Much was made of Sergio Garcia’s concession of a 17 foot putt in his match with Rickie Fowler at the recent Accenture Match Play Championship. Although certainly a head scratcher Garcia was generally complimented for his gesture of sportsmanship. But, in the big scheme of things it meant very little since neither of them made the finals. In 1969 there was a much more significant conceded putt that does hold a special place in golf history and has a legacy carried on to this day in the form of a golf club and now a significant golf competition.
That historic concession was in the 1969 Ryder Cup matches at Royal Birkdale in England when, in the final match, Jack Nicklaus conceded a putt to Tony Jacklin on the 18th green that would halve their match and finish the competition tied at 16 points apiece the first time the matches ever finished in a draw.
Back in those days it was the USA versus Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I). Continental Europe would not be added until 1979. Although the Ryder Cup had been contested since 1927, GB&I had won only three times and exactly once (1957) between 1935 and 1969. Adding insult to injury they were coming off the 1967 matches in Houston, Texas where they were thrashed 23 ½-8 ½.
The circumstances for the 1969 matches were already contentious enough but fuel was added to the fire by the team captains. The USA had Sam Snead who was a cantankerus SOB and made little attempt to hide it. Great Britain had Scotsman Eric Brown, a fierce competitor and veteran of four Ryder Cups (1953, 1955, 1957 and 1959) who had won all four of his singles matches over those years.
Brown had quite enough of losing and contrary to the spirit of Ryder Cup sportsmanship ordered his players not to help the Americans look for their wayward shots in the rough. He also knew he had a team capable of winning and was not going to leave any of his ammunition unspent.
Indeed the chippiness carried over into the matches themselves with lots of gamesmanship and other dubious behavior. Brown was quite correct in his assessment with the GB&I team matching the USA shot for shot and point for point until the matches were tied 15 ½ – 15 ½ with only one match still on the course.
Fittingly the final match was between arguably the two best players in the world at that time- Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin. Their match would mirror the rest of the competition going back and forth with neither player ever enjoying more than a 1 up advantage.
Being all even through 15 Nicklaus then won the 16th hole to go one up with two to play. After both players hit the green in two on the par 5- 17th hole Jacklin miraculously drained his 50 putt for an eagle sending the spectators and teammates into delirium and a shaken Nicklaus to miss his putt sending the match to 18 all square.
Both players somehow managed to find the 18th fairway with their tee shots and as they walked up Nicklaus asked his opponent how he was feeling.
“I’m petrified,” Jacklin admitted, to which Nicklaus responded, “If it’s any consolation, I feel exactly the same way you do.”
With a crowd estimated at over 8,000 people awaiting them both players hit the green with Jacklin sitting 25 feet from the cup and Nicklaus being inside him at about 15 feet. Jacklin putted first and left it over two feet short. Nicklaus, with a putt to win the match and the Ryder Cup, couldn’t control his adrenaline and knocked it 5 feet by. Still being outside Jacklin, Nicklaus must now make to tie the match, assuming Jacklin would make his putt.
Jack being Jack, he summoned the will from his deep reservoir of the stuff and drained it. As Jacklin contemplated making his gut wrenching stroke the inexplicable happened; Nicklaus took his ball out of the hole and after a brief hesitation picked up Jacklin’s coin and handed it to him for a concession.
He went over to the Englishman, offered his hand, and explained, “I don’t think you would have missed that putt, but in these circumstances, I would never give you the opportunity.”
Yes, it didn’t matter overall because in a tie the defending champions retain the Cup but it was immeasurable as a sporting gesture particularly in light of how contentious the entire competition had been. Nicklaus explained later, “I believed good sportsmanship should be as much a part of the Ryder Cup as great competition.” Jacklin has always been quick to agree, calling it “the greatest single sporting gesture in golf.”
It was in that spirit the Concession Golf Club was founded in Bradenton, Florida in 2006. Local developer and friend of Nicklaus, Kevin Daves approached Nicklaus with the idea and they both approached Jacklin to see if he might be interested in designing the golf course together to commemorate their historic moment. Jacklin jumped at the opportunity.
Now the Concession Club is about to host the inaugural Concession Cup—a biennial amateur team match-play competition featuring teams consisting of leading Mid-Amateurs, Senior Amateurs and Super Senior Amateurs from the United States and GB&I which will be held April 29 – May 3, 2014.
Players will compete over three days through the traditional team match-play formats of foursome, fourball and singles. Each team will be comprised of 18 players separated into three categories: eight (8) Mid-Am members (age 25 to 54), eight (8) Senior members (age 55 and older) and two (2) Super Senior members (age 65 and older).
Nicklaus and Jacklin have agreed to be honorary captains of their respective teams.
“I am delighted to be a part of The Concession Cup and to join my friend Tony Jacklin as an Honorary Captain,” Nicklaus said.
Two prominent members at the Concession Club have also agreed to be involved. Paul Azinger, 1993 PGA Championship winner and captain of the victorious 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team will act as Honorary Chairman and Gary Koch, six time PGA Tour winner and current NBC television golf analyst, will act as host and emcee of the Opening Celebration.
“We are thrilled to have the support of Jack, Tony, Paul and Gary for The Concession Cup,” said Bruce Cassidy Jr., general manager The Concession Golf Club. “What a tremendous statement of strength it is to have these gentlemen agree to support our inaugural tournament. We are also pleased that the Concession Cup will be a platform to raise funds for three worthy charities; The First Tee of Tampa Bay, Orphan’s Heart and the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation.”
The two teams are a veritable who’s who of amateur golf in the past 40 years- on both sides of the Atlantic with veterans of Walker Cup teams, U.S and British Amateurs, Mid Ams and Opens and championships of every stripe from all over the world.
Officials from The Concession Cup have announced the selection of Vinny Giles and Garth McGimpsey as team captains for the United States (US) and Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) respectively. Together, Giles and McGimpsey bring more than 80 years of competitive experience.
While most of the GB&I team may be unknown to American golf fans they bring serious credentials. The U.S side will be more familiar with names like Giles, Gary Nicklaus, Doug Hanzel, Trip Kuehne, Chip Lutz, Spider Miller, Pat Tallent, Paul Simson, Danny Yates, George Zahringer, Gene Elliott, Scott Harvey, Tim Jackson, Mike McCoy, Nathan Smith and Todd White.
The event is open to the public. For more information log on to www.concessioncup.com
WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?