When the PGA Tour Suspended 4 For Deliberate High Scores

Back in 1957, four PGA Tour golfers were peeved they hadn't gotten their way, and to punish, well, somebody, they deliberately posted high scores. The tour's reaction? Suspensions and fines.

The four golfers were future PGA Championship winner Don January, plus George Bayer, Ernie Vossler and Doug Higgins. The tournament was the 1957 Kentucky Derby Open.

January was in his second year on the tour. He went on to win the 1967 PGA Championship and 10 events total, before posting 22 Champions Tour wins. Bayer and Vossler were in their third seasons, and Higgins was also very early in his tour career. All were around the same age (late 20s).

And, probably not coincidentally, the four of them roomed together during the week of the 1957 Kentucky Derby Open. Fellow tour pro Bob Toski, chairman of the tournament committee, certainly didn't think it coincidental: "It is my guess," Toski said, "that one man brainwashed the other three."

What, exactly, happened? All four golfers had made the 36-hole cut, but were down near the bottom of the standings. None of them wanted to stick around and finish out the tournament — they wanted to get on the road (they were driving) to Fort Worth, site of the next event on the schedule.

They requested permission from the tour to withdraw from the Kentucky Derby Open. The tour denied the request. If you make the cut, you finish the tournament, short of injury, illness or at least something more important than wanting to get a head-start on your road trip to Texas.

January, Bayer, Vossler and Higgins were not happy about that. But what could they do? They played the third round. But to show their anger, they each , at some point during the round, blew up on the course and intentionally played poorly.

January and Higgins each had one hole on which they took 10s, barely showing any effort. That the 10s were intentional was obvious to everyone watching. Vossler carded a decent 38 on the front nine, but blew up to a 46 on the back nine. A bit more subtle than the other two, but still, to those watching, intentional poor play.

And Bayer? Perhaps he was the one who, in Toski's words, did the "brainwashing" of the others. Bayer did have a reputation for letting his anger get the better of him on the golf course.

And on the 17th hole, a 395-yard par-4, Bayer took out his 7-iron on the tee and chipped the ball. Then he walked a little forward to where his chip shot had landed and did the same thing. Then he did it again. And again and again. In all, Bayer used the 7-iron to chip his ball down the entire length of the hole, and wound up writing a 17 on the scorecard. It remains today one of the highest single-hole scores in PGA Tour history. He wound up with a final score of 90.

Because there was a second cut after the third round, all four players' intentional high scores had their desired effect. The golfers were eliminated from the final round, failing to make the 54-hole cut. And they lit out for Fort Worth.

The tour, which, according to newspaper articles of the time, was already concerned about poor manners being displayed by some players, reacted swiftly. The next day, the tour announced punishments for all four: a 30-day suspension for each.

According to the Associated Press article about the incident, "PGA supervisor Harvey Raynor said stiff penalties will continue to be the order until all players learn to act like gentlemen."

Toski had concerns about such conduct potentially affecting the tour's tournament purses: "Conduct like this is enough to cause tournament sponsors to lose heart."

The quartet of misbehaving golfers issued apologies and promises that nothing like it would ever happen again. Each had his suspension lifted and replaced by a $250 fine and 90 days of probation. Three months after the Kentucky Derby Open, Bayer posted his first-ever PGA Tour win at the Canadian Open.

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