Gasparilla Invitational Boasts Storied History
TAMPA, FLORIDA | The 2019 Gasparilla Invitational tournament features a rekindled celebration of amateur golf. And the lessons to be learned from Palma Ceia Golf & Country Club and the Gasparilla are many.
This year the Gasparilla has joined an organization called the Amateur Golf Alliance to actively promote this historic event, which will be contested today through Saturday.
What’s so special about the Gasparilla? Everything. Back in the 1930s, it was called the Gasparilla Open and was earmarked for pros, not amateurs. It was said to offer the largest purse among professional events. Paul Runyan, the champion in 1932, was paid $962 in gold coins, a nod to Tampa's pirate lore. Denny Shute won the next two tournaments in 1933 and 1934. That set the stage for Walter Hagen in 1935.
The Gasparilla committee held a spot in the field for Hagen that year, although it was uncertain whether the colorful pro would show. He played no practice rounds and gave no indication of his plans.
According to newspaper accounts, the arrogant Hagen sauntered to the first tee just two minutes before his scheduled tee time in the first round. He hit no warm-up shots or putts. He shot 64.
The tournament at that time was 72 holes. Hagen finished the third round with a double-bogey 7 on the 18th hole and was caught by Gene Kunes in the middle of the final round. No matter, because The Haig finished birdie-birdie to beat Kunes by one str...
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