World Golf Hall of Fame Profile: Roberto De Vicenzo
The world will always remember Roberto De Vicenzo for what he lost, not for what he won-for that careless mistake he made at the 1968 Masters, signing an incorrect scorecard that had him making a par and not a birdie on the 17th hole that Sunday afternoon-and, thus, his uttering of the immortal golf quote, "What a stupid I am."
Yet there is so much more to De Vicenzo's career and the contributions he made to golf around the world than what occurred in the scorer's tent at Augusta National that should not overshadow the man's legacy. Roberto De Vicenzo won more than 230 golf tournaments, including the 1967 Open Championship at Hoylake, where he held off the Sunday charges of Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player to become, at 44, the oldest winner of the world's oldest golf championship.
Facing success and catastrophe and treating those twin imposters the same inspired British golf writer Peter Dobereiner to use the Rudyard Kipling quote when giving De Vicenzo his due. In Dobereiner's words, "By that standard, De Vicenzo is a giant of a man because he faced the greatest triumph and the most devastating disaster which the game of golf can provide." The United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America agreed, presenting De Vicenzo with the Bob Jones and William Richardson Awards, respectively, in 1970.
All the trophies he captured didn't mean as much to De Vicenzo as the friends he made traveling the globe. He won national opens in Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Holland, France, Germany, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Spain, Uruguay, Venezuela and Argentina, a country he represented 17 times in the World Cup. Essayist Jack Whitaker once said that if golf were war, Roberto would have conquered more countries than Alexander the Great. But golf was not war to De Vicenzo. And that is what made him so loved.
Born in Buenos Aires April 14, 1923, De Vicenzo learned the game as a caddy's assistant. He turned professional at age 15 and won his first of nine Argentine Open titles six years later. Three-time Open Championship winner Henry Cotton once said there were very few professionals in the business who would not take the play through the green of Argentine golfing master Roberto De Vicenzo, and his game never left him. At 51 he won the PGA Seniors' Championship and in 1980, at age 57, the inaugural U.S. Senior Open.
He believed in hard practice, routinely hitting 400 balls a day and maintaining a slow pace. "If you hurry," he would say, "then nothing seems to go right." He'd visualize a shot, pick a club and hit. His method was simple to watch, and it held up under pressure.
It did that final round at the Masters in 1968. What's lost behind that staggering mistake made by fellow competitor Tommy Aaron and signed for by De Vicenzo is that Roberto shot what has been called one of the greatest rounds in major championship history. He took only 65 strokes around Augusta National that day, including a bogey at the 18th, on his 45th birthday. His 31 on the front side started with an eagle 2 at the first and tied the course record. It should have been good enough to tie Bob Goalby and set up a playoff which, had he won, would have given Roberto De Vicenzo both the Open Championship and Masters titles at the same time.