His son confirmed that Dow Finsterwald, the winner of the 1958 PGA Championship was dead Friday. He was 93.
His son, Colonial Country Club’s head professional in Fort Worth, Texas, said that he did everything he could to win the game. He loved his friends and they will always remember him. He was passionate about the rules and the game. He lived a happy life, and felt complete.
Finsterwald won 11 tournaments over an eight-year period and was named PGA Player Of The Year in 1958. Cashing in on majors meant a high-paying job as a professional. He left the Tour in 1963 to start a family. In Colorado Springs, Colorado, he became the director of golf at Broadmoor Resort for 28 years.
Finsterwald was a member of four U.S. Ryder Cup teams (1957-59, 1961, and 1963) and was also the non-playing Captain for the winning 1977 team. He was also awarded the Vardon Trophy, for having the lowest average score in ’57. In 2006, Finsterwald was inducted in the PGA Hall of Fame.
Finsterwald was born in Athens on Sept. 6, 1929. Finsterwald started his career at Athens Country Club in Athens, Ohio. It is a Donald Ross designed club in the Appalachian foothills. Finsterwald began cleaning the locker room and hosing down the showers every morning, starting in 1944.
Finsterwald kept boxes of the Cincinnati Reds while listening to the radio and told Golfweek that his father had said “If you do a good work and save your money, you can go the World Series.” “It was September, and I purchased a set MacGregor golf clubs instead of World Series tickets. It might be said that baseball was what got me interested in golf.
Finsterwald was a student at Ohio University. He first met Arnold Palmer in Raleigh Country Club, North Carolina, in 1948 when Palmer was playing for Wake Forest. Palmer hit a front nine 29 on him.
Finsterwald stated, “That was my introduction of Arn.” “It was a shock to realize how great he was and would continue to be.”
Finsterwald was not too bad at the time. He was still in college when he shot a 60 in the final round of the 1950 St. Louis Open. This was the lowest round ever posted on the PGA Tour. Finsterwald became a professional in 1955 after he had served in the Air Force. Finsterwald won the 1958 PGA Championship at Llanerch Country Club, Havertown, Pennsylvania. This was in stroke-play format. It was also the first nationally-televised PGA.
On Sept. 25, 1958, Athens, Ohio hosted Dow Finsterwald Day in honor of its native son. The city gave him a key and a parade. But the day is also recorded in history because it was the first time Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, an 18-year old Ohio Open champion, teed it up.
Finsterwald still remembers fondly the driving contest at the elevated first tee. Palmer smoked one his low bullets, and he reached the first green 321 yards away. The then-beefy Nicklaus sprinted to the tee, and he blazed a tape-measure record of more than 350 yards. It was the beginning of a rivalry. Palmer shot 62 to beat Finsterwald’s course records by one.
Finsterwald had two legitimate chances to win the Masters but was defeated by Palmer. He finished in the playoff with Palmer two strokes behind when he was given a two-stroke penalty after he practiced putting in the first round. They were locked in a heated duel two years later when Palmer made birdies on the last three holes and forced an 18-hole playoff. He defeated Finsterwald (77), and Gary Player (77).
Finsterwald didn’t dwell on the possibilities. He said, “What’s that expression?” “It’s better not to have loved but lost than to never have loved.”
Finsterwald was always involved in the professional game. Finsterwald was the captain of the 1977 U.S. Ryder Cup team and vice president of PGA (1976-1978), a member the USGA executive board (1977-1979), as well as a rules official at The Masters since 1978.