With sports on hiatus and millions cooped up at home, fans far and wide are looking for anything to fill their fix. Replays of past NBA games air nightly. Same with baseball, where classic matchups can be found on MLB Network. NASCAR ran a virtual race where drivers drove simulators and the televised action was computer generated. Even marble races – yes, marbles rolling down finger-deep trenches in the dirt – are a big hit.
Golfers are lucky. Golf Channel has dug through the archives to air some fantastic action. Monday you could watch Arnie win the 1960 Masters, and last weekend Pernilla Lindberg won the 2018 ANA Inspiration again.
YouTube is also replete with classics, including most of the library from Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf recently made available for sports-starved fans. One match you’ve likely never seen paired three LPGA Tour legends at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club in 1969. Kathy Whitworth, Sandra Haynie and Carol Mann, all members of the LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame, made their first trips to Thailand for a match at the nation’s second-oldest golf course.
“I’d never been (to Thailand) before and haven’t been back since,” Whitworth told LPGA.com. “It was really quite fascinating. We got to do a lot of sightseeing. I had my dad with me and while I was playing, he would go looking around the city.”
Mann (who passed away in 2018 at age 77) and Haynie had played in a Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf match in Switzerland in 1968.
“Everything was new and different,” Haynie said of her second trip for a Shell match. That included the country itself. Thailand was only 30 years removed from being Siam when the Hall of Famers arrived.
“The Royal Bangkok Sports Club had horseracing and cricket and they had it all going on while we were there,” Haynie said. “It was an interesting experience. We were invited to the home of the president of Shell Thailand. It was just wonderful all around.”
But it was also a volatile time. The war in Vietnam was at its peak with supposedly secret bombing raids taking place in Cambodia, just 290 miles from where Whitworth, Haynie and Mann were playing.
“They asked us if we wanted to go over (to Vietnam) and we politely declined,” Haynie said.
As for the match, Whitworth said, “It was a lot of fun. The course was a little rough – Bermuda-grass greens that were long and grainy and pretty bumpy - but they were proud of it and we were thrilled to be there. I do remember that after every shot they had to reset the cameras. It was nothing like today where you’ve got handheld cameras everywhere. We might hit two shots before they had to reset everything. It took a long time.”
Jimmy Demaret and Gene Sarazen hosted the match. “They were both great to us,” Whitworth said.
All three players fell terribly ill the last night in the country. But that didn’t spoil their experience. And they still have fond and vivid memories more than half a century later.
“We all laughed because we each had a caddie, we had a forecaddie (for the group) and we had what they called a ‘khlong boy,’” Haynie said. “If we hit a ball into one of those canals that ran through the course, the khlong boy was supposed to jump in and get our ball. Thankfully none of us did that because that water didn’t look like the healthiest place to go. We were telling them, ‘We don’t care. Don’t go in there. We’re getting a penalty anyway and we’ve got plenty of golf balls.’ It was funny because that was a big motivation for us. We said to each other, ‘don’t hit it in the water.’ We didn’t want that poor kid to have to go in.”
“I remember that,” Whitworth said, laughing as if it were yesterday. “Yeah, that water didn’t look like anyplace you’d want to be.”
As sentimental as those memories are, with the advantage of hindsight, Haynie and Whitworth now appreciate the significance of what they were doing at the time.
“While you’re doing it, you think, ‘wow, this is fun, this is cool,’” Haynie said. “But as the years go by and you look back on it, you really appreciate the opportunity that Shell gave us to go other places in the world. You appreciate the platform they gave us to showcase our abilities.”
Without spoiling the outcome, enjoy three of women’s golf’s greatest champions on this episode of Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf: