500 Festival Open Invitation (PGA Tour Tournament)

The 500 Festival Open Invitation was a golf tournament in Indiana that was part of the PGA Tour for much of the 1960s. It had some big-name winners. The tournament promoted the Indianapolis 500 auto race and was played on the Speedway Golf Course, which, at that time, had nine holes inside the race track. (The tournament is sometimes referred to as the Indianapolis 500 Festival Open.)

First played: 1960

Last played: 1968

In its early years the tournament took place just prior to the Indianapolis 500 auto race. In 1963 the tournament began one day after the race. And in 1964, the first three rounds were played prior to the race, the tournament paused one day for the Indy 500, then concluded on the day after the race. After 1965, however, the golf tournament and the Indy 500 did not take place adjacent to one another on the calendar.

Doug Ford won the tournament its first two years, the 15th and 16th wins of his PGA Tour career. And his second win provided probably the biggest highlight in 500 Festival Open history: Ford defeated Arnold Palmer with a birdie on the second hole of a sudden death playoff. (It was one of three playoffs played by Palmer in 1961.)

The only multiple champion other than Ford was Billy Casper, who won three times. Casper's 264 total in 1963 was the tournament's 72-hole scoring record.

The tournaments were all closely contested. The largest margin of victory was only three strokes, recorded by Casper in 1966 and Frank Beard in 1967. Dow Finsterwald's win in 1963 was the last of his 12 wins on the PGA Tour.

Winners of the 500 Festival Open Invitation

1960 — Doug Ford, 270
1961 — Doug Ford, 273 (def. Arnold Palmer in a playoff)
1962 — Billy Casper, 264
1963 — Dow Finsterwald, 268
1964 — Gary Player, 273
1965 — Bruce Crampton, 279
1966 — Billy Casper, 277
1967 — Frank Beard, 279
1968 — Billy Casper, 280

Golf courses: Speedway Golf Course was the tournament site every year but one. In 1965, the Speedway course was undergoing renovations at the time of the tournament. That year, the 500 Festival Open took place at Greentree Country Club in Indianapolis.

Other tournaments on other tours were later played on the golf course at the speedway: the LPGA's 500 Ladies Classic, just once in 1968; the Champions Tour's Brickyard Crossing Championship in the 1990s; and the LPGA's Indy Women in Tech Championship in the 2010s.

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