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Rub of the Green

July 28, 2007

Rub of the Green: Robinson Open once drew some of golf’s big names

TERRE HAUTE — “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.”

That adage would appear to be right on the money when it comes to professional golf and Robinson, Ill., especially from the early 1960s through the early ’70s.

It was back in 1962 when the Robinson Country Club sponsored a tournament which attracted 37 professionals and 57 amateurs who played for $2,000 in prizes. The tourney continued to grow until it became a major stop on the PGA Tour in 1968 with prize money totaling $25,000. Until that time, the question had been “Can a small southern Illinois town of less that 8,000 survive as a stop on the PGA Tour?” The facts speak for themselves.

To say that those in charge of the ‘68 Robinson Open knew what they were doing in no way gives justice to the outstanding work they accomplished. The one thousand and one details that accompany a PGA tournament can be mind boggling.

Dick Heath and Maxine Zwermann were co-chairpersons of the tournament that drew huge galleries. Nancy Lynn Thal was crowned Miss Robinson Open. K.B. Corvell was president of what was properly known as Crawford County Country Club. A cocktail party and dinner dance awaited many who had made large donations to the event.

Tents, press trailers, scoreboards, T.V. towers and other facilities were brought to the course. Notables on hand for the tournament included U.S. Senator Everett Dirksen and Governor Samuel Shapiro.

The Robinson Open was off to a fast start.

Dean Refram won that first tour event with a spectacular 18-under-par performance of 270, good for the $5,000 first-place check. Although there was no Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus in the field, it didn’t lack for quality players. How about a pro who would go on to win many millions and multiple majors on the PGA Tour as well as the senior circuit? That would be Hale Irwin, whose tie for 21st earned him $232.81.

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