In the middle of the first round when there were still over 150 golfers at large on the sprawling fairways and rolling greens of the club deportivo Campestre de Tijuana, a perplexed-looking wire service reporter was seen hurrying out to the center of the action, notebook in hand. "I gotta go find a golfer named J. C. Goosie," he explained. " Knoxville wants special coverage on him. Ever heard of him?"
Three days later, when the scores for the $17,000 Caliente Open were posted, not only the Associated Press clients in Knoxville, but most of the rest of the golf world had heard of J. C. Goosie. J. C. (which initials he adamantly refuses to elaborate on) is the happy-go-lucky young (28) man who very nearly stood the cream of America's golf professionals on their ears in the third revival of the Tijuana tourney, event No. 3 on the 1958 winter tour.
Co-leader at the end of three rounds (with 208), young Goosie, a handsome, bronzed youngster with a perpetual twinkle in gray-blue eyes, was playing par golf with three holes left in the final round and had only to par in for first place. He had been playing faultless golf from tee to green, consistently outdriving his playing partners, Gene Littler and Fred Hawkins. But he had been coming up short with six-foot putts, a sure indication the dread last-round yips were having their effect.
The 16th is a horrendous elliptical golf hole at Tijuana, uphill all the way and listed on the card at 425 yards but playing at least 50 further in the Caliente tournament. The tee was stuck down in a hollow at one end of the ellipse and the pin buried in the narrow turkey neck of a green barely five club lengths wide at the other. Goosie drove well to start the long uphill fight, but groaned aloud as he spotted the delicate location of the flag. "Sure looks like a rough golf hole today," he murmured to Littler as he snapped a five-iron out of his bag.
A presumptuous shot
It was what it looked. Goosie's five-iron, hit a bit too hastily, was pulled a bit left, not enough off line to give trouble on most greens but disastrously off for this one. It was a typical Goosie shot—bold, presumptuous and aimed for the pin rather than the safe, swollen front edge of the green. But it landed on a sidehill almost hole-high and across a culvert from the strictured green. A small rock kept the ball from sliding down to the bottom of the ditch. Goosie swung quickly at this hanging lie before the rock could move and let the ball roll into deeper trouble. The ball squirted across the green and climbed the grassy hill on the other side. With one foot in the air and his putter held like a window-washer trying to scrape water off a pane of glass, Goosie tried to rake the ball down to the hole. It stopped two and a half feet short. When he missed even that, for a double bogey, it was clear that Goosie was cooked.
Yet when he not only came up smiling but walked away to birdie the next hole, it was also clear that J. C. will be heard from again. As it turned out, that amiable, ambling Ozark, Ernest Joe (Dutch) Harrison, won the tournament, his umpteenth in a career which has seen him come from a plantation worker's son in Arkansas to golf's ninth alltime money winner ($154,000). Dutch was almost the most surprised man on the course when he was presented with the check. "All I was tryin' to do was beat those two fellas [ Jerry Barber and Bo Wininger] I was playin' with. Lord knows, that was tough enough [they both tied for second]."
In general, it was that kind of up-and-down tournament. It began with Wininger and the San Francisco kewpie doll Bob Rosburg, flying 65s from the first-round scoreboard. When Wininger matched that with a 69 the second day, it seemed about over. But he fell all the way downstairs with a shaggy 77 the third day.
Meanwhile, Rosburg clubbed his way steadily along in second place until the third round, when he fell over retrieving his ball on the 5th green and threw his back out of place. Under pain, he was forced to lunge at the ball like an overanxious rookie swinging—at the last minute—at a three-and-one pitch outside and low. When the tour supervisor Harvey Raynor was explaining this to Pro Jim Ferrier with gestures, Ferrier stopped short while pulling a sweater over his head and looked at Raynor in amazement. "But that's the way he swings all the time anyway!" he protested.
Harrison owed his good luck as much to the collapse of Stan Leonard as to Goosie's double bogey. Like Goosie, Leonard, who should have known better, played too daringly for a man who had a stroke lead going into the final round. He cut an approach too fine at No. 5 and rapped a ball out of bounds on No. 7 to be well out of it before he hit the back nine the final day.