Tuesday, September 15
An Unplanned Visit with Hall of Famer Billy Casper
IF BILLY CASPER HAD LOCATED his room sooner at the Crowne Plaza, I would not have had my chance and enjoyable encounter with him.
I’m at the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn, this week’s Champions Tour event. It’s pretty close to home, so I’m here hanging out with the legends—and meeting some of the Champions Tour players as well, most notably Fred Funk.
I had just left Jack Fleck when I ran into Mr. Casper, arguably the most underrated pro golfer of all time. Billy won 51 times on the PGA Tour, including three majors—two U.S. Opens and a Masters.
Billy and I had crossed paths at the front desk and engaged in small talk. Now he was looking for his room, and when he found it I offered to lug his heavy golf travel bag through the glass door and down the walkway to his room.
“Come on in,” Billy said, so I stepped inside and we talked for a little while. “Don’t go yet,” he added as I moved toward the door. He was reaching into his golf bag.
Meanwhile, I did something I’ve never done before. I started dialing my cell phone, explaining to Billy what I was doing. I was calling my 82-year-old dad in California, the person who got me started in golf and a knowledgeable fan about the era of Palmer, Nicklaus and Player. (And also the very deserving but less popular Casper.) I wanted to put the two of them on the phone.
Billy was totally cool about it. They talked for several minutes. My dad was thrilled, more excited than I would have guessed, which made me feel great. Then Billy signed two golf balls (that’s what he was reaching for in his bag), one for my dad and one for me. Both balls had the number “51,” signifying his total wins.
It’s pretty cool to hang out with a Hall of Famer. It’s even cooler to share the experience with your dad.
−The Armchair Golfer