In the annals of golf history, some moments stand out as extraordinary, and the 1964 Open Championship at the Old Course in St Andrews, Scotland, is undoubtedly one of them.
This legendary tournament marked the 93rd edition of the Open Championship, and it unfolded from the 8th to the 10th of July, showcasing not just incredible skill but also the resilience of the human spirit.
This championship saw the return of six former Open winners; including Peter Thomson, Bob Charles and Gary Player.
The legendary Jack Nicklaus also played a huge part of the Championship, finishing runner-up just two years before his maiden Open victory.
Tony Lema: A Rising Star
At the heart of this captivating event was Tony Lema, a golfer who would etch his name in the record books by securing his first and only major championship victory.
Lema’s triumph was nothing short of spectacular, as he finished an impressive five strokes ahead of the formidable Jack Nicklaus.
Going into the final round, Lema had already established a commanding lead of seven strokes.
When the pressure was at its peak, he showcased nerves of steel and shot a final round score of 70.
What makes this victory all the more astonishing is that neither Lema nor Nicklaus had ever played the Old Course before this championship.
In fact, Lema had never competed in Britain. He often attributed much of his success to his dedicated caddy, Tip Anderson.
A Winning Streak
Lema’s victory at the 1964 Open Championship was the culmination of a remarkable run of form.
In the six weeks leading up to this historic win, he had claimed victory in three different events on the PGA Tour in June.
His consistency and skill had brought him to the top of his game, and the Open Championship was the crowning achievement of this impressive streak.
Jack Nicklaus, another golfing legend, also left his mark on this tournament.
He equalled the course record with a remarkable 66 in the third round, demonstrating his prowess on the grand stage.
A Tragic End to a Promising Career
Tony Lema’s victory at St Andrews in 1964 was not just a remarkable chapter in the world of golf but also a poignant moment in his own life.
He would go on to play in two more Open Championships, but two weeks after competing in the 1966 event at Muirfield, tragedy struck.
Lema and his pregnant wife were involved in a devastating plane crash near Chicago, which claimed their lives.
It was a heartbreaking end to a promising career that had shone so brightly in the world of golf.