Winner of the Open Championship at Royal St. George's in 1981, Bill Rogers was likely the hottest player on the planet that year. Join us as he reflects on his start in the game, his time at the University of Houston, competing in the Walker Cup at Brookline and the tremendous pressure of Tour School 1974. Bill recalls making the Top 60 in 1977 as being much more "emotionally satisfying" than his first Tour win at the Hope the following year. Hear about his days with IMG, traveling the world, chasing the "Buck", which led to burnout and a loss of his passion for the game, later in his career. "Buck" Rogers shares his story, "FORE the Good of the Game."
Music playing 00:10
Mike Gonzalez 00:15
Welcome everybody to another episode of "FORE the Good of the Game", Bruce Devlin, our guest today, in addition to being Champion Golfer of the Year, which we'll talk about, was probably the best golfer on planet Earth in the year 1981.
Bruce Devlin 00:36
All you got to do is look at his record. I think he won nearly every tournament he played in that year. Maybe not all of them but when he won the Open Championship at Royal St. George's, he proved what a great player he was. And we're very, very happy to have Bill Rogers. Commonly known as Buck. Also, Panther, right?
Bill Rogers 00:57
Oh, gosh, there are plenty of nicknames that have followed me, Bruce. It's good to be with you and Mike.
Mike Gonzalez 01:03
Yeah, great to have you. Great to have you, Bill. And we've got so much that we can talk about today. Of course, we've mentioned your Open Championship, celebrating this year, the 40th anniversary of that win, does it seem like 40 years ago to you?
Bill Rogers 01:16
Well, in some ways, it does, in some ways it doesn't. But returning to Royal St. George's, I always have a little bit higher interest in the Open itself, and especially coming after a crazy year that we've had where they canceled it literally. But I'll be a tuned-in spectator for certain.
Mike Gonzalez 01:39
Well, good. Well, we'll talk all about that. We want to have you help our listeners relive, particularly some of the key holes coming down the stretch. But let's just start off right at the very beginning. Born in Waco, Texas. And your early life as I understand was spent moving around because your dad was in the military. Is that right?
Bill Rogers 02:01
That's right. Air Force brat. My dad was an officer in the Air Force. He actually was a pilot. And we were on the typical kind of three-year, move every three-year type of deal and lived all over the place. I was almost born actually in Germany. Wiesbaden Germany. My mother came back home, and I was home for my family was Waco at that time. I was born and then we moved back, when I was six months old, to Germany. Spent three years there. Came back for a short time and then it was off to Morocco Africa, or an Air Force compound near Morocco and spent four years of my life there then came back and lived at several bases around the country and my dad ended up retiring in Texarkana, Texas, and that was 1963 when I was a 12-year-old.
Bruce Devlin 03:04
Is that when you started playing golf, was that the that the first time you played golf?
Bill Rogers 03:09
Yeah, my brother. And you know, my brother, Rick, Bruce, and he and my dad were both very good players. My dad played a lot in the Air Force. You know, he, the generals recognized that he had some game, so they were quick to invite dad on plenty of golf outings, but he was a very good competitor, strong, tight, loved to compete and play. And I just kind of just by watching and looking, caddying and shagging balls, the whole routine, just kind of pick the game up naturally.
Bruce Devlin 03:41
You also got a lot of help in the early years by a guy by the name of Jerry Robinson, to whom you give a great deal of credit.
Bill Rogers 03:51
Absolutely. My parents were wonderful in giving me plenty of leniency with the game and it was the game of choice for me and upon retiring. And like I said a 12-year-old growing up in Texarkana at the country club, Northridge Country Club, there was an old East Texas golf pro Jerry Robinson, who happened to be one of Miller Barber's very, very close friends, Bruce, they played a lot of golf together and Mr. Robinson of which I always call him Mr. Robinson. He played the tour for a little stint in the 50's and, you know, knew that he couldn't get there. So, he moved over into the club pro ranks. And as he saw some talent and some ability in a little 12-year-old that love the game, he kind of took me under his wing and you know, over the years, began to develop me from a golfer into a player and you know what that looks like, and he made the game fun for me. He really invested a lot of life in me taught me just a lot about the game and not the least of which is how to love the game and, and love playing the game for you know, the sheer enjoyment of it.
Mike Gonzalez 05:20
Tell us a little bit about the golf course you grew up on.
Bill Rogers 05:23
Oh, gosh, it was a great little country club. Northridge Country Club. I'd say probably could almost look like a family club. Lots of you know, everything, you had swimming and you know, plenty of golf, obviously tennis, the whole works. But, you know, I was just probably in the early days just a nuisance 12-year-old to Mr. Robinson and bugged him probably unmercifully. But he took a lot of joy in that in a lot of different ways I might add, but, you know, you got all your friends, your buds, wanting to play golf, and, you know, all of us challenging each other, pushing each other. And, you know, it was kind of the perfect, almost like a little Mayberry RFD kind of golf community. It was very special. And I just owe a huge debt of gratitude for a great place to grow up and really kind of begin my golf life.
Mike Gonzalez 06:34
So, at what point did you realize that I've got a little talent here, and perhaps I might want to play this game at the collegiate level?
Bill Rogers 06:43
Well, you know, I didn't jump any steps. I started at the junior level and, you know, just loved competing, loved to test it out. And, you know, I could obviously see that I was going to play golf in high school and had great friends, obviously, that we formed up our high school team, but it was in high school that Mr. Robinson really began to make it clear that you know, probably the necessary steps to get to our final goal, although we never talked about the final goal, but you know, maybe even entertain the game as a golf professional was to focus on moving to a D-1 college golf school. And I really don't have, I'm sure all the time to go into all that detail, except that Dave Williams, who is kind of the godfather of college golf, reached out and I don't think I was deserving to go to that school. It was the golf powerhouse school in the country at that time.
Mike Gonzalez 07:52
Sure was, we're talking about the University of Houston.
Bill Rogers 07:56
University of Houston. Yeah. And, you know, they'd already won, oh I guess 12, 13 NCAA championships, but Coach Williams had heard about me from people that had been around him. My brother played golf at Baylor University, and he had always liked my brother and my brother indicated that he had a little brother that could play the game. So Coach Williams knew a little bit about me, but it was at the 1969 U.S. Open out at Champion's, Orville Moody's U.S. Open when but I was caddying, had the opportunity to caddy, and Coach Williams found his way out to Champions Golf Club and made sure that I had an audience with him and he offered me an opportunity to come play so I just quickly snatched that up and I was off to the races going to a D-1, the best D-1 college golf school in the country, undeservedly let me add.
Bruce Devlin 09:05
I don't believe that but tell us some of the guys that were on your team. That was a pretty fancy team.
Bill Rogers 09:10
We had a good squad. I walked in the door with Bruce Lietzke. We were with 20 other freshmen; we had a large team. The total number was 43 players, of which obviously all of them weren't just A-rate players. But you know, Coach Williams recruited everybody in the country that knew anything about golf or could hold a golf club in any way. It was a large team, but John Mahaffey was there, Jim McLean, Tom Jenkins, they actually were a part of the NCAA championship team in 1969. It was played at the Scarlet Course in Columbus, Ohio. As a freshman, I didn't make that team, but we had a heady group of players and it was a school where if you intended on developing your, it was a good place to land and I was pretty much wide-eyed and open jawed at the challenge that I had before me and Bruce Lietzke was just way, Bobby Wadkins as well, Bruce, I'm sorry, Bobby walked in the door with us as well. So, they were far advanced, much better players than I was. But as you well know, I was driven hard to play catch up and was fortunate to do it.
Mike Gonzalez 10:38
Yeah, well, just for our listeners. Bill recounts some of these names. I'll give you a few others because last, well recently, Bruce and I had an opportunity to visit with Hal Sutton and Hal recounted for us, the recruiting efforts the Dave Williams put on him to get him to come down there. Of course, he went to Centenary, right. But yeah, they were putting hard-court press on him. And he said they ended up the visit, taking him to the school library, the university library, on a Sunday to show him that big wall of fame with all those All-Americans and, and he looked up there was 42 names up there. And he told Hal Sutton, he said, Hal, just picture this now. You could be number 43. And he went back out of that meeting, back to the car to see his dad, his dad asked him how it went. And he said, well, he said, tell me Dad, do you think they'll remember number 43? Or if I go to Centenary, maybe they'll remember number one.
Bill Rogers 11:37
Oh, gosh, that sounds like a hell Sutton story.
Mike Gonzalez 11:41
And that was sort of Hal's choice. But you mentioned some of the names. Tell us for our listeners, a few others, Fred Couples, Steve Elkington. You might have mentioned John Mahaffey, Billy Ray Brown, Blane McAllister, Homero Blancas, Keith Fergus, Nick Faldo even attended for a year in 1976. So that school produced some players and some championships, didn't it?
Bill Rogers 12:08
It did that. And, you know, the groundwork had been laid, obviously, before I got there. And it was a place that would either make you or flush you out. And like I said, a great training ground, we had lots of support. Houston, I still believe is maybe the best golf community in the country. And it certainly was then when you talk about Jackie Burke, , Jimmy Demaret, and many others in the community that just made it a special place to be if you were involved in the game of golf, but, and they gave us incredible flexibility and leniency and the ability to play at Champions, and all the other golf courses in town, Dave Marr was a part of that group as well. But anyway, I had all types of opportunity. And somehow or another, you know, was strung up tight enough to make it all work. And it was a sweet time to be at the University of Houston when I was there.
Mike Gonzalez 13:19
Something I didn't realize until just recently, when Dave Williams was tabbed by the university president and approached about being the golf coach, he was, at the time, an engineering professor.
Bill Rogers 13:32
Yeah, I think maybe he understood engineering of a golf club. But he didn't, frankly, know so much about the game. But I think you have to look at two facets of who he was. He was the best recruiter in the country, and in an odd way was very much a motivator and, you know, give players the ability to play and manage them in a, you know, the best you can, and you might have a good recipe there. But a lot of players, you know, came there because they knew it was a good golf climate and that they could play year-round. And so anyway, his country-wide scope of recruiting players was one of his strong suits.
Mike Gonzalez 14:27
Well, Bill, you mentioned you roomed with Bruce Lietzke at the University of Houston, you were an All-American on that team in 1973. But you also had some other good success in amateurs, and I'll just recount for our listeners a couple of things. Bill won the 1972 Southern Amateur, he won the 1973 All-American intercollegiate Invitational, and in 1973, you were actually able to participate as a member of the Walker Cup team at Brookline weren't you.
Bill Rogers 15:01
Yeah, special memories there. Gosh, amateur golf was so wonderful, and to have been surrounded with the players in that era that ultimately, we pretty much all found our way out on the tour. But amateur golf was so wonderful. And you know, I was fortunate to catch a little success. And it really was quite the honor to, it's what you really aim for, or there was some focus to maybe have an opportunity to represent your country in the Walker Cup matches and I was selected in 1973. We played the matches at the Country Club, and O think everyone in the golf world would know how special a place that was, interestingly enough, and maybe we'll touch on this later. But, you know, I was able to return in 1999 as an assistant for Ben Crenshaw to the Country Club, as an assistant Captain to him for the Ryder Cup matches. So, I have a special place in my heart for certainly Brookline and the Walker Cup matches, but every year, they have a kind of a Walker Cup, every other year, Walker Cup reunion, and I haven't turned up for one of those, but all the Walker Cup members are invited to come back. And I'm sure I'll make one, hopefully, one of these years but great, great memories, great, great time of life and, you know, young and, and heck, ready to embrace the next step. Man, I was, I was in a good spot in amateur golf.
Mike Gonzalez 16:55
So, Bill, at age 22, if you didn't fully appreciate the history of the Country Club, certainly after your stint as an assistant to Ben Crenshaw, you had a full appreciation for it.
Bill Rogers 17:09
Oh, gosh, of course Boston, you know, who doesn't know that maybe it's the sports mecca of the world and encompasses all the sports. But, you know, you throw in arguably one of the best golf courses in the world and the setting and be at a Walker Cup, Ryder Cup or whatever, the U.S. Open or whatever. It's hallowed ground. And so, I got to see it in, you know, kind of some different ways, but man, I have a lot of strong feeling for the Country Club.
Mike Gonzalez 17:50
Well, you had great experiences with wins both in 73 and 99. Actually, Ben would have been on that team in 1973. But he opted to turn pro and so he missed that one. Probably, in some respects. I guess he wished he'd been able to participate just to be another part of that great history of that golf course.
Bill Rogers 18:11
Well, I think so. You know, one of the special things, and I'd have to mention it relates to Ben, he and Bruce played the 1968 U.S. Junior at the Country Club. I believe it was 1968. So, they had, I didn't go, but that was kind of their beginnings of their love affair with the Country Club. And, you know, Ben was certainly ready. He was ready for the tour and probably way before 1973. But nobody questioned him opting out of the Walker Cup matches.
Mike Gonzalez 18:52
One of your opponents at that Walker Cup on the other side was Howard Clark. Howard was on the leaderboard and actually tied for eighth in that 81 open that you won at Royal St. George's.
Bill Rogers 19:04
Yeah, I remember Howard. Well, and you know, he, I think he had a nice, nice, professional career. I really can't recount too much of what he did, but I do remember him on that team. Yeah.
Mike Gonzalez 19:22
So, at some point, you're finishing up school, you're finishing up an amateur career and contemplating perhaps playing this game professionally. Why don't you take us through that thought process and how that all came to be?
Bill Rogers 19:34
Well, it was a no brainer. It's all I trained for. I hate to say that education was secondary, but it was, and I went to school to become a player. And that's all I had in and if you're not in that mindset, you certainly had no business at the University of Houston and when I mentioned the number, 43 players on the team, there were probably 20 or so 22 or three that might have had, you know, a dream of playing the tour. So, it was my absolute total focus to and especially as I began to have a little success even beyond the school year to have success in the summer as an amateur player, there was no doubt that I was going to line up to go through the qualifying school to get on the tour and it was all we lived and breathed and ate and slept, tour golf. it's where we wanted to be and what we wanted to do.
Mike Gonzalez 20:45
So, you got through that tour school in 1974 and off you went!
Bill Rogers 20:48
Miracle! Total miracle. I say that laughingly, but it was the hardest test certainly at that point in time in my life that I'd ever could ever imagine. I'm not so sure as I sit here today that it wasn't harder than anything that happened to me in any part of my golf life, Tour included. Just incredible pressure and I had drawn this picture of well, if you don't make it you know, kind of life ends. I mean it's all over. You have no other skill you can't do what you know I might be on the wrong side of a shovel or something like that with all due respect it but man I put all my eggs in one basket, and I tribute the Good Lord showing favor on me because I got through the first qualifying school, so I don't know what I'd have done had I failed there.
Bruce Devlin 21:51
After getting your card, first victory?
Bill Rogers 21:53
First victory on the tour? Yeah, that was 1974 when I got my playing card in the fall of 74. And then in 1978, won at the Bob Hope Desert Classic. That was probably I was sharpened up by you know, of course the "Devil" was one of my one of my idols. And I can tell you early early on Bruce Devlin, Charles Coody, Lou Graham and Dale Douglass were kinda people I really gleaned and I've watched how they moved around, watched how they played and obviously we've got Nicklaus and Player and Palmer and Trevino doing their deal, but I knew that I had a learning process to go through. So, I paid a lot of attention to how, how these guys played the game and it was a good education for me, good training.
Bruce Devlin 22:53
So, the relief of winning at the Desert, it takes such a load off everybody's mind doesn't think that well boy now I've got some exemptions. Let's see what we can do from here.
Bill Rogers 23:07
Absolutely. You know exactly what it feels like Bruce, and there's so much emotion involved. Obviously, it kind of puts you on a different plane in the professional golf world. I've always contended, give an athlete, give a golfer a little confidence at the highest level and they're capable of some things that they're not even aware of. So, I had full confidence and you know, one important ingredient and I think Bruce and Gloria would agree to this. Beth, my wife Beth and I, were so all-in, in professional golf, we loved it. It was we loved everything about it, the lifestyle. Everything that came with it, obviously there are a lot of ups and downs and all arounds, but we loved it. And all our great friends were involved in doing it. And Bruce would also tell you that you have a supportive wife that enjoyed the lifestyle and liked it and were good at it. That's a true asset.
Bruce Devlin 24:15
Quick story to compound that point for you. At one point in time in 1963, Miss Gloria and I traveled with two kids. One of them in diapers cloth diapers in Greyhound buses. So, I've often asked her you know, would you do it again? And she said yes. And you know, it makes me wonder whether she's all that smart.
Bill Rogers 24:43
Great story. Yeah.
Mike Gonzalez 24:47
Did you did you travel around in a pack with other friends back? When you got started?
Bill Rogers 24:51
Yeah, to some degree. Yeah. Early on, basically all of you had the same schedule, play every one of them, play anytime that you could. And you know that was part of the learning process, you had to balance out the social part of it, the good friends, the practice round stuff, all that there's so much more involved in making your way in this tour life. And we were learning, all of us, were learning our way. We had a lot of good counsel from people that had been out there a while that were quick to give advice, help you along. But everybody kind of was, was doing their thing. But at the same time, we'd come together when it made sense and just trying to draw proper balance on how we're going to do this.
Mike Gonzalez 25:46
And was top 60 the deal back then, when you started too?
Bill Rogers 25:48
Yeah, Bruce mentioned my first win. That was not near as emotionally satisfying as when I made the Top 60 the year before, and that happened at the Kemper Open at Quail Hollow. We played in Charlotte, Bruce, and Weisskopf won, and I was finished second, and I believe it was second. And anyway, that vaulted me into the Top 60. And I would tell you, that the beauty of kind of being able to reflect on all emotions during tour life, that was a big one. I mean, a real big one. The pressure was kind of off, as Bruce mentioned, you could play more freely, that's where we all wanted to be.
Mike Gonzalez 26:38
At some point you were represented by IMG. I want to talk a little bit about that, because it probably plays into other things that went on later in your career because Bruce was, you know, he was early on with Mark McCormack in that group course it was Palmer and Nicklaus and Player and the "Devil" early on and, you know, just interested in your experience with IMG, how early did you sign on with them, and what was that experience like good and bad?
Bill Rogers 27:06
Yeah, 1978, after the Bob Hope, victory I signed on with them. And you know, they were the large player agency, and I was recruited into it heavily. And anyway, they were the best at what they did. And they could create opportunity. They had as much or as little as you would like, and boy, I could go on for days speaking just about that. But it more played a factor when, after the 81 season or just prior to it, but there's no doubt that they could, worldwide could create a lot of opportunity. And there was a lot of benefit to it, but there was a lot of sacrifice too. And it played a part in, ultimately, kind of probably my later tour days, I'd have to be honest about that. But, you know, I would tell you, they did a wonderful job for me. But, you know, at the end of the day, the player does have the opportunity to say no, and I'd always been a yes man and I love that almighty dollar like nobody else. They could create opportunity, and I went hard after it. So maybe that we can get into that later.
Bruce Devlin 28:48
They were a great organization. Mark McCormack was an extremely successful gentleman. But like you said Buck, you know, there were two sides to that issue was you know, I played a lot of exhibitions with Arnold and Jack and Gary, and you know, sometimes you wonder whether you got the intestinal fortitude to keep chasing that dollar and then be able to perform, you know, on a consistent basis on the tour. Do you think after 81 that you probably chased that buck a bit hard?
Bill Rogers 29:24
Oh, it was no doubt about it. I mean, you know, as the Open Champion, you know, everybody wants you and wants to see you and the opportunities are endless and like I said, I had a love affair I was going to make hay and boy I signed long-term agreements that obligated me to chasing it and I was global, but well of course Gary Player, was but I mean, I was multi-global before global was in I mean, I went everywhere and I went too hard and eventually kind of lost probably some focus on really playing the game itself. And, you know, I got out of my comfort level to some degree and it really, I got burned out. I mean, if a modern-day phrase ever applied to someone it was to me, I burned it hard and so much so I can remember saying, not long before I actually walked away from tour golf. Heck, I if I never played golf again, that would be fine with me, I had learned to dislike the game. And you know, when you get to that stage, it is an ugly place to be to a game that afforded you much. Complete loss of perspective, Bruce, I mean, you know that just complete loss of perspective. And, but that's what you know, kind of a singular selfish focus will do for you, you lose all perspective. And I blame no one but myself. But at that time, I can look back and say, I did what I did, it felt right at the time, to a certain degree. And heck, we survived it. And we were on to the next season, the next chapter. So, it was all good. Met people all over the world that pulled for me and cared for me and took good care of me and the game has really now I've seen a lot of different sides of it, for sure. And Bruce, I know you can say that as well. You have as well.
Bruce Devlin 31:44
Absolutely. Tell us a little bit about I know you spent some time in Australia. Tell us about your experiences there.
Bill Rogers 31:53
Loved Australia, your home country Golly, I loved it so much and spent a whole lot of time down there had good success down there. Partly part of the, what I was just reflecting on was driven because everywhere I went, I played well, I have no idea. I would have never guessed that I would have been better internationally or as good as I was at home. But I won a lot. That obligated you to more and meant you returned and defended championships and was able, honored to win your country's Open Championship, the Australian Open and several others. And gosh, I had a love affair with Australia and Japan. I played a whole lot in both of those worlds down there and played well enough that I think David Graham might have mentioned, I think he played in and won on four continents. I think I did the same thing. All the way from Australia to home to Europe to Japan and I don't know anyway, Australia was good to me and it's just a tremendous country.
Mike Gonzalez 33:14
Let me just recap briefly for our listeners a little bit about your professional career. 14 professional wins for Bill Rogers, including six PGA Tour victories. He won once on the European tour, two wins on the Australasian tour, three wins on the Japan golf tour. His highest world ranking was second in 1981. And some would argue that he was unbeatable that year. One major to his credit, which we'll talk about, but the year 1981 was pretty special, as we've talked about. Bill just mentioned his Australian Open win in 81 but that was the year he won the Open Championship. He won seven times around the world and was the PGA Player of the Year. So that's indicative of the kind of golf he was playing back then. Bill, you mentioned at the outset a little bit about winning your first event the Bob Hope Desert Classic, which was sort of a fun format back then, they don't do it nowadays like that, but that was sort of five days, four courses. And I didn't know if you're aware of this but, the score you posted the winning score of 21, matched the one posted by Bruce Devlin just eight short years before you
Bill Rogers 34:33
I tied a good man.
Mike Gonzalez 34:36
Yeah, and your college roomie won that tournament three years later, he went wire-to-wire win in 81 and he had a pretty good year in 81 too, didn't he?
Bill Rogers 34:43
He did, very much so. That was his shiny year. We actually played the last round together. In fact ,brother in law's ,he, Jerry Pate myself were in the last group in 81 and Bruce won Jerry finished second and I finished third. Yeah. I think that's right or I finished fourth, maybe but yeah, that was a good, good, good year to start things off with.
Mike Gonzalez 35:08
The next year you won the World Matchplay at Wentworth. It was admittedly a smaller field, but it was a sort of a showcase field, wasn't it? It was almost like a Mark McCormack showcase event that was created to spotlight the IMG players. There were 12 players in the event but all very, very high quality. And you really sort of ripped through that field that year, didn't you? You didn't have any close matches, did you?
Bill Rogers 35:35
Well, I did the last one with the Isao Aoki. And, you know, they were all 36-hole matches. Boy, it was a whippin'. It was a grueling physical test. Bruce Did you play in the Piccadilly?
Bruce Devlin 35:48
Bill Rogers 35:48
When it was the Piccadilly?
Bruce Devlin 35:51
Yeah, I did, sure did. It was work man; it was work.
Bill Rogers 35:55
And let me tell you, and as we all know, the conditions can be a little bit testy as well over there always cold and misty, rainy but yeah, I loved the World Matchplay and one of the interesting things about that 1979, heck, I wasn't again it was highlighted IMG event, McCormack event and I just been with him a year and having just one once at, well I'd won in Japan in 1977. And then 78 I won the Hope Classic, but I can remember them referring to me kind of not sure that I really belonged in the field, and they did it was highlighted field with a bunch of special players but that might have helped my motivation a little bit, but I had a good week that week and eventually was able to beat Isao Aoki.
Mike Gonzalez 36:07
Yeah, I think everybody you beat in the field, I don't know about Fuzzy Zoeller, I don't recall but everybody else you beat that week of probably Hall of Famers. Sandy Lyle, Hale Irwin, Fuzzy Zoeller, and you won pretty comfortably against those three.
Bill Rogers 37:15
I think so. I was playing well. I had a good week. Yes.
Mike Gonzalez 37:21
Yeah, let's go to your next win at least a regular tour win. It was right down the street from where I'm at down here in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. It was at the Sea Pines Heritage and Harbour Town Golf Links. And uh...
Bruce Devlin 37:34
I wasn't very happy that week.
Mike Gonzalez 37:39
And why not?
Bruce Devlin 37:40
Bucky boy. Sittin' there thinking I was going to get in a playoff. It looked like it could have been a five-way playoff.
Bill Rogers 37:52
Oh, I'd done everything I could do to let everybody back in the tournament, let me put it that way. I tried to let everybody back in Bruce.
Bruce Devlin 38:01
You deserved it, buddy, I can tell you that.
Bill Rogers 38:04
I'll never forget that putt Hale Irwin. He had it about 30 or 40 feet on the last hole and somehow another hit a putt that there's no way that it can stay out. Except that I guess it was my time to win. But it was. It was, that was a special place as Bruce would tell you, gosh, it was good to win there. I love that place.
Bruce Devlin 38:30
Great golf course. It's a very rewarding golf course though. You got to hit a lot of different shots there. It's pretty hard to just be a drawer of the ball and get around there all the way or a fader of the ball. You have to basically do both.
Bill Rogers 38:47
Well said yep.
Mike Gonzalez 38:49
It's probably grown up over the years since you guys first played it on the tour. In terms of maybe some of the lines you have to play now but boy, oh boy, that's not a very open course.
Bruce Devlin 39:01
The trees are growing in Mike. I mean, some of the corridors back then you know in the early days of the golf course were, you know, they were okay. But now boy, they're getting tight.
Bill Rogers 39:15
They're able to hit wedges over all the trees now. So, you know, we were hitting five irons.
Bruce Devlin 39:22
Isn't that remarkable, I mean, just astounding. I don't understand it Buck.
Mike Gonzalez 39:31
We're certainly going to want to cover that with you, Bill just to get your sense for how the game has changed when you and Bruce played and perhaps some of your thoughts on you know, if you were the Commissioner of the PGA or the USGA or the R&A for a day, what kinds of things you might you know, what you might do differently to improve the game if you will.
Bill Rogers 39:54
Well, I, for a period of time really had my head buried in the sand. So, I think the thought of the game actually passing us by, but reality finally set in. And, you know, it was kind of what I call the perfect storm, obviously, the golf ball got away from them in terms of development. And that began the whole chain of events. And then the club head materials, size, shaft design. And now you throw in the physical fitness of players, which is completely different than when Bruce and I played, and mental training, you know, sports psychologists, so on and so forth. That's a lot to manage, but it kind of all came together in a very short period of time. I mean, I know it's still evolving. But yes, the game has changed, no doubt about it. And you know, a lot of us thinking that some of the golf courses have become so outdated in terms of playability, what have you, yeah, that's the truth. They're just finding different ways to play what we would call some of the real jewels of golf. But I think that, you know, from an aggressive standpoint, to players being prepared, and the way they manage their games, and they're now they're teams, so to speak. And so many things have changed that sometimes and I enjoy watching it, to some degree, I watch enough of it to stay in touch, but it truly is, you watch it in amazement.
Bruce Devlin 41:47
There is another aspect to it, too, and that is the money. I mean, the boys, you know, they play each week for what we might have won in a lifetime. First prize. So, you know, there's a darn good reason to have a good team and work in the gym. And you know, rather than go have a beer after the round it's into the gym.
Bill Rogers 42:11
And Bruce, I might add too it a little bit speaks to our earlier conversation about lovin' and the money and, but that's how we had to make extra income. We had to go and make it we had to travel to these other places, get our appearance money, and then, you know, a bonus you played well, you were able to add to the account. But boy, I'll tell you what, if a person just decided the Tour is where I'm going to stay and that's where I'm going to play and he performs, he doesn't even have to perform great, I'm talking about pretty good, makes a huge, huge living in terms of financial, from a financial standpoint. And that's good. That's where we are and I think you know, they have to all thank Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods times four, multiplied everything's times four at least and brought this game before us. They oughta have a poster in the locker room everywhere they go of Tiger and say thank you. I think they do anyway.
Bruce Devlin 43:33
Brings up a great question, Mike. What do you think of this new $40 million a year? It goes out to the top 10 players for their, what do you call it…
Mike Gonzalez 43:46
I think it’s the Player Impact Program, which is really more a popularity contest that they'll hand out 40 million to 10 players?
Bill Rogers 43:53
Well, Bruce, I'd tell you, I don't know that I can speak to it. I really don't know much about it. I assume that it has to do with social media, is that right? I probably don't know enough to even weigh-in on it. I'd be honest with you.
Bruce Devlin 44:09
You mentioned a name, though that probably would still have a significant presence in that and that's Tiger, whether he plays or not, you know, from a social media standpoint. You know, he might be looking at the first prize.
Mike Gonzalez 44:25
And not swing a golf club.
Bruce Devlin 44:26
Bill Rogers 44:28
Wow. Well, yeah, that maybe they'll dial up our number and we can figure out how to get in on some of that Bruce?
Bruce Devlin 44:38
Well, I don't think that's gonna happen.
Mike Gonzalez 44:40
I think with the combined technical and social media prowess of you two, you'd probably be right up there in the running.
Bill Rogers 44:46
I want to say one thing. And I think Bruce would agree with this. And I wouldn't say this is necessarily a statement made toward the financial aspect of our time on tour current day or whatever. But yeah, what y'all are doing right now is making a difference. And it's so refreshing because when there's a lot of emphasis on discounting things that are really important to show emphasis on our game, and from players that are visiting with you, of which you've already had a tremendous group before me and I feel honored to be in that group, by the way, but it's very important I'm in and "Fore the Good of the Game", golly, that's exactly what it is. And your audience is going to grow like crazy and I always believed in doing the right thing. I think y'all are doing the right thing. And you know, the other things can do social media, but I'm grateful you've taken this on.
Bruce Devlin 46:01
I want to add something to that we had a suggestion today, which sort of hit me like somebody punched me in the mouth. He said that, you know, doing what you guys are doing? Shouldn't the World Golf Hall of Fame or the PGA of America or the PGA Tour, think about keeping these, so that people 30 or 40 years from now can listen to players like Bill Rogers and Lee Trevino and Gary Player and Baker-Finch, you know, and find out what the game was then?
Bill Rogers 46:41
Yeah, all good. But, absolutely, Bruce. I'd say one other thing, too. All the great players of which I would no way include myself in it. But when we start thinking about, you know, from Jack to Arnold to Gary to Tom Watson to Lee Trevino to I know I'm leaving out there with Tiger, I'll even modern day go forward to Tiger. But all of the truly greats of the game and that I think they're easy to categorize, actually. But they all loved the game. They loved it so much, and I would throw Phil Mickelson in there as well, you could not do what Phil Mickelson does, has done and not because of his current success. You can't do what he's done by not loving the game. And when I say that all of those people that I mentioned are great. Ben Crenshaw, all great. champions are great historians. They have loved the game because they know what the game, where it came from. Who was Jack's greatest idol, Bobby Jones. And there are several others that would comment on that as well. But the lovers of the game, the successful ones have loved the history of the game. And if what you just said can, you know fit in there some in some way? It does. It's good for the game.
Mike Gonzalez 48:20
Thank you for listening to another episode of "FORE the Good of the Game." Please, wherever you listen to your podcast, on Apple and Spotify, if you like what you hear, please subscribe, spread the word and tell your friends. Until we tee it up again, "FORE the Good of the Game", so long everybody.
Music playing 48:44
Bill Rogers is a Texan through and through, but he spent parts of his childhood on military bases in Germany and Morocco and the international theme continued into his golf career.
He played in the Walker Cup in 1973 and quickly became a consistent money winner on the PGA Tour. His two greatest victories, however, came in Britain. In 1979 he eliminated Sandy Lyle before beating Isao Aoki in the final to win the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth.
PGA Player of the Year in 1971, he won seven times around the world, including the World Series of Golf in America, twice in Australia and once in Japan. He was runner-up to David Graham in the US Open at Merion and then won The Open at Royal St George’s.
It was his second appearance in The Open and he had to be persuaded to play by his friend and fellow Texan Ben Crenshaw. The pair were first and second after two days but while Crenshaw slumped to a 76 in the third round, Rogers followed up his 66 of the previous day with a 67 to lead by five strokes.
A double bogey at the seventh in the final round brought Bernhard Langer within one stroke but three birdies in four holes from the ninth put the American comfortably ahead again. He won by four from Langer and by seven from Ray Floyd and Mark James.
A year later he was third behind Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus at the US Open and he was eighth in the 1983 Open at Birkdale but that was the last time he made the cut.
In 1988 he retired from tournament golf having burned himself out playing in events around the world. He has been based in San Antonio ever since, as a club professional, golf course designer and college coach.