Herman Keiser, 1946: Champion wins against all odds
Editor's note: Herman Keiser was suffering from Alzheimer's disease in 2000, when this article was first published. This diary was compiled by his daughter, Diane Butcher.
They like to say my dad was an underdog when he won in 1946, but we all know he was a pretty good player. He won the Miami four-ball with Chandler Harper in 1942, before he went off to the Navy for three years for World War II.
My dad was aboard the USS Cincinnati, out in the Atlantic. He had his clubs with him, and every time he hit land he'd go out and play. He got discharged in 1945 and started back up on the tour, losing to Ben Hogan in a playoff in Phoenix in '46.
He likes to say that he won the Masters Tournament against all odds, the first Masters after the war. Everyone knew that Hogan was the favorite, and you hear all the stories of a couple of Augusta National members betting $100,000 at 10-to-1 odds. My dad had only $10 in his pocket when he won. The betting part is something he doesn't like to remember, but he did borrow money from a couple of guys to bet on himself, at 20-to-1.
He led from the third hole to the 72nd. Shot 69-68 the first two rounds. He wasn't like a nobody.
He was eating lunch in the clubhouse an hour before his scheduled tee time to start the third round when Henry Picard (the 1938 winner) came into the clubhouse and said, ÂHerman, they just called your name on the first tee.'
He rushed out, without hitting balls, just to make his tee time. They changed it without telling him. Then they gave him a 13-year-old caddie. As he said in that Sports Illustrated article on him three years ago, "By the second hole he was dragging my clubs. I stopped and demanded a real caddie." He was told that no experienced caddies were available.
During that round, Grantland Rice, a club member, warned him about potentially assessing him a penalty for slow play, which he had no authority to do.
The final round, he played with Byron Nelson, and while he was the leader, he teed off a few groups before Hogan. There were no ropes then, so he hit a lot of shots over the gallery, people who were walking in front of him.
At the turn he had a five-shot lead, but Hogan got hot and birdied 12, 13 and 15. Dad's lead was one going to 18.
His 7-iron approach to the 18th green hit the flag and ricocheted 30 feet away. As they walked up the hill, Nelson turned to Dad and said, "You've got it now, Herman. You haven't three-putted all week."
Dad three-putted, and Nelson felt terrible. Now Hogan needed a par on 18 to force a playoff. But he missed a 2-footer on 18 for par, and my dad won.
He walked away with $2,500 for winning, about $1,000 on his bets, and bitter feelings about the way he was treated. But he's always driven down for the Champions Dinner because he enjoys the stories and the guys. The whole family's coming this year Ç his four children and three grandsons.
P> My mom really wanted to start a family, but Dad said to wait until he won a big tournament. Well, my brother, Herman Jr., was born Feb. 1, 1947, almost nine months to the day after dad won the Masters. That's why we call him "our Masters baby." So there was some good to come from that week.