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'Scruffy' Hobday went with the flow, pleasing fans, sportswriters

He's 71 years old now and probably having an ale somewhere in South Africa, retelling the story of how he won the U.S. Senior Open in Pinehurst in 1974.

His name, Simon Hobday, is inscribed on the trophy alongside those of such notables as Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Tom Weiskopf, Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer, who will defend his title this week at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.

He doesn't seem to fit comfortably in that company. First of all, he hasn't won what they've won. Also, his nickname is "Scruffy," which he earned early in his pro career through his wardrobe, which was that of a man who didn't have a lot of money to throw around on clothes or shoes after he had paid his bar tab.

Hobday's week in Pinehurst was a sportswriter's delight.

After the first round, he went fishing. While he was out in a boat on one of the local lakes, he felt an urgent need to relieve himself. While he was in the process, his fishing partner moved, causing the boat to shift and toss him into the water.

His response: "It happens. It happens."

On Saturday, the third day of the tournament, Hobday had to get up a 5 a.m. to play one hole and complete his second round. He warmed up, played the hole in par, then went back to his quarters. When he came back out for his third round, he warmed up again. There were two weather delays, which meant warming up twice more.

He managed to complete 13 holes that day and stood 13 under par for the tournament. An interviewer said, "I understand you don't necessarily like the number 13."

Hobday said, "Now a lot of things have happened to me on, mostly, Friday the 13th. I have had four car accidents on Friday the 13th. I got my deportation papers - actually, I was out of the country when they signed them and that was on Friday the 13th as well."

It was Zambia that deported him. They didn't tell him why, he said, just told him to be gone in 48 hours.

Hobday, who had won 16 times all over the map, was going through a confidence crisis as he moved through the final round in Pinehurst. Nailing cigarettes, fighting the demons. From time to time, he put a little theater into his round to relieve the tension, which won him a lot of favor with the gallery.

"I was choking, all right, no doubt about that," he said. You don't often hear that from a tour player.

He was tied for the lead on the final hole. What was going through his mind on the tee?

He said, "Well, all I thought, said to myself now don't go steering the ball down the fairway, just give it a dirty, filthy hit. ... Also, I was waiting for the round to finish, that is one of the things I wanted to happen."

He shook a 2-foot putt into the cup on the last hole to win and later admitted, "I would rather have had someone else go and putt that one. It looked like a mile to me. I've missed a few of those in my time."

Asked how he would celebrate his victory, he said, "I will just go with the flow, I think, see what happens. There will be plenty flowing, too, I bet you."

Sure enough, late in the evening, there was "Scruffy" in a hotel bar, letting it flow and charming the ladies.