Gary Miller
1975 World Putting Champion

By: Howard Ward

Columbus, OH (PPA Course) - Gary Miller began the "Week of the World" as just another putter. He finished it as the Professional Putters Association World Champion and perhaps the richest meter reader in America.

As the PPA touring Pros neared their Utopia in Columbus, Ohio, the legend of Dan Anders was growing with each qualifying tournament. The Golden Boy from St. Petersburg, Florida was drawing raves with his flashing smile as well as his deadly putter. The other pros were sitting up nights trying to come up with some way to stop the blond 20-year-old college student with the magnetic personality.

It was left up to unsung Miller to un-track the Anders' Express, however, and he did it not once, but twice, on his way to the $50,000 payoff.

The showdown match came on a sweltering Friday afternoon on a rain-soaked PPA course which figured to give the two young fortune seekers a lot of problems.

Miller was bothered by the adverse conditions to the extent that he shot an 11 on the front nine with seven aces and was riding high with a three-hole lead. Anders made a gallant effort to make up the deficit on the back, but could never close the gap nearer than two holes. His dream of a 50-grand payday was ended when he took a deuce on the 16th hole and watched helplessly as the cool Miller rolled in an ace to close the match out 3 and 2.

It was an emotional week for the slim Miller, a three-year member of the PPA who came to Columbus showing only $1,500 in prize money for his career.

He tried to qualify for the World quarterfinals in Sunday's Northern Regionals and saw his hopes dashed hurriedly as Charlie Davis of Winston-Salem, NC, bumped him off in sudden death in the first round.

Miller's wife, Sharlene, had to return to work in Atlanta Monday afternoon, so he decided he might as well make her flight home an enjoyable one.

In the opening round of the Central Regionals, He nipped Euclid, Ohio's Bill Baus 2 and 1. Then he nailed Albuquerque, New Mexico's Don Lewis with a 4 and 3 decision, only to draw the red-hot Anders as an opponent.

"That's it for Miller," the wise guys smirked. But when the smoke had cleared, the unbelievable had occurred. Miller couldn't miss and once he had Anders down, took charge in a way which should have served as a premonition of things to come. With eight holes left, Anders' chimes had been rung and the unheralded Miller was only one match away from his quarterfinals berth. A goal even he had to admit would have appeared unattainable a few hours before.

Standing between Miller and that dream was a mountain of reality in the form of Duane Hilbers, PPA pro from Omaha, Nebraska. However, Hilbers, another quiet man was making a lot of noise with his putter in this $320,000 event, was on a hot streak. He had knocked off Euclid, Ohio's Ray Browning, Baltimore, Maryland's Buddy Taylor, and Steve Lyon from Greensboro, NC, in earlier matches and was functioning like a machine from his widespread stance.

The Miller-Hilbers match was a classic in itself. With both players putting with such deliberation that the other two finalist seeking quarterfinals berths, Dave Taylor also from Baltimore and Jim Borchelt, from Cincinnati, reeled off 33 holes while they played on 16. First one and then the other would take the lead and it went into the 36th hole dead even.

With Sharlene in the bleachers agonizing to the point that her nails were buried in the shoulder of first-day qualifier Gerald Knott, Miller showed his poise by ramming home his tee shot on the tough finishing hole. Hilbers missed and a champion was on his way.

Anders, apparently left only more determined by his thrashing in the Central Division, cam back on Tuesday to fight hi way through four matches for one of the Southern berths.

While boyhood friend Gary English of Orlando was battling his way to the other Southern quarterfinal spot, Anders ripped off Ray Browning in the first match, then ran into a real hurdle in defending World Champion Mike Baldoza, a frustrated young man who was using up his final qualifying spot.

The duel was everything expected as two 20-year-old sharp-shooters fought to a dead heat for 36 holes. But it ended on the 37th with Anders acing for sudden victory.

With that formality out of the way, Anders knocked off Roger Moore from Atlanta and Mike Peter of Houston and made it into the final eight.

The field was completed on Wednesday when two-time World runner-up and 14-year veteran Charles McIntosh, and dark horse Wesley Beck from Atlanta, Georgia claimed the Western Regional spots.

The 1975 World Putting Championship Final Eight

Top row left to right; Dave Taylor, Gary English, Dan Anders, Gerald Knott
Bottom row left to right; Larry Mason, Wesley Beck, Charlie Macintosh, Gary Miller

Thanks to Dave Taylor for providing the photo and players' names.

Dallas pro Gerald Knott and Larry Mason from Fredericksburg, Virginia had taken the first available spot with triumphs in Sunday's Northern Regionals. Now the stage was set with Knott, English, and McIntosh given good chances of posting first-round wins because of previous experience under the pressure of big money and grinding television cameras.

But only the 33-year-old McIntosh was still around after Thursday's quarterfinals. English went down early to Mason and lost 4 and 3. Knott got off to a terribly shaky start and lost to Miller 4 and 3. Finally, the form sheet took over as McIntosh posted a 2 and 1 win over Atlanta's Beck and Anders ended the 17-year-old Taylor's dream of becoming the youngest ever to win the Worlds, 3 and 2.

In Friday's semifinals, Miller stayed alive by ousting Mason 2 and 1, then Anders out dueled the tough McIntosh 1-up. Everyone expected Miller to succumb to the pressure and his 9 and 8 victory over Anders in the regionals was disregarded as a fluke.

That bit of logic proved pure myth.

"I really don't know how I feel yet," the drained Miller said moments after it was over. "I've got to have time to think things over. I've always said that if I ever won this kind of money, I'd try to get my own Putt-Putt course. But I haven't even talked to anyone about it."

Although everyone except Miller had practically conceded the title to the Floridian, Anders denied he felt any added pressure.

"I'm really not disappointed at all," said Anders, the ready smile breaking out. "I just feel happy that I was able to come in second. I know that after the year I've had, a lot of people were thinking I'd win the World, especially after making it into the finals. But I can't complain." Indeed he had no room to complain, considering that he pocketed $19,555, during the week of the World.

Not too many were complaining after the "Week of the World." It went off with silky smoothness. The competition was fantastic, the televising was a thing of precision. And Gary Miller became the world's richest meter reader.

 

 

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