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2020 took some of golf’s greats from us, Part 1


On Feb. 17, 2020, the sports world lost a legend with the death of Mary Kathryn “Mickey” Wright at age 85, winner of 82 LPGA Tour events from 1956 through 1973 (and 8 other professional wins), and a 13-time major champion.

That record included four U.S. Open victories in a seven-year period -- a career similar to Tiger Woods! She even attended Stanford University for a year.

Born in San Diego, Wright was introduced to golf as a toddler and began showing spark at age 11, when she took lessons at La Jolla Country Club. She became a USGA champion at age 17, winning the 1952 U.S. Girls’ Junior.

After winning the Womens’ World Amateur Championship in 1954, she quickly turned professional. Inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1976, Wright was regarded universally as a special person, exuding class, elegance and amazing talent.

About that talent, Ben Hogan once said, Wright “had the finest swing I ever saw – man or woman.” That swing was once described as a tall, lanky, full flowing swing with great speed, just oozing art. She was named Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press in both 1963 and 1964. She was inducted into the PGA of America Hall of Fame in 2017.

Loyal H. “Bud” Chapman may not be a name familiar to younger golfers today, but he had been known as the “most interesting man in golf” in his later years.

Chapman, a native of Minnesota, was known as a brilliant artist, talented golfer colorful character and gifted storyteller. He died July 9, 2020, at age 97. He was a pilot in the Army Air Corps and flew B-29s, but never went overseas. The war ended with him on the airstrip in Tucson, ready to take off for a mission.

But since Chapman’s golf game preceded him everywhere, Army bosses didn’t want to lose their golfing partner. Later, Chapman made substantial money as a commercial artist, but his real fame is tied to his “Infamous 18 Golf Holes” – a series of stunning watercolor fantasy holes mapped out from around the globe. Go to Google or eBay to view many of them.

Something in Chapman’s bio that got my attention was the fact that he shot his age nearly 4,000 times! He used a 54-inch driver before the USGA limited the length to 48 inches. After winning the Minnesota Senior Amateur twice and the Minnesota Senior Open once, Chapman was named Minnesota Golf Association’s Senior Player of the Year in three different decades.

As good as a golfer as he was, his lasting legacy with the public will be the Infamous 18 Holes: there is Machu Pichu, Wall Street, Victoria Falls, Mt. Rushmore and more. You have to see them – they’re stunning. I have two of them framed. A very interesting man.

One of professional golf’s most colorful players, Doug Sanders, died April 20, 2020. He was 86. Nicknamed the “Peacock of the Fairways,” because of his brightly colored, flamboyant attire, his flashy looks were possibly a response to his growing up barefoot and poor in rural Georgia. But the family lived close to a nine-hole golf course and Sanders was a self-taught golfer.

After high school, Sanders accepted an athletic scholarship to the University of Florida, where he was a standout on the Gators’ golf team, helping his team win the SEC Championship and a sixth-place finish in the NCAA Championship in 1955.

Following his win in the 1956 Canadian Open as an amateur, he turned professional. He went on to win 20 tournaments on the PGA Tour, while earning 13 top-10 finishes (including four seconds) in major championships without a win. But he did play on the winning U.S. Ryder Cup team in 1967.

Longtime golf fans may recall the meltdown and heartbreak Sanders suffered in the 1970 British Open at St. Andrews. Leading by a couple of shots on the 72nd hole, Sanders took four shots from just 74 yards to the hole, missing a 30-inch putt. The next day he lost the playoff to Jack Nicklaus.

Dr. Charlie Blanchard is a licensed psychologist specializing in sports and leadership. Contact him at docblanchard71@gmail.com.