(Scottsdale, Az.) – The year was 1964. America was still reeling over the assassination of President Kennedy. Military buildup in Vietnam was escalating. And, four fresh-faced musicians from Liverpool, England were causing quite a commotion on the Ed Sullivan Show. It was also the year that a major golf championship was played at Columbus Country Club.
The PGA Championship teed off at Columbus Country Club in 1964 and its members fully embraced hosting one of the golf’s major championships. It also enjoyed the much-needed infusion of capital as the Club experienced the loss of its Clubhouse due to a fire two years earlier in 1962.
“The extra funds we received from the ’64 PGA really helped us pay for the new Clubhouse,” said Jim Merkle, past president of Columbus CCC and considered the Club’s unofficial historian. “At the time we had around 750 members and everyone rallied around the efforts of the Club to present the absolute best tournament possible. And, of course it was great that a local favorite, Jack Nicklaus was playing in the event as well.”
However, it was Bobby Nichols that stole the early headlines firing an opening round 64 and going on to lead wire-to-wire and capture his lone major title. Nichol’s four-day total was nine-under-par, 271. Finishing three shots of the pace were the two titans of the game, Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. The Golden Bear, playing in his home city held a furious late charge with a final round 64, but it wasn’t enough to catch Nichols. Another legend of the game of golf, Ben Hogan, age 51 teed it up in the ’64 PGA and finished tied for 9th place.
“We had large galleries, the players loved the golf course which was re-designed by the legendary Donald Ross in the 30’s and 40’s and it had a special feel the entire tournament,” added Merkle who played high school golf (Bexley HS) against the Golden Bear (Upper Arlington HS).
To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the ’64 PGA Championship, Columbus Country Club is celebrating in grand style. A member celebration party will take place on Saturday, August 9 complete with heavy hors d’oeuvres, drinks and festive events. The Club also developed a special Anniversary logo which will appear on all flagsticks on the golf course along with other signage around the storied private country club.
“We are so proud of the rich history of Columbus Country Club and hold a special place in our hearts for the 1964 PGA Championship,” said Rob DeMore, vice president of Troon Privé. “We’ve extended an invitation to Bobby Nichols who lives in Florida to join us and we hope he does. The entire Club is in full celebration mode.”