Al Geiberger's historic 59 at the Stanford St. Jude Championship, then the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic, came 30 years ago this Sunday, on June 10, 1977. It was the first sub-60 score in an official PGA Tour event, matched since only by David Duval at the Bob Hope and Chip Beck in Vegas, but it was more than that.
Geiberger's incredible second round was shot on a 7,249-yard course with no graphite or titanium, and in 100-degree heat. Geiberger's cell phone number ends in "5959" and his ride used to sport "Mr. 59" license plates until he realized, "The trouble with that is everybody knows who you are."
He's in Memphis this week to relive old times, and there will be much reminiscing about how the tournament was not nationally televised, and the one local station that had footage burned to the ground. About how Geiberger's accomplishment was a trivia question on Cheers. He asks a better trivia question: When was the last time a guy won on Tour without shooting any rounds in the 60's? Geiberger won Memphis with scores of 72-59-72-70.
It's all part of the record, but when I ran into Geiberger at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic earlier this year, "Skippy" (so named for his fondness for peanut butter) recounted part of the story I hadn't heard, and from this day on the punch line should be added to the classic golf maxims like Keep Your Head Down and Take it Back Low and Slow:
"A guy named Tom Story had shot 67 the first day, and I'd shot even (72)," Geiberger said. "The next day he teed off around noon, and I was at 1:10, and he was even for his first five holes, still 5-under. Then I went 13-under in 18 holes and he went 5-over for his remaining 13. So I beat him by 18 shots."
Story's five-shot lead was obliterated, but he learned a valuable lesson from the 18-shot swing.
Geiberger continued: "Years later he came up to me and said, 'The moral of the story is if you ever have an 18-shot lead with 13 holes remaining, don't let up.'"