CLINE: A golf story 32 years in the making

Todd Cline

Todd Cline


Tom Watson and David Gordon

Those of us who have worked with David Gordon for a period of time know a couple of things about the Daily Post's automotive salesman -- he likes to tell a story and he's persistent. Well, thanks to the latter, he's got a doozy to add to his repertoire: a story 32 years in the making.

In addition to those other two traits, Gordon loves golf. The Winder resident is up for playing any time he can -- especially if it's on your dime -- and watches the pro tours with zeal. He's been a fan for a long time, which explains his appearance at the final round of the 1981 Masters tournament, won by Tom Watson.

Gordon was thrilled to be on the grounds that day in Augusta, and when he got Jack Nicklaus to sign his pairings sheet on the driving range that day you could've knocked him over with a feather (or a four-iron). Gordon was so excited at getting the Golden Bear's autograph that he walked right past Watson before doing a double take and realizing he had just missed an amazing opportunity.

That hit home even harder after Watson won the coveted green jacket that day. As much as he was thrilled with Nicklaus' signature, Gordon bemoaned not having the winner's autograph on that same sheet. It was something he thought about for years. Thirty-two, to be exact.

"I didn't think I'd ever get it," Gordon said. "I thought about mailing it to Tom's house in Kansas City, but I was afraid of it getting lost."

As I mentioned, David is nothing if not persistent (and loquacious). So he didn't give up on his plan, despite the fact that Watson, not to mention David himself, has aged considerably since that initial meeting. When it was announced that the Champions Tour would come to TPC Sugarloaf for the Greater Gwinnett Championship, Gordon finally had his chance to snag his version of the white whale -- the winner's autograph on that old pairings sheet.

Gordon made it out to the tournament last Thursday and found that the Champions Tour is a lot more laid back than the PGA Tour. That made it easier to get close to Watson -- he of eight major championships, including five British Opens -- to make the request. He still had to wait, but after 32 years a few hours seemed like nothing.

He got out to Sugarloaf a little before 1 p.m. and waited near the clubhouse until after 6 for Watson to arrive. In the meantime, he got a Who's Who of the golfing world to sign the sheet, the only prerequisite being that they had to have played in that Sunday Masters round in 1981. Ben Crenshaw signed it. So did Craig Stadler and Hale Irwin. Wayne Levi did as well, trying to remember who he played with that day.

"I can tell you," Gordon said, pointing to the sheet. "It was Calvin Peete."

Levi smiled at the memory, and Peter Jacobsen, golf's longtime funny man, had some laughs about it as well. Each time one of the pros would sign, he'd tell one of his colleagues about the guy with the old pairing sheet sitting on the clubhouse steps. Finally. Watson walked by after completing his round in the pro-am.

Gordon finally had his man. And when Watson signed, it was hard to tell who was more excited.

"He was like: 'That's unbelievable.' He said he thought it was really cool," Gordon said of his interaction with Watson. "I asked him if he'd sign, and he said 'absolutely.' I was so pumped. I had thought I'd never get it."

Watson not only signed the pairings sheet, but posed for a picture as well.

So now David has that to go with his story, one we'll no doubt be hearing for the next 32 years.

Email Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Wednesdays.