Smith Wins Nationals
(1974 PPA National Championship)
Carano Takes Amateur Division
By Howard Ward
6-7 July 1974 - Columbus, OH (PPA Course) - Robert Smith isn't
exactly a legend on the Professional Putters Association Tour yet. It's
hard to be a legend when you're 21 years old. But the Texan has already
put his name among the elite.
Smith became only the second man in the 15-year history of the PPA to
win the National Putting Championship twice when he accomplished that
feat in Columbus, Ohio on July 6-7, 1974. Smith did it in impressive
fashion, coming from behind on the final day and withstanding tremendous
pressure applied by veteran
When it was over, Smith had trimmed 83 strokes from par with a score
of 205 for 144 holes and was holding a check for $2,000 presented by
television star James Drury. But the most impressive thing was the way
the young pro managed to keep his poise under fire.
A field of 138 pros started the long grind on Friday over the
magnificent new PPA course in Columbus, Ohio and Smith was not listed
among the pre-tourney favorites. A slight which may have proved an added
Randall, the 34-year old driver's education teacher from Chattanooga,
Tennessee, who formerly held the distinction of being the only man to
win the National Championship twice (1967
and 1969) started as hot
as the blazing Ohio sun, acing the first eight holes on Friday and
serving notice that he was going to be tough. With rounds of 21-23-25-29
for a first day total of 98, Randall was sitting in the driver's seat at
the end of the first day at 46 under par.
Lurking in the background, however, still virtually unnoticed was
Smith. With Randall getting all the raves, Smith was busy fashioning
rounds of 24-24-26-25 for a 45-under par to stand only one shot off the
The nearest man to this streaking twosome was Ray Browning, an Ohio
native from Euclid, who was four shots back at 102. So the stage was set
Saturday for a two-man duel to the finish.
There was much speculation Friday night as to which putter would bear
up better under the final-round pressure. Some thought the seasoned
Randall held the edge because of his experience. other felt youth would
prevail for Smith, who had never been known to display any nerves
regardless of the situation.
The scene was tense as the pair teed off for the final 72 holes.
Smith was playing one group ahead of Randall, in the last threesome, and
each was very much aware of what he had to do to keep pace.
"There was pressure," Smith admitted later, "but I was
glad I was playing ahead of Vance because I was putting well and once I
get ahead, the pressure was on him to keep up with me."
Smith took the lead for the first time in the tournament on the sixth
hole of the second round Saturday and never faltered for the last 48,
drilling the ball like a precision machine as Randall, hoping for a
mistake to take advantage of, never got one.
That second round proved the difference as Smith, who won his first
National title in 1972 in
Winston-Salem, NC carded a 26 with Randall turning in a 28. That
put Smith two shots ahead going into the final 36 holes and that's where
At the end, Randall was forced to ace the final to gain sole
possession of second place and the check for $1,250, with a score of
207, 81 under par. A late charge by Steve McPherson of Dallas earned
third place at 208 and $1,000.
Browning faltered during the final holes, but managed to claim a
share of fourth place at 214 with three other pros, Gary Love of
Cleveland, Jeff Jeskin of New Orleans and Tony Cross of Louisville,
Daryl Freeman, the
defending 1973 National Champion
who set a record of 95-under par in Tulsa, Oklahoma last August,
finished far back at 217. Mike Baldoza, the Ft. Worth, Texas teenager
who earned $50,000 as World Putting Champion last summer, was at 219.
Smith, savoring his victory in the PPA's most prestigious event,
admitted it was especially sweet the second time around. "This is
really an honor," he said. "I was thrilled the first time I
won the National. But winning it again is something else."
Although always a threat in any tournament, Smith wasn't to high on
his chances earlier this week. "I wasn't playing too well when I
got here," he explained, "but I put in a lot of hard hours
practicing and they paid off."
Smith slipped to a 29 on the last 18 holes, but Randall could only
match that, failing to make up any ground and being three shots down
with one hole to play. Still, Smith denied that he was being
"I wasn't playing it safe," he declared. "I was going
for everything. But the pressure was rough and the course we finished on
was tough. A 29 isn't really a bad score on that course."
Randall agreed with that statement. "Course 3 did me in,"
he said. "I had trouble with it both days. I came into it two shots
down and figured if I could shoot 10-under par, I could win. It turned
out that's exactly what I needed, but I gave it all I had. I guess I
shouldn't feel too bad finishing second, but I really wanted to win. So
many people were pulling for me."
In the amateur division, Mike Carano of Youngstown, Ohio fired a
blistering 102 on the final day to come from far off the pace and
overtake first-day leader Quincy Scarborough of Fayetteville, North
Carolina. Carano who finished regulation play in a dead heat with
another competitor, David McCollister of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at 217,
won the title in an 18-hole playoff, 22-27.