$5,000 Southern Open

Montgomery, AL

June 8-9, 1968

Rick Smith Captures 1968 Southern Open Title

Sets New PPA Record With Decisive Win

"Stars fell on Alabama..." Particularly in Montgomery - and they came in the form of PPA pros and amateurs from across the country. The attraction was the 1968 PPA $5,000 Southern Open Championship and a shot at a TV position for the 1969 Parade of Champions television show. There were many stars during the three-day event, but the one that shined brightest was 19-year-old Rick Smith of Indianapolis, IN.

The feather-weight pro started his winning rampage by teaming up with top amateur, Jack Rosson of Macon, GA, and going the toute of the $1,000 Match Play Pro-Am event to reclaim the title he won in the same event in 1967. The Smith-Rosson team polished off four challenging teams before meeting their toughest competition in highly touted PPA pro, Neil Connor, and his equally skilled amateur partner, Stan Fitzgerald of Montgomery.

After swapping the lead several times, the two teams were at a draw after the regulation 36 holes. On the 37th hole, the first in a sudden death playoff, the amateur partners took over with Fitzgerald matching Rosson's ace. On the next hole, the 38th of the match, Smith stood by as his amateur partner once again pumped an ace. It was all they needed for their victory.

The next morning, 135 pros and amateurs from 14 states teed off in separate divisions of the 1968 Southern Open. This time the Indianapolis whiz kid was on his own and enjoyed every minute of it as he posted consecutive sub-par rounds of 26, 28, 29, 25 for an amazing 72-hole total of 108, 36-under par.

At the final gun of the first day's rounds, his nearest challenger was Vance Randall of Chattanooga, TN, who finished five strokes off the pace at 113. From there the field began to group, headed by such PPA greats as Carl Strickland of Atlanta, GA; Neil Connor, Greenville, SC; Ken Boy, Bristol, TN; and Bob Poltis, Cleveland, OH.

When the field had teed off for the final four rounds the next day, it was as if the young Purdue freshman from Indiana had been programmed to maintain his envious pace as he continued to amaze his fellow pros by posting 27, 30, 28, 25 for a two-day, eight-round total of 218, 70-under par.

Although a number of the pros were in a heated battle for second place, Smith was able to maintain a comfortable lead throughout the final 72 holes and finished six strokes ahead of his nearest rival, Carl Strickland, who carded a 64-under-par 224.

During the '68 Southern Open, a six-year-old PPA record was scratched from the record books by not only Ricky Smith, but by Carl Strickland as well. In 1962, Bill Eyler of Savannah, GA, set a record of 225, 63-under par, for eight rounds of tournament competition. Strickland's 224 broke the record, but this feat seemed lost by Smith's unbelieveable 218, 70-under par.

In capturing the 1968 PPA Southern Open title, Rick Smith also gained a playing position in the 1969 Parade of Champions TV series.

Truly a great weekend for a great young putter. As one pro put it, "There's no use trying to fight it. This guy just can't lose this weekend. I saw him put a quarter in Mr. Maddox's (course owner, Russ Maddox) Pepsi machine. Not only did he get his drink, but he got 20¢ chance to boot.

Place Player City 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Total Cash
1Rick SmithIndianapolis, IN2628292527302825218$ 1,000.00
2Carl StricklandAtlanta, GA2627283326302727224$ 750.00
3Roger MooreAtlanta, GA2730332927273026229$ 550.00
4Neil ConnorGreenville, SC2827293029293226230$ 400.00
Don PoseyGreenville, SC2927302930262930230$ 400.00
Vance RandallChattanooga, TN3130252727303129230$ 400.00
7Bob WilliamsonJacksonville, FL2929313129272928233$ 275.00
8Ken BoyBristol, TN2926303031273130234$ 237.50
Bob PoltisCleveland, OH2533292729293032234$ 237.50
10Tony SealesMontgomery, AL3029272828293232235$ 200.00
11Tom YounceColumbus, GA2928293029323029236$ 175.00
12Jeff JeskinNew Orleans, LA3230342627293030238$ 125.00
Lehman KeyLake Charles, LA2631332927323129238$ 125.00
14William CoxPhenix City, AL2928343527322529239$ 41.66
Don PharrisMontgomery, AL3331293031302827239$ 41.66
John RoessnerIndianapolis, IN3231302529313229239$ 41.66
DNCSkipper RichBaton Rouge, LA
Bob LipscombFort Worth, TX
C AtkinsonMontgomery, AL
Charlie HayesWinston-Salem, NC
Gil CaitoIndianapolis, IN
John ConnorGreenville, SC
Jimmy HarritosAtlanta, GA
Dick FlorinAtlanta, GA
Jim NortonCleveland, OH
Don ClaytonFayetteville, NC
Place Player City 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Total Cash
1John StilesMontgomery, AL2730333028332927237
2George PihakisBirmingham, AL2831283129273429237
3David ShireyShreveport, LA2932322825343226238
4Randy DeLoachAtlanta, GA2827342932303129240
5Joe NorstrandHouston, TX3133293228273431241
Bill ThrasherMontgomery, AL3031332828303130241
DNCJack RossonMacon, GA
Stan FitzgeraldMontgomery, AL
James RichBaton Rouge, LA
Bryan JandaBedford, OH

Article, scores and photos taken from Putt-Putt World Magazine, Volume 10, Number 4 (July 1968)