The 1976 Open Championship (or British Open to non-golfing fans) didn't go down as one of the best finishes in the long history of the world's oldest tournament.

However, years later its impact is still being felt.

Johnny Miller won the title for his second major, but the real star was a 19-year-old swashbuckling kid from Spain who changed the global face of the sport.

Seve Ballesteros was the runner-up to Miller and soon led a resurgence of European golf that is still being felt to this day. That will be part of the story of "Summer of ’76" at 8 p.m. Tuesday on Golf Channel.

The one-hour film examines what happened 41 years ago at Royal Birkdale, the site of this year's tournament. While Jack Nicklaus was still in his prime and Tom Watson was beginning to challenge the Golden Bear's throne, Ballesteros emerged out of nowhere.

Europe desperately needed a golfing hero and this teenager who hit the ball all over the place — and magically got out of trouble — filled the bill. It is not an exaggeration to say Ballesteros was just as important to golf in Europe at that time as Arnold Palmer was to Americans in the late 1950s.

Ballesteros, who died from a brain tumor in 2011, would win five major titles in his career. More importantly, he rescued the Ryder Cup from anonymity as continental European players were added to join Great Britain-Ireland against the U.S.

Bellbottoms and long hair were part of the story in the mid-1970s as social trends from that time also will be talked about in the film. Miller, an analyst for NBC never shy about giving his opinions, will provide commentary about what happened at the 1976 Open and its historical significance.

"Summer of ’76" should entice the audience for the unique nature of The Open Championship, which begins at 12:30 a.m. Thursday and Friday on Golf Channel and lasts for 12½ hours each day.

Viewers will be pleased by seeing, for the first time in a major, more uninterrupted coverage courtesy of "Playing Through" commercial breaks, where ads (with audio) will run alongside continued video footage of the tournament. 

Tennis: Wimbledon finals (ESPN, 8 a.m. Saturday, Sunday): Venus Williams and Roger Federer both are still going strong and might be playing into their 40s.

Golf: U.S. Women's Open (Fox, 1 p.m. Saturday, Sunday): Hopefully, the skill and guile of the world's best players stays the focus and not any of the other stuff away from the course. 

MLB: Cubs at Orioles (WAOE, 6 p.m. Saturday, 12:30 p.m. Sunday): Maybe getting Jose Quintana will be what it takes to jump start the defending champions after sleepwalking through the season's first half.

 

Contact Jim Benson at jbenson@pantagraph.com.

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Sports Writer

Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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