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Golf loses legendary greens keeper in Bondeson

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Fifty years ago, this is how the leaderboard looked at the end of the inaugural Doral Invitational:

Billy Casper -5

Paul Bondeson -4

Jack Nicklaus -3

Ben Hogan -3

Who is Paul Bondeson? Today’s generation of players may not be familiar with his name, but he made a huge impression on Casper, Nicklaus and Hogan as a rookie in 1962. Bondeson was the biggest hitter of his time, who routinely drove the ball 30 yards past Hogan in their pairing at Doral that year. If not for a missed 10-foot birdie putt at the final hole, Bondeson might have been remembered as the first winner of the PGA Tour event at Doral.

“Everybody thought he was going to become what Jack Nicklaus became,” Hall of Famer Chi Chi Rodriguez once said.

Bondeson, who died at 71 late last year, will be remembered in a memorial service Jan. 31 at Mariner Sands Country Club in Stuart, Fla. Though Bondeson never did win a PGA Tour event, he went on to make a name for himself as one of the nation’s most respected greens keepers, until an automobile accident paralyzed him from the waist down in 2001. He lived 10 years longer than doctors expected him to live.

“Paul didn’t become the greatest golfer who ever lived, but he became the greatest greens keeper whoever lived,” Rodriguez said.