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Published: Thursday, 6/26/2003

30 years later, a reunion

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Vinny Giles said his legs gave out in the heat when he lost in the semifinals. Vinny Giles said his legs gave out in the heat when he lost in the semifinals.
WADSWORTH / BLADE Enlarge
Craig Stadler won at Inverness when he was a 20-year-old junior at USC. Craig Stadler won at Inverness when he was a 20-year-old junior at USC.
WADSWORTH / BLADE Enlarge

Inverness Club is playing host to a reunion of sorts this week, the 30-year get-together for a number of the participants, including two key ones, in the 1973 U.S. Amateur Championship that was staged here.

It was a torturous, week-long test of stamina and mettle played out in oppressive heat. The best amateur players from the United States, England and Scotland assembled at Inverness, and the match-play event was won by a 20-year-old junior from the University of Southern California - Craig Stadler.

To reach the final Stadler had to defeat the reigning amateur champions from the U.S. and Great Britain - on the same day. Stadler, who won 12 times on the PGA Tour and was its leading money-winner in 1982 ($446,462), joined the Champions Tour after turning 50 earlier this month. He has finished in the top 20 in the two Champions Tour events he has entered.

“It's good to be back here; '73 is obviously a good memory for me,” Stadler said yesterday. “It's always fun to come back and play some place where you have been successful.”

Dick Siderowf, the British Amateur champion, and U.S. Amateur champ Vinny Giles fell to Stadler on the same day.

“They were probably two of the top five favorites in the field,” Stadler said. “I was maybe in the top 20. But to beat both of them in the same day, that was a little sweeter yet.”

Stadler beat Siderowf 2 and 1 in the quarterfinal round, then came back in the afternoon semifinal and defeated Giles 3 and 1.

In the championship match the next day, Stadler ran away from David Strawn of North Carolina, beating him 6 and 5 after 31 holes.

“My memories are of not playing very well overall, but putting just out of my mind for five or six days,” Stadler said. “As I remember it, I think everybody I played hit it better than I did. I hit it all over the lot. I had this big, wicked 80-yard slice going on every hole, but everything inside of 20 feet I made on every hole, every day.”

Giles has had a long and successful amateur career that has included the 1972 U.S. Amateur crown, the 1975 British Amateur title and three runner-up finishes in the U.S. Amateur. He has been the low amateur in the U.S. Senior Open three times.

“When I played Craig Stadler here back in '73, I think it was in the semifinals and it was our second round of the day and quite honestly I just gave out,” Giles said. “I could feel my legs not wanting to work, I was that tired. He gave me some chances coming in, and I just couldn't take advantage of them. I was physically spent. Mentally I was OK, but I couldn't make my body work.”

Giles, 60, was a three-time All-American at Georgia and represented the U.S. on the Walker Cup team four times. He said he remembers a young Stadler getting the best of a star-studded field at Inverness.

“There were a whole lot of very good golfers in that event,” said Giles, who was 30 at the time. “Craig was one of them, but I remember thinking that there were a bunch of guys who looked like they could win it. He got hot and put everything in the hole, and basically just took the tournament away from the rest of us.”

Gary Koch, the low amateur from the U.S. Open that year who is also playing in the Senior Open, was here in 1973, as was Curtis Strange, a long-time regular fixture on the PGA Tour. Marty West revisits Inverness from the 1973 event. The field also included a couple of hometown favorites who are still prominent on the amateur circuit, Denny Spencer and Pat Lindsey.

Giles came back to Toledo and played in the Inverness Invitational in May, his first trip around the course since that 1973 U.S. Amateur. After his practice round yesterday, Giles was not overly optimistic about his chances against the world's best 50-and-over set.

“My golf is pretty spotty right now,” Giles said.

Stadler is looking for some of that 30-year-old magic.

“Back in 1973, the way I was making putts, I think everybody I played just got fed up and I wore them down,” Stadler said. “I wouldn't mind making one or two of those a day here. That would be OK.”



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