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Cool Things - Dub's Dread Golf Ticket

Dub's Dread golf match ticket

This Kansas golfer was a top player, but his career has been lost to history.

"If you were not born, I'd be known as a good player."
—Harold "Jug" McSpaden to Byron Nelson

Discussions about golf and its famous players and courses rarely mention Kansas. In a climate where the fairway often resembles the rough, there is no comparison to Augusta or Pebble Beach. However, there are forgotten players, courses, and matches that rival the greats. On August 12, 1968, four of golf's best players gathered for a match at Dub's Dread, a golf course in Kansas City, Kansas. The ticket shown here admitted one spectator to watch Harold "Jug" McSpaden and Byron Nelson play Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Nelson, Palmer, and Nicklaus are still well known; McSpaden has been lost to history. In his time, this native Kansan was one of the best on the links.

Jug McSpaden was born in Monticello, Kansas, in 1908. He became hooked on golf at age ten after seeing a match in Kansas City. He soon took a job as a caddie to learn the game. As a teenager, McSpaden played money matches on area golf courses. According to legend, he once won $500 from a Kansas City mobster whose Tommy gun fell out of his golf bag just before play began. Matches like this allowed McSpaden to improve his skills, and in 1926 he joined the Professional Golf Association. Throughout the 1930s, McSpaden played in tournaments across the country, including the first Masters. He won open tournaments in California, Massachusetts, Florida, and Canada, and was named to the Ryder Cup team.

Though he was a good golfer, McSpaden gained most of his notoriety during World War II. He signed up for military service like other patriotic Americans, but was rejected because of a severe sinus condition. His good friend and golf rival, Byron Nelson, was also rejected because he suffered from hemophilia. The pair decided to make the links their battlefield.

The Gold Dust Twins: Jug McSpaden (left) and Byron Nelson

Throughout the 1940s, McSpaden and Nelson played exhibition matches to raise money for the war effort. They made 110 Red Cross and USO appearances. At several of these events, the duo played nine holes with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope and then held an auction. By the end of the war, people called them the "Gold Dust Twins" because they finished in first and second place in almost every tournament they entered. McSpaden won six tournaments between 1944 and 1945, though he more frequently took second place to Nelson. Prize money was awarded in war bonds during the war. McSpaden claimed that in 1944, he received $18,000 in bonds, which amounted to $134.55 when he cashed them in.

McSpaden retired from professional golf in 1947, but he couldn't stay away from the sport for long. He soon returned to play in the Senior PGA Championship and in the early 1960s designed Dub's Dread. For a time, the Guinness Book of World Records listed the course as the longest in the world. Though the course has been shortened over the years, it still provides a challenge to area golfers. They have another reason to thank McSpaden as they walk the links. Along with Nelson, he developed the modern-day golf shoe.

This ticket to the 1968 Dub's Dread golf match was donated to the Kansas Museum of History in 2007. The donor received the ticket from a friend and they attended the match together.

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Entry: Cool Things - Dub's Dread Golf Ticket

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: March 2008

Date Modified: December 2014

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.