Why Hale Irwin Once Refused to Speak to Roger Maltbie for More Than 6 Months

Roger Maltbie was a player on the PGA Tour from 1975 through 1996. Hale Irwin's career overlapped with Maltbie's for much of that time. The two of them engaged in a playoff for the title at the very first Memorial Tournament in 1976, which Maltbie won on the fourth hole.

I stumbled across a Golf Digest interview with Maltbie from 2003 in which Maltbie tells the story of the terrific bounce he got that helped him in that playoff - and why Irwin refused to speak to him for six months after. Read the full Q&A here. Here's the story from Maltbie:

So we both birdied 15 and we both parred 16, so now, playing the third hole, we're in sudden death. It's set up to finish on 17. We both drove into the fairway. I was away and the hole was cut on the left side of the green, and I pulled the ball left. It hit in the gallery, and all of a sudden it bounced out on the green. My first reaction was, "I've hit somebody's head! Something awful's happened!" And the ball is on the green, maybe 25 feet from the hole. I look up, and Hale is absolutely glowering at me. He is not happy, and it's very apparent. So with that he hits it stiff, maybe 15 feet behind the hole.

When we get up to the green I find out that the ball had struck the gallery-rope stake. I miss my putt, and I take my glove off, hand it to Jeff and I go, "Hey, we tried." He said, "It isn't over." I said, "This guy ain't Hale Irwin because he misses these to win." Figured it was case closed. Well, he missed. Then at the last hole Hale drove it up against a tree in the rough and had to hack it a couple of times. I make the birdie putt and win.

And what does Hale say to you?
He shook my hand. Then after the presentation, we went to the pressroom. Hale is giving his interview. I'm sitting in the back waiting for him to finish, and a marshal comes in holding the stake. He says to me, "I thought you might like to have this."

Now what do you do?
As I look up, Hale is staring holes in me, and I'm holding this gallery stake. I kind of shrug my shoulders and lift it up. He says, "No, thanks, I've already had the shaft once today."

Hale didn't speak to me for about six months.

We've heard it was longer.
Well, it was about six months. Then finally I forced the issue and said, "Hale, come on, get over it." But it was a long time.

Years later, in '84, Hale got a lucky bounce off the rocks on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach to win a playoff against Jim Nelford. Were you there?
Yeah, and the next week Hale was doing an interview, facing me as I'm coming from the clubhouse. So I stand behind the interviewer, and I just nodded my head. They had to stop the interview. I looked at Hale and said, "It's funny how a golf ball can bounce."

How'd that go over?
Didn't have much of a reaction. Away I went. If you play golf long enough, you're going to get great bounces, you're going to get awful bounces. That's just the way it is.

Hale and I are fine today. I don't think it was anything that I ever did in particular to anger him. It bothered him that the Memorial thing happened. And I was the perpetrator, I guess.

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