Kel Nagle won the Centenary Open at St Andrews to become the seventh player in a row from Australia or South Africa to be crowned Champion Golfer.
Since Ben Hogan’s victory in 1953, interest in America had waned but Arnold Palmer’s dramatic debut changed that.
Palmer had won the Masters and the US Open and wanted to win a modern Grand Slam – with The Open and the PGA Championship – in a nod to American amateur Bobby Jones’ efforts in 1930.
He came up just short, losing by a shot to Nagle, but his runner-up finish followed by back-to-back victories in the next two years led to a resurgence in the standing of the game’s oldest event.
Roberto de Vicenzo led after two rounds of 67 but the Argentinian had a 75 in the third round and fell two behind Nagle, who steadily complied scores of 69, 67 and 71.
Palmer was two shots further back but a torrential rainstorm washed out the afternoon’s final round. The course was flooded in moments, water cascading down the steps of The R&A clubhouse and the Valley of Sin disappearing completely.
Play was abandoned for the day with the final round held over to the Saturday. Palmer was still four behind when he mounted one of his exciting charges.
He birdied the 13th and 15th holes, got a 4 at the 17th for the first time and then birdied the last for a 68.
Nagle bogeyed the 15th but bravely holed a putt for a 4 at the 17th amid the roars from Palmer’s supporters up at the 18th green. A par at the last gave Nagle a 71 and a winning total of 278.
He was 39 years old and had been a fine golfer in Asia and Australia for years but following his victory he returned regularly to Britain. As did Palmer.