Al Geiberger

Al Geiberger, Hall of Fame Athlete

Al Geiberger doesn’t know it but he was responsible for the Santa Barbara Hall of Fame Selection Committee changing one of its rules on eligibility for induction in the Hall of Fame.

“Ever since the Hall of Fame was started over 20 years ago, we’ve had a rule that an athlete had to be retired from his particular sport for three years before he could be considered for induction into the Hall of Fame,” explained Dave Kohl, selection committee chairman. “But when Al joined the PGA Senior Tour last year, we changed the rule to allow any athlete competing in a ‘senior-type event’ to be eligible right away. The committee figured Al would probably play on the Senior Tour until he died and we didn’t want to wait until that happened before he got in.”

Geiberger, a graduate of Santa Barbara High who now makes his home in Palm Desert, has had a pro golfing career that most young golfers dream about. He made $1,256,000 in 28 seasons on the regular PGA Tour following graduation from USC and won 11 tournaments, including the PGA in 1966 and the Tournament of Champions and Tournament Players Championship in 1975.

Even with his overall success on the PGA Tour, the lanky Geiberger willl be remembered most for what he did during the second round of the Danny Thomas Memphis Open in 1977. In a feat that may never be surpassed, Geiberger shot an 18- hole round of 59 to break a PGA Tour record that had stood since Sam Snead shot a 60 in 1957. Because of that magical 13- under-par round, Geiberger has become known as “Mr. 59.”

“The 59 has been my little claim to fame,” Geiberger said. “It has given me my special niche. It’s hard to put a figure on the positive effect it has had, but it has done a lot for me.”

Today, Geiberger is one of the top players on the Senior Tour. After joining the tour last Sept. 1 when he turned 50, he won three of the first 10 tournaments he entered and finished the 1987 season with his highest single season winnings in his golfing career.

“Most people hate the thought of turning 50,” Geiberger told a sports writer last January. “I couldn’t wait.”