Jim Smith (’64), Golf History

(This article is quoted from The Tennessean Newspaper, July 7, 2013)

Jim Smith (Isaac Litton, Class of ’64) made history twice at the 1969 Capital City Open Invitational in Nashville.

With a 54-hole total of 198, he became the tournament’s first repeat champion. And his score of 59 in the final round was the tournament’s first round under 60.

It’s how the Clarksville native got there, though, that really made news. In an article on Saturday, Aug. 16, 1969, John Bibb, the famed Tennessean sportswriter and future sports editor, captured the moment with a flourish:

“Young Jimmy Smith bounced into golfdom’s Land of Enchantment yesterday, and when he returned he had astonished himself and all competitors with an amazing 11-under-par 59 at McCabe where he won the Ninth Annual Capital City Open Tournament.”

Recalling the dream round now, with the 53rd edition of the event coming up Monday, the 66-year-old Smith said, “It was just one of those days when everything was good.”

Talk about an understatement.

Starting at the fourth hole, Smith carded nine birdies in a row — a national record at the time. It could have been 10 straight, but his birdie putt on the 13th hole came up 6 inches short.

He remembers hitting only two bad shots all day — he missed the greens on the par-3 12th and 15th holes. He chipped in from 25 yards for a birdie on No. 12, then scrambled for a par on No. 15.

Danny Gibson, the retired Metro Parks golf director, was playing two groups behind Smith that day. He remembers hearing the disbelief about Smith’s save on No. 15, which started with a pushed iron that landed on a hardpan winter green.

Gibson called the second shot “impossible,” saying, “He had to carry a sand trap and stop the shot to a green sloping away from him, with the hole cut 10 feet from the right side of the green, and the green was hard.”

The ball came to rest a foot from the hole. Smith birdied the 17th hole and sank a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th for his 59.

And, as Gibson noted, it was done with persimmon woods and balata balls.

Smith said that back in his prime, the Capital City was a “really big deal to Nashville golf,” a sentiment echoed by Dick Horton, who served as the executive of the Tennessee Golf Association for 35 years starting in 1974.

“If there was anything close to having a city championship, that was probably it,” Horton said.

Smith went on to claim two state amateur titles.

Kenny Perry shot the second 59 in the tournament when he won in 1986.

Milestone for past champion: Audie Johnson will be making his 30th consecutive appearance in the field when the 53rd Capital City Golf Association Open gets under way Monday at McCabe Golf Course.

Johnson, head golf pro at Lebanon Country Club, won the event in 1993 and ’95 and has been a runner-up multiple times.

He said the tourney was so popular when he started in 1983 that it was a challenge just to get entered. Members from Nashboro Golf Club, where he worked at the time, would come out in droves to see him play.

“We’d have a couple hundred people the last day watching the tournament,” said Johnson, the 1979 Schooldays champ and a four-time Tennessee PGA player of the year. “Having my friends and family be


able to go down and watch us play and compete like that made it really special to me.”

Gene Cunningham and John Apple dwarf Johnson’s longevity in the tournament. Cunningham played in the event for 52 consecutive years, but is not entered this year. Apple missed the first year of the tournament in 1961 but played in the next 51. He is entered in the event.

Hole-in-one contest

Two bands will play as the crowd watches from bleachers around the green. The golfer closest to the pin will win $1,000. A Nissan Altima will be awarded for an ace. If no one holes out, the four closest to the pin will go back for one shot at $100,000. The event starts at 7:30 p.m.
: CCGA organizers are hoping for a Phoenix Open-style atmosphere on Monday night when professionals shoot for a hole-in-one under the lights.