The Sunnehanna Experience (2006)

This article was written by Rick McNeal of Glade Vista, Fairfield Glade, Tennessee, dated April 25, 2006.

Bobby Greenwood PGA: “The Sunnehanna Experience”

“He was a fan-favorite back then and very popular with the people in the pro shop as well as the people in the community,” said Mike Mastovich, a sports writer for The Tribune Democrat in Johnstown, Pa. “The word of his legacy spread, when Bobby Greenwood was here I was but two years old, but people told me about him and you just kind of root for the guy even though I didn’t see him play.”

Bobby had such an impact on the tournament that his remarkable story not only appears in the new book, but Mastovich wrote about it again in an article previewing the 2004 Sunnehanna Amateur “Tournament of  Champions”.

And now, I will tell you the rest of the story.

After graduation from college, Bobby was making quite a name for himself as an amateur golfer. But, according to the prestigious Sunnehanna Amateur tournament in Johnstown Pa., but, that early in his career he didn’t meet the criteria to play in the Tournament of Champions.

“I remember when I was a young golfer I wanted to play in the top amateur tournaments to try to learn more about how to play the game and one day get on the (PGA) Tour.” Bobby explained. “I would write these tournaments and ask what were the qualifications for an invitation to play in their tournament. I got a letter back from Sunnehanna, a very nice polite letter, that said in order to qualify for the Sunnehanna Amateur “Tournament of Champions”, I had to be a state amateur or state open champion, and when I completed the necessary qualifications, to get back in touch with them.”

After Bobby found out what it took to earn an invitation to Sunnehanna, and motivated by the disappointment of the letter he had received, he set out to accomplish what it took to earn an invitation. Finally, in 1965, Sunnehanna sent Bobby an official invitation to play in the Amateur Tournament of Champions after he had won the Tennessee Open tournament by eight strokes that same year. The 8-stroke margin of victory is still a tournament record today!

“The club was beautiful and quaint – the golf course was beautiful. It was just a wonderful experience for a country boy from Tennessee.” Bobby recalls of the Sunnehanna experience.

The trip to the tournament wasn’t all that good to start out with. There was a baggage mix-up on the plane ride to
Pennsylvania and Bobby wound up losing his golf clubs and clothes.

“Since I don’t have my clubs, what’s the use in practicing,” Bobby recalled. “I had been practicing with a vengeance getting ready for the tournament anyway, so I sat around the pool for two days catching up on a little rest and relaxation.”

When the start of the tournament rolled around, Bobby was still without his clothes or clubs. So, he borrowed woods from a club member, a set of irons from the head professional and a putter from the course superintendent.

“I went out the first round and shot a 70 (par) with borrowed clubs which gave me a lot confidence, because I thought, if I can play this well with borrowed clubs, I should do pretty good when I get my own clubs.”

Early in the second round, Bobby was one-under par when his clubs arrived. He kept the putter but switched back to his old clubs and went on to card a course-record 7-under-par 63. From there he went on to win the 1965 Sunnehanna Amateur with a tournament-record 269. His round two 63 is still the course record and his 269 total held on until 1992.

Bobby’s legacy at Sunnehanna didn’t stop there. He returned to Johnstown in 1968 and won the tournament a second time before turning professional. A two time winner of a tournament that has been held annually since 1954 may not carry that much merit to most folks, but to those affiliated with Sunnehanna it does. Only a handful of golfers have won the tournament more than once with a list of champions that includes; Howard Twitty (1970), Ben Crenshaw (1973), Jay Siegel (1976, 1978,1988), John Cook (1977, 1979), Bobby Clampett (1980), Brad Faxon (1982), Scott Verplank (1984, 1985) and Allen Doyle (1989, 1990, 1992, 1994). Those who played and didn’t win at Sunnehanna include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Fred Couples.

Comments are closed.