Bob Goalby: Masters Champion, PGA Tour Winner

Bob Goalby won a Masters Tournament, but in a way that caused many fans to treat him as something of an accidental championship. He wasn't: Goalby earned that win, and double-digit wins on the PGA Tour. He also played a part in the creation of the modern PGA Tour, and then of the Senior Tour.

Full name: Robert George Goalby

Date of birth: March 14, 1929

Place of birth: Belleville, Illinois

Date and place of death: January 19, 2022 in Belleville, Illinois

Goalby's Biggest Wins

Goalby had 11 official wins on the PGA Tour:
  • 1958 Greater Greensboro Open
  • 1960 Coral Gables Open
  • 1961 Los Angeles Open
  • 1961 St. Petersburg Open
  • 1962 Insurance City Open Invitational
  • 1962 Denver Open Invitational
  • 1967 San Diego Open
  • 1968 Masters Tournament
  • 1969 Robinson Open Golf Classic
  • 1970 Heritage Golf Classic
  • 1971 Bahamas National Open
He also won twice on the Champions Tour:

The Scorecard Blunder and His 1968 Masters Victory

The 1968 Masters is best-remembered for who didn't win it, rather than who did. The golfer who didn't win was Roberto De Vicenzo; the one who did was Bob Goalby. At issue was a scorecard mistake that cost De Vicenzo dearly.

De Vicenzo played the final round just ahead of Goalby. De Vicenzo finished first, scoring 65 after a bogey on the final hole, posting 277. Goalby made par on the final hole moments later, tying De Vicenzo at 277 after carding a 66.

De Vicenzo had actually scored 3, a birdie, on the 17th hole, but his marker, playing partner Tommy Aaron, incorrectly wrote a 4 on De Vicenzo's scorecard. De Vicenzo was agitated over his final-hole bogey and rushed through the review of his scorecard, failing to catch Aaron's mistake. When De Vicenzo signed the incorrect scorecard, the 4 Aaron wrongly listed on the 17th hole stood, making De Vicenzo's score 66, not 65, his total 278, not 277.

And making Bob Goalby the 1968 Masters champion without having to play a playoff.

But Goalby earned that title: He shot 66 in the final round. He birdied the 13th hole, birdied the 14th, eagled the 15th. And made par on the 18th after De Vicenzo bogeyed it.

Many fans (then and now) didn't understand that the scorecard gaffe didn't cost De Vicenzo the championship, but, rather, a spot in a playoff. Since De Vicenzo bogeyed the final hole, Goalby probably would have been considered a slight favorite if that playoff had actually been played. Goalby received hate mail for years from people who also misunderstood that it wasn't Goalby who had kept De Vicenzo's scorecard, that Goalby, in fact, had absolutely nothing to do with De Vicenzo's mistake.

In 1989, Goalby vented to the Los Angeles Times some of the frustration he felt at frequently being portrayed as an "accidental champion" or even a villain:

"I've always felt like a victim, as much or more than Roberto. None of the problems with scorecards were my fault. But I have forever been singled out as the guy who won the Masters because of some damn clerical mistake. I don't think I ever got credit for what I did that week."
Following the tournament, Augusta National co-founder Bobby Jones wrote a letter to Goalby in which he said, "I ask you to always remember that you won the tournament under the rules of golf and by superlative play."

But Goalby did feel cheated of The Masters elation that all other champions have felt. He told Golf Digest in 2018, “The presentation ceremony wasn’t what it could have been. I sat next to Roberto and did what I could to console him. ... I felt no elation, nothing like you’d expect from winning the biggest tournament of your life. It was awkward. It was tragic for Roberto, but it was equally unfortunate for me."

Goalby and De Vicenzo were friends the rest of their lives, sometimes partnering one another in team tournaments. But, Goalby said years later, they never talked about the 1968 Masters.

More About Bob Goalby

Bob Goalby was the son of a coal miner, born in an Illinois suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. His first taste of golf was climbing over the fence to get onto St. Clair Country Club. He also worked there as a caddie, and started learning the golf swing by imitating the golfers whose bags he carried.

But other sports had most of Goalby's childhood attention. In high school he played baseball, basketball and was the star quarterback on the football team. He went to the University of Illinois on a football scholarship, but after a year transferred to Southern Illinois to play baseball.

Before he could finish college, Goalby was caught up in the Korean War draft and went into the Army. And when he got out of the Army, it was finally time to focus on golf.

"I only got serious about golf after I got out of the Army and was sort of at loose ends," he once explained to The Missouri Golf Post.

It was a good choice. In 1952 he decided to take a crack at the tour, but Goalby spent most of the 1950s working as a club pro. He was working at a Darien, Connecticut, club in 1957 when a final-round 64 in the PGA Tour Mayfair Inn Open convinced him he was good enough to play the tour full-time.

A year later he had his first win, the 1958 Greater Greensboro Open, and was named the tour's Rookie of the Year at the end of the season.

The early 1960s were his best years and included his lone appearance in the Ryder Cup. Goalby played for Team USA in the 1963 Ryder Cup, posting a 3-1-1 record. He had two singles wins: Goalby defeated Dave Thomas, 3 and 2, in the morning singles; and beat Bernard Hunt, 2 and 1, in the afternoon singles.

Goalby won once in 1960, twice in 1961 and twice in 1962. He tied for second place in the 1961 U.S. Open, one stroke behind winner Gene Littler. A year later, Goalby was solo second in the 1962 PGA Championship. He began the final round four strokes behind Gary Player, then shot 67. It wasn't enough, though, and Goalby finished one behind the winner, Player.

During the final round of the 1961 St. Petersburg Open, a tournament he won, Goalby became the first golfer in PGA Tour history to make eight consecutive birdies during a round. His record wasn't matched until 1976 and wasn't beaten until 2009.

Goalby was someone, however, who occasionally gave in to his anger on the golf course, especially early in his career. In Peter Alliss' The Who's Who of Golf, he wrote: "On one occasion (Goalby) threw himself into a water hazard, on another stamped through puddles up a fairway after he had hooked; and in the 1968 Los Angeles Open, disgusted with the slow play of his playing partners, he left them and finished alone."

Goalby finished fifth on the money list in 1963, a career-best. But soon, a tendency to hook that he'd always had started to get out of his control. Alliss wrote that "Goalby is said to have spent 200 hours of tuition with Johnny Revolta before, in 1967, he finally got the thing out of his system." He won the San Diego Open in 1967, his first win in five years.

The next year, six years after the second of his two major championship runners-up, Goalby finally got his major victory at the 1968 Masters. Goalby had eight total Top 10 finishes in majors. After the win and his two second-place showings, his next-best (also his first major played) showing in a major was a tie for fifth in the 1959 PGA Championship. The last of those Top 10s was in the 1973 Masters (won by Tommy Aaron, who had made the mistake on De Vicenzo's scorecard), where he tied for sixth place.

Goalby finished inside the Top 60 on the money list (then the cutoff to avoid weekly qualifying) from 1958-63 and 1965-73. He last played at least 20 tournaments during the 1974 season, although his final appearance in a PGA Tour event wasn't until 1986. He played in 543 PGA Tour tournaments total. In addition to his 11 career wins, Goalby had 16 second-place finishes on the PGA Tour, 12 thirds and 101 Top 10s.

In the mid- to late 1960s, Goalby was one of the leaders in what is often called the tour players' "rebellion" against the PGA of America. The PGA ran the tour at that time, and made virtually all the decisions relating to it. Tour players demanded more automony, even threatening boycotts of the PGA Championship and the creation of rival tours. Eventually, the PGA of America backed down, ceding more control to the players. Ultimately, the PGA's Tournament Players Division morphed into the modern PGA Tour, an organization completely independent of the PGA of America.

In the late 1970s, Goalby was one of the golfers pushing for the creation of what is now called the PGA Tour Champions, better known as the Champions Tour. It was founded in 1980 as the Senior Tour following a meeting of a handful of top 50-and-over golfers, one of whom was Goalby, where the tour's framework was hammered out.

Goalby played the Senior Tour in its early years, winning twice. He was third on the Senior Tour money list in both 1981 and 1982, also had two other Top 20 finishes. On the Champions Tour, Goalby made 262 starts with two wins, four runner-up finishes, five third-places and 39 total Top 10s. His final start on the senior tour was in 1996.

Goalby also spent time during the 1980s as a commentator on the NBC network's golf broadcasts, and he designed a few golf courses.

In 2007, Goalby was having dinner with his friend George Bayer and their wives at Bayer's house in Palm Springs, California, when Bayer died of a heart attack. Goalby himself lived to the age of 92, passing away in 2022.

The Bob Goalby Golf Open is a charitable tournament first played in 1982 and still played today in Atchison, Kansas. Goalby is a member of the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame and the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame.

Goalby was the uncle of 9-time PGA Tour and 18-time Champions Tour winner Jay Haas; and of Jerry Haas, a winner on the Nike Tour and longtime Wake Forest University golf coach. Bill Haas, a PGA Tour winner, is Goalby's great-nephew.

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