As the country watched and the 1957 PGA Championship came to its end at Miami Valley Golf Club, two men remained.
“The Lean Bobcat from Ohio University” (Dow Finsterwald) would battle the “Fat Frenchman” (Lionel Hebert), wrote Dayton Daily News sports reporter Ben Garlikov.
The tournament finished its five-day run in Dayton on July 21, 1957, with a 36-hole championship match, the last time the PGA Championship was settled in match play. Hebert prevailed, winning his only major.
It was an impressive week during which some of the world’s finest golfers descended on Dayton for five days of medal play. Up for grabs – an $8,000 purse for the winner. The tournament marked one of three times - along with 1945 (Moraine Country Club) and 1969 (NCR Country Club - that Dayton hosted the PGA Championship.
In the days leading up to the tournament, the community took a keen interest in the event. Observers in the pages of the Dayton Daily News took note of the outfits and colorful footwear worn by some of the golfers.
Chandler Harper, the PGA Championship winner in 1950, “sported a pair of golf shoes that were a mixture of black and heliotrope,” while Ted Kroll wore a pair of “two-tones” in baby blue and silver.
A last-minute predicament on the course warranted some creative problem solving. A combination of humid weather and mowers set to low caused the greens to become discolored.
The night before the tournament, a concoction of vegetable dye was sprayed on the greens to return them to a more natural color. So whether the golfers knew it or not, they played on painted greens.
After four days of play, the 128 players were weaned down to two for the 36-hole championship match, Finsterwald vs. Hebert. They were dead even when they finished the first 18 holes on July 21 as a gallery of 6,500 trailed after the players.
“Victory hinged on almost every shot of the afternoon session,” reported Garlikov, who described in print the details of each hole.
“The killing punch took place on the 34th hole,” he wrote. “There Dow’s drive hit the rough. He picked a six-iron to get the ball up high quickly, but the thick rough prevented him from getting all of the ball and it plopped into the creek and just under the wooden bridge and near a concrete drain pipe.”
Hebert, the champion, told the Dayton Daily News a new putter purchased from Gene Marchi’s shop the day he arrived in Dayton helped him win the tournament.
“It looks like a blade but hits like a mallet,” he said.
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