It was a second-place finish at the 1987 NEC World Series of Golf that convinced Fulton Allem, the stocky golfer from the Free State, to join the PGA Tour after a successful run on the Sunshine Tour where he had 11 professional wins.
Allem’s run at glory at the 1987 event was thwarted by American Curtis Strange, who finished at five under after a closing-round 71, three better than Allem’s final score. The straight-talking South African could only muster a 70 on the last day, which forced him to settle for solo second, but a lucrative cheque for $86 000.
Fast forward to 1993 and Allem was once again in the hunt after his opening round 68 saw him placed nicely at third, two off the pace set by Jim Gallagher Jnr. Allem kept himself in contention when he matched his opening round to sit four under at the halfway point, a tally good enough for a share of second place.
Firestone Country Club typically produced challenging scoring conditions, which meant that when Allem shot a two-over-par 72 in Saturday’s third round, he was part of a group of eight golfers within one shot going into the final round.
Despite having David Frost, Nick Price, Vijay Singh, Greg Norman and defending champion Craig Stadler for company in the race for first prize and the cheque for $360 000, there was only one winner when all was said and done on Sunday.
Perhaps it was his uncomplicated approach to the game, or the fact he was buoyed by his win over another strong field at the Southwestern Bell Colonial only two months before, but the then 35-year-old began his final round calmly as he set about trying to beat some of the very best in the game.
In a blistering eight-hole stretch, Allem made six birdies to pull well clear of the field. Two further birdies propelled him to a final-round 62 – the lowest final round score in the tournament’s rich history – and a tally of 270 that was five better than Price, Stadler and Gallagher Jnr could muster.
The runaway victory over an elite winners-only field would be the crown jewel of his career, as he never returned to the winner’s circle.
Allem’s stellar year in 1993 would be the highlight of his career as injuries began to derail his promising stay on the PGA Tour. In 1994, ‘Fulty’ was laid low by a herniated disc in his lower back that would go on to hamper his career for several years.
Four years later, he developed pericarditis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the sack surrounding the heart. In 2003 he endured problems with the vertebrae in his cervical spine and then also suffered two heart attacks, ensuring that his career on the Champions Tour never took shape again.
– This article first appeared in the March 2017 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine