Gene Sarazen, 75 years after 'The Shot': O.B. Keeler's recounting of the feat

Editor's Note: Taken from the book "The Squire: The Legendary Golfing Life of Sarazen" by John M. Olman

By O.B. Keeler

Atlanta Journal, April 8, 1935

Gene Sarazen and Walter Hagen had finished the long 13th hole at the Augusta National Golf Club. Gene made a hard-earned birdie 4 in a desperate effort to stay on the heels of Craig Wood, the leader in the Masters Tournament. Wood had finished the last round a few minutes before with something spectacular, judging from the roar of the distant gallery about the home green.

Sarazen had gone into the last nine a stroke behind Wood. Each had lost a stroke to par at the 10th. Each had done his par at the 11th and 12th. Each had picked up a birdie at the dangerous 13th but news had already reached Sarazen that his leading rival had done a birdie 3 at the 14th and a birdie 4 at the 485-yard 15th, and Gene’s square brown face was set in the Bulldog look the little fellow wears when the clutch is on. He must go under par, certainly - two strokes under par - to tie, if Wood went to the end without another slip.

The pair drove from the 14th tee, Sarazen hooking badly to the rough, leaving himself a savagely testing second shot to the green.

And just then word came to explain that distant roar from the crowd at the home green.

“Wood holed a 3 at the 18th!”

And all that meant was that Gene Sarazen had to pick up three strokes on par in five holes.

The old Haig looked at Gene, and shook his black head - the indomitable old battler - and he said, “Well, Gene, that looks as if it’s all over.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Gene and there was something like a grin, which was not a grin, on his dark face. “They might go in from anywhere!”

His Final Bid

And he tore that ball from the thick rough with a slashing iron shot that perched the ball at the extreme right of the big green, a hundred feet from the flag, and he got down in two putts, the last one of six feet. And now all he had to do was to pick up three strokes on Old Man Par, in four holes.

“They might go in from anywhere!”

I think that idea was fixed and dominant in the little chap’s mind and heart as he walked to the ball after his big drive down the center, from the 15th tee. It was a huge wallop at least 270 yards through the thick, cold air, well ahead of the Haig, who hooked his own second badly. Then Gene pulled a number 4 spoon - a little pet club. And he hit that ball on a ruled line toward the flag more than 200 yards away.

“They might go in from anywhere!”

As the ball started there was the customary gasp from the small gallery as it sailed, for that ball was flying, true as a rifle bullet, on the pin. It struck a foot in front of the emerald carpet of the green. It bounced once — twice — and settled to a roll, while the ripple of sound from the gallery went sweeping up into a crescendo — and then — and then the hurricane broke loose as the word travelled up to the clubhouse.

“They might go in from anywhere!”

This one did.

The visible action was that of a steel sphere drawn to an irresistible magnet, as the ball rolled straight to the cup and dropped in. Dropped for a 2. Dropped for a double-eagle, as they call it on a par 5 hole of 485 yards. Dropped for a deuce that gathered up at one fell swoop all three strokes of Sarazen’s deficit to Craig Wood, and left him par 3-4-4 to tie at 282 for the lead in the Master’s Tournament.

The scene that ensued not only beggared description but put it through a forced receivership. Certainly I am not going to try it on the typewriter ... I walked along with Gene a few rods of his triumphal march toward the green, and now the grin on his face was a real grim, and no mistake. But he had nothing to say ... He held that little No. 4 spoon somewhat as if it had been a scepter. And he used it again, for his second shot to the home green, straight past the pin this time, leaving two putts for the last par 4, and a tie with Craig Wood. The last putt was of a yard. But Sarazen doesn’t seem to bother much, about such details. He was ready to pick it out when it trickled into the middle of the hole.

So there was the great tournament, all tied up, with a playoff at 36 holes next day, by one of the greatest shots of history - the greatest, I assume, that anybody in that huge gallery had ever seen in the pinch of real competition; perhaps the greatest shot ever played.

It stole the show, of course. Sarazen finished the second nine with a 33 for a round of 70, in the pinch to cut away a deficit of three strokes by which he was on the wrong side of the lead when the last round started... Three strokes cut away, on one hole!

“They might go in from anywhere!”

If Gene Sarazen cares to devise a coat of arms for his future generations, I’d suggest that as the motto, and perhaps a No. 4 spoon, rampant, as a crest.

Wood Finished Strong

Wood’s own rally, to finish in 34 on the last nine, was a glorious affair, ending with that five-yard putt for a 3 that so well seemed to put the tournament on ice. Olin Dutra’s return journey of 33, after the most hideous misfortune in every golfing guise has put the open champion out in 42 on the first nine, was the most brilliant segment of consecutive play in all the tournament, carrying him up to the next place with a total of 284. Lawson Little, finishing 3-4-3 to extract a par round of 72 after a terrible start on both sides, upheld the honor of the amateurs magnificently, to finish with 288 in sixth place in this tremendous field. Henry Picard’s 75 was simply a reflection of his preceding 76. He had shot too much gilt-edged golf in the fortnight before, and could not possibly hold the peak.

And in scattering the rose petals do not forget the Masters Tournament itself. There have been those who suggested, hypercritically, that the tourney was built solely on the entry of Bobby Jones and the possibility of the erstwhile maestro making a spectacular showing. You may write that off now - and write it off definitely. With Bobby hopelessly out of the limelight after the second round, and a raw, cold, and almost rainy day for the last act, the Sunday gallery was vastly increased in numbers over the closing day last year. The tournament is on the cards as a fixture. Bobby will play again next year - and the next. But whatever may be his future performance, the Augusta National from this date on definitely is established for what its name implies. It is the Masters Tournament.

Incidentally, — and forgive this mild somewhat bashful reference — perhaps you will recall once more a little forecast of this correspondent before the tournament began: that by Sunday evening four scores of 70 would look frightfully well. Or maybe four scores of 71. As it turned out, the leaders tied with an average of just four scores of 70 and a half. I am not usually so accurate.

© 2010 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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