• Sal Maiorana

Happy birthday to 1968 Masters champ Bob Goalby

As Bob Goalby celebrates his 91st birthday today, that means he has had more than half a century to call himself a Masters champion.

In 1968, Goalby was awarded the coveted green jacket, and the shame is that people still to this day remember that Masters not as the tournament Goalby won, but the one that Argentina’s Roberto de Vicenzo lost.

That was the year that de Vicenzo signed an incorrect scorecard after he’d finished the 72nd hole, and rather than playing Goalby the next day in an 18-hole playoff to decide the winner, de Vicenzo was assessed a one-stroke penalty for his mistake, and Goalby was declared the winner.

“What a stupid I am,” de Vicenzo famously said in his broken English.

For years, Goalby was considered a paper champion which never made much sense, an unfair characterization that diminished what he accomplished on that Sunday in Augusta, Ga. He battled de Vicenzo shot for shot, closing the final round with a 6-under-par 66 for a total of 11-under 277.

De Vicenzo actually shot 65 which would have matched Goalby’s 277, but he wound up settling for a 66 after his penalty because of his mathematical error.

On the 17th hole he made a birdie-3 to get to 12-under-par which put him in the lead by a stroke. However, his playing partner and scorekeeper, Tommy Aaron, mistakenly wrote a four on the card. De Vicenzo went on to bogey the 18th which dropped him back into a tie with Goalby at 11-under.

Taking the erroneous four on 17 into account, Aaron gave de Vicenzo a 35 on the back nine when it should have been 34, and a 66 for the round when it should have been 65. De Vicenzo didn’t catch the mistake, signed the card, and once the faux pas was discovered there was nothing the green coats who run the Masters could do.

Neither Roberto de Vicenzo, left, or Bob Goalby look too happy at the 1968 Masters.

Tournament chairman Clifford Roberts – in consultation with Masters founder and patriarch Bobby Jones who was in failing health and watching the tournament on television from his on-site cabin – had no choice but to penalize de Vicenzo a stroke for signing for a score higher than he actually shot.

Had de Vicenzo signed for a score lower than he shot, he would have been disqualified and ineligible for the second-place money of $15,000. But never mind the money, this was the Masters, one of the crown jewels of the PGA circuit. De Vicenzo got the check, just not the jacket.

“I’m very happy I won the tournament,” the gracious Goalby said afterward. “I’d be a liar if I told you I wasn’t. But I’m really sorry I won it the way I did. I’d much rather have done it in a playoff. Roberto has been one of my good friends for 12 years, and there has never been a nicer fellow.”

Goalby, who is the uncle of Jay Haas, the winner of the 2008 Senior PGA at Oak Hill Country Club, would win 11 PGA tournaments and two more on the Champions Tour, but the 1968 Masters was his only major championship.

He earned it, but he never properly received credit for it.

“I am so unhappy to make five on the last hole, and Bob, he gave me so much pressure on the last hole that I lose my brain,” said de Vicenzo, who lived to the age of 94 before passing away in 2017. “I play golf all over the world for 30 years, and now all I can think of is what a stupid I am to be wrong in this wonderful tournament. Never have I ever done such a thing before. Maybe I am too old to win. It’s not Aaron’s fault; I’m sure he feels worse about it than me. It’s my fault.”