The last time at Bellerive: How Nick Price finally earned his major stripes
Twelve months previously Nick Price had dropped out of the 1991 PGA Championship to be with his wife for the birth of their first child.
By the end of the week at Crooked Stick a legend was born in the robust shape of John Daly and alongside him was Price’s full-time caddie Jeff ‘Squeeky’ Medlen.
Move things forward a year and Bellerive Country Club would host its second and only other major. The first had come in 1965 when, at barely five years old, it became the youngest course to host the US Open. Gary Player defeated Kel Nagle in a play-off to land his only US Open.
Bellerive’s ‘Green Monster of Ladue’ started out as a nine-hole course named the Field Club and is now at its third location. Back in 1992 Price came of age, 10 years after his mini-meltdown in The Open at Troon.
Gene Sauers threatened to win from pillar to post before finishing in second three shots back, Nick Faldo came with a late charge on Sunday to produce major finishes of 13-4-1-2 for the year, John Cook, fresh from being reined in by Faldo at Muirfield a few weeks earlier, while Jim Gallagher Jr rounded up the quartet of runners-up.
Gallagher Jr, a Missouri resident and third at Crooked Stick, was asked during the week ‘What’s your father’s name?’
The greens were enormous, the weather was odd – there were sweaters in St Louis in August – and the winner was long overdue.
- The designer Robert Trent Jones Sr and Hord Hardin, former president of Augusta National, were two of the four players who christened the course in 1960
- A cemetery rests on the 8th hole where the original owners of the land that is now the course lay today, rumour has it that grave sites still remain under the 1st fairway
- In preparation for the 100th PGA over 350 trees and shrubs were removed to improve the views for the spectators
- Bellerive is named after the last French commander in North America, Captain Louis Saint Ange de Bellerive.
“It’s the guys who don’t make mistakes who win,” said the then 35-year-old Price. “So many times in the major championships, I’ve made the mistakes.”
This was Price’s 37th major start, in that time there had been eight top 10s but no win, and the moment to step up came at the penultimate hole. Leading Cook and Jeff Maggert by two he faced a 30-footer for a birdie which then nearly ran off the green.
“I couldn’t believe it was so quick,” he said. “It was like putting on ice.”
After hardly pausing he knocked in the return.
“That, right there, was the putt of the tournament,” said Cook. “There was no wavering about Nick Price today.”
Price picked up $280,000, this year the winner will collect $1.9 million.
“That (the Troon defeat to Tom Watson) was probably the best thing that could have happened to me.” said Price. “Who knows what kind of person I would have been if I’d won a major championship at age 25?”
Daly was precisely that age when he stormed through at Crooked Stick and his star was already slipping come the time of his defence.
He finished last at Muirfield – “If there is a big breeze tomorrow (Saturday) I might as well pack my bags” – after a third-round 80.
He then survived the cut by one and shot 79 at Bellerive on the Saturday. His year of turmoil had been blamed on various intrusions into his life but his game plan didn’t really help matters on the course
“I cannot hit a one-iron off a par 5,” he said referring to Bellerive’s double-dogleg 8th hole.”
Price’s career then enjoyed a spectacular turn, winning 11 times after Bellerive in the next two years which included back-to-back majors. He spent 43 weeks as the World No 1 and he topped the Money List on the PGA Tour with record earnings in 1993 and 94. And none of it changed him a bit.
“He’s a genuine guy,” said Cook. “He’s not a guy who walks by you and gives you half a look.”