One of the greatest gestures of fair play in sporting history took place on the 18th green at Royal Birkdale on Sunday September 20th 1969.
The 18th Ryder Cup between Britain and the USA was balanced on a knife-edge. The three-day event was all square at 16 points apiece.
Britain’s Tony Jacklin and America’s Jack Nicklaus had been matching each other shot for shot and were level on the last hole.
Nicklaus sunk his final putt leaving Jacklin with a tricky three-footer to halve the match and draw the Ryder Cup. The pressure was immense.
But then the unthinkable happened. Nicklaus picked up Jacklin’s ball marker and strode over to the British Open Champion. He conceded the putt.
It meant the match was halved without Jacklin having to play a final stroke. The fiercely contested Ryder Cup ended at 16 points each – the first draw in the competition’s history.
America, who had never lost, retained the trophy with legends like Nicklaus, Billy Casper, Sam Snead, Lee Trevino and Gene Littler in their team.
Nicklaus, playing in his first Ryder Cup at the age of 29, was unrepentant about conceding the putt to Jacklin.
He told him: ‘I don’t think you would have missed it, but I wasn’t going to give you the chance either.’
The ‘concession’, as it became known, was the start of a long friendship between the two great competitors. It was even the inspiration for The Concession Golf Club in Sarasota, Florida, designed by the pair.
As well as 1969, the Ryder Cup had come to Royal Birkdale four years earlier in October 1965. This time a strong American team reigned supreme, beating Britain by 19.5 points to 12.5.
Peter Alliss, Neil Coles and Christy O’Connor Snr spearheaded the British challenge. The Americans included Casper, Snead and Littler as well as Tony Lema and golf legend Arnold Palmer.
Alliss had an inspired three days, winning five of his six matches. Coles and O’Connor notched up three wins apiece.
Best performer for the USA was Lema with five wins, while Palmer managed four.
In addition to hosting two Ryder Cups, Royal Birkdale also welcomed two British Opens to Southport in 1961 and 1965.
The 1961 Open, played in July, was won by Arnold Palmer with a score of 284 over four rounds. He finished one stroke ahead of Welsh golfer Dai Rees.
It was Palmer’s second Open and the fourth of seven major titles. He also became the first American to win the coveted Claret Jug since Ben Hogan in 1953.
The 1965 Open winner was Australian Peter Thomson with a score of 285. He beat joint runners-up Brian Huggett of Wales and Ireland’s Christy O’Connor Snr by two strokes.
It was the last of five Open victories for Thomson, ending a gap of seven years since he last won at nearby Royal Lytham St Annes.
The 1965 Open was also the last to finish with two rounds on Friday. In 1966, the final round moved to Saturday and the tournament only assumed its Thursday to Sunday format in 1980.
Total prize money for the 1965 Open was increased to £10,000 with the winner receiving £1,750 – a far cry from today’s figure of more than £1.4 million!
*Many more unmissable photos feature in Clive Hardy’s brilliant book Around Liverpool and Merseyside in the 1960s.
Echo readers can order their copy at the special introductory price of £9.99 plus £1.99 P&P. Just go to our online shop or ring the order hotline on 01928 503777.
Don’t miss out on the remarkable story of an unforgettable decade!