to Oakmont after four years in the Air Force, had warmed up to his task by winning the California State Open and the Santa Anita Open that fall, and by shooting an Oakmont course-record 31-32--63 three weeks before the 58.

The 58 wasn't in a tournament, but Blomquist was playing in a money match with Don Erickson, M. O. Johnston Jr., C. I. Ivers and Bob Hankey. They played from the regular men's tees, which measured 6,327 yards, and holed out every putt because of the bets involved.

"Ralph made the boys pay for his exhibition," Erickson said at the time. "He got into everybody's pocket."

What impressed Runyan is that Blomquist, although a long hitter, did not eagle a single hole. Al Geiberger, who shot the all-time low tournament score with a 13-under-par 59 during the second round of the 1977 Memphis Open, had 11 birdies and an eagle.

"Look at Ralph's scorecard and you'll see the most remarkable string of 3s you ever saw," Runyan said. He made nine 3s in a row, from the second hole through the 10th. And on the next hole, he had a 2 before he finally made a 4. Fourteen birdies in one round is absolutely remarkable."

There is no official woman's record at Oakmont, but head pro Skip Whittet predicts there will be one in the 60s before Sunday's final round. Play starts Wednesday with a pro-amateur, followed by the 72-hole championship beginning Thursday.

Golf Notes Fifty-two senior pros will shoot for $250,000 in prize money next week at Mountaingate CC in West L.A. in the 54-hole Carta Blanca senior tournament. This is the first time the $6-million PGA Senior tour has been in the Los Angeles area. A two-day pro-am with 208 amateurs sold out at $1,000 a spot. Bob Hope, Glen Campbell, Ernie Banks, Andy Williams and tournament host Johnny Mathis, a member at Mountaingate, are celebrity entries. Play will start with a scrambles pro-am Thursday, March 28, in which pro scores do not count, followed by a best-ball pro-am Friday in which the pro scores start counting. Only the professionals will play Saturday and Sunday as they battle for $40,000 first-prize money. Qualifying for six pro spots is set for March 26 at Mountaingate with 60 entries expected. Also March 26 at 11:30 a.m. will be a free clinic given by Jerry Barber for anyone 60 or older. Mountaingate is off the San Diego Freeway a half-mile south of Mulholland Dr.

Mark O'Meara, winner of the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am and the Hawaiian Open this year, is going for a $421,000 bonanza in this week's Panasonic Las Vegas Invitational. If O'Meara wins, he will collect a record $171,000 first prize and an additional $250,000 bonus given to any player who parlays wins in the Crosby or Bob Hope Classic with the Panasonic. Lanny Wadkins, winner of the Hope, has said he does not plan to enter the Las Vegas tournament, which will start Wednesday on the Las Vegas, Dunes, Showboat and Desert Inn CC courses. The final round of the five-day event will be played at Las Vegas CC. Fuzzy Zoeller, who won last week's Bay Hill tournament in Florida, is the defending champion.

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