Classic Golf moments: The ’64 World Matchplay

Arnold Palmer wins the inaugural World Matchplay at Wentworth

The Date
October 9th 1964

The Place
Wentworth Club (West Course), Surrey

The Scene
This month the World Matchplay championship returns to Britain as the famous event celebrates its 50th anniversary. It will be held for the first time at the London Club in Kent, after a five-year hiatus away from these shores. 

For the first 44 years of its existence, the competition called Wentworth home. Back in 1964, Wentworth’s West Course, with its twin par-5 finishing holes making for a dramatic finish, set the stage for a certain charismatic American to claim a trophy which many considered had been tailor-made for him.

The Background
Sports agent Mark McCormack dreamed up the idea of the competition as a means of showcasing the elite players he managed. 

The first event featured an eight-man field, including Arnold Palmer, who in April had secured his fourth and final Green Jacket at Augusta National, and famously had the distinction of being McCormack’s first client.

The Action
With ‘Arnie’s Army’ following the 36 holes played that day, Palmer was at the peak of his powers and the toughest possible opponent for home favourite Neil Coles. 

Yet the Englishman was not overawed, Palmer having to battle to a closely-fought 2&1 victory over the consistent Englishman. Our image shows Palmer and his fans watching the ball run onto the 18th green in the final match. 

The following year witnessed an especially dramatic semi-final when Jack Nicklaus overturned a seven-hole deficit to defeat Peter Thomson for a place in the final.

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