Tonight, HBO will air another documentary in its critically acclaimed series, “Sports of the 20th Century.” The latest documentary, “Back Nine at Cherry Hills: The Legends of the 1960 U.S. Open” is another triumph for HBO.
This focuses on three of the greatest players in the history of golf, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, all converging in the final round of the U.S. Open at Cherry Hills in suburban Denver, with a chance to win the tournament. For Hogan, it was his last legitimate shot at glory. For Palmer, it was the opportunity to solidify himself as the King of golf. And for the upstart Nicklaus, it was a chance for him to win his first major golf tournament.
But the documentary doesn’t just focus on the final 9 holes of the U.S. Open, it also goes into how Hogan, Palmer and Nicklaus were influenced by their fathers. And as we go into this year’s U.S. Open and Father’s Day weekend, the documentary’s airing is totally fitting.
And not only was this a changing of the guard in golf, it was also a changing of the guard in the country as a new President was being elected.
We find that Hogan basically grew up without a father and had to scrape his way into the professional golf tour. Palmer’s father was the groundskeeper at the Latrobe Country Club in Pennsylvania and instilled a hard work ethic into Arnold. Nicklaus’ father had owned several pharmacies in and around Columbus, Ohio and became Jack’s best friend.
Each man took different paths to the PGA and the 1960 U.S. Open, but they found themselves with excellent chances to win.
And as the documentary unfolds, we find that Hogan had an opportunity to win, but made a key mistake after his ball went into the water. Nicklaus, who was playing with Hogan, was the next to lead, but as Nicklaus himself describes, was a 20 year old who did not know how to win. So Palmer came up with next with the best chance to win.
Thanks to archival footage and newspaper pictures, we are able to see how the drama of the final round unfolded. In addition, we are fortunate to still have Nicklaus and Palmer plus famed golf writer Dan Jenkins in the documentary to tell the story of the 1960 Open. As Jenkins himself says of the convergence of the three men, “It never happened before, and it hasn’t happened since, and probably will never happen again.”
Through Mary Carillo’s writing and Liev Schreiber’s narration. we get to relive the moments of the Open as it went into the back nine and to honor the history. It’s a great story and done very well. Overall grade for “Back Nine at Cherry Hills”, A+. HBO has a hole in one here.
The documentary premieres tonight at 10 ET with replays all throughout the month. Take the opportunity to watch it if you subscribe to HBO.