More than a quarter-century before the creation of what’s now the Wells Fargo Championship, Quail Hollow Club was part of the nomadic history of the Kemper Open.
Still establishing itself on the golf market, Quail Hollow spent 11 years as Kemper host from 1969-79. The tournament actually got its start in Boston, but only lasted one year there despite Arnold Palmer winning the inaugural edition.
Dale Douglass cruised to victory in the first Quail Hollow stop, and two years later Tom Weiskopf captured the first of his three wins in Charlotte, edging Douglass, Lee Trevino and Gary Player in a then new playoff format: a one-hole, sudden-death.
Gary Player watches his ball after hitting out of the sand during the 1971 PGA golf tournament. (Photo by Martin Mills via Getty Images)
Afterwards, a frustrated Player called the new overtime format “an absolute joke.”
“You can go against a 20 handicapper and still lose,” said Player. “You should have at least a nine-hole playoff.”
A year later, Trevino again lost by a stroke. This time to tour veteran Doug Sanders, who rolled in a 30-foot putt on the 72nd hole to claim his 20th and final PGA Tour triumph.
The Kemper was also where Raymond Floyd‘s then floundering career was resurrected.
A five-time tour winner and major champion by the age of 26, Floyd entered the 1975 Kemper as a struggling 32-year old holding those same five titles. But a 100-foot chip-in for eagle on the ninth hole during the finale broke a deadlock, leading to a three-shot victory, and a rejuvenated tour career.
Gary Player, CBS sportscaster Jim McKay, and Ray Floyd, during the 1969 PGA Championship. (Photo by Martin Mills via Getty Images)
“It just seemed I was destined to win this tournament,” Floyd said. “I felt all week that I was going to win. The ball kept taking the right bounces, and the putts I really needed, kept falling.”
The Fayetteville, North Carolina native would go on to win 16 more times after that win at Quail Hollow, including three additional majors.
Fans watch as PGA golfers play in the Kemper Open at Quail Hollow Club. Undated. The Charlotte Observer.
Despite high drama, and some of the biggest purses on tour – even exceeding the four majors, the Kemper relocated again in 1980, moving back north to begin a 27-year run in the Washington market.
Kemper Insurance dropped its sponsorship after the 2002 edition, and the tournament itself was gone four years later amid an overhaul of the PGA Tour schedule.
Check out this ESPN Golf listing of all winners of the Kemper Open from its inception to cancellation.
Until next week!
"Remembering the Kemper Open at Quail Hollow Club," by Jeff Smith & Jeff Shain, Pro Golf Weekly.
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