GOLF: MY MAN OF THE YEAR
This Knowles guy with his handicap-equalizer (The Inequitable Equalizer, SI, Aug. 25) has a good point and could easily win the Man of the Year award at our club. Our local best-ball matches are inevitably won by a couple of 12 or 15 sluggers who turn in cards showing five birdies and five 9s, but who backed each other up in trouble. Last week my partner and I (3 and 4 handicap) played a match with an 18 and 19. The two hackers came in with gross 75, 3 over par, to our 70—and we had to give 12 strokes. Needless to say, it was a match for only 13 holes. On the basis Mr. Knowles suggests, both of our opponents would deserve about 12 handicap. It would of course damage their standard of living a good deal. Interestingly enough, we refigured the card on a four-ball basis and would still have lost about 6 and 4. In the case of my partner and myself, our total gross scores all year won't be 10 strokes apart. The others' scores may run from 78 to 108. But the point is that their handicaps do not accurately reflect their match play potentials. And that is what we pay (dearly) to see every Saturday.
Please do not use my name. No matter how sore I am, I still have to live with these guys.
JOHNSON VS. THORPE (CONT.)
Reader Vern Baumgarten (19TH HOLE, Sept. 8) has a few of his facts twisted in arguing that Jim Thorpe is a better all-rounder than Rafer Johnson.
Thorpe's decathlon performance of 1912 did not stand as a record "until a few years ago." It was bettered in the Olympics of 1928, and as a world mark in 1927. The world record has been upped an additional 11 times since 1927.
Thorpe's pentathlon-decathlon double in the Olympics was no endurance feat. The pentathlon was six days before the first day of the decathlon, and the latter event was contested over a three-day period, rather than the usual two.
It is true that training methods, equipment and the tracks themselves have improved since 1912—and so have the competitors, who put in as much or more time training for the decathlon as Johnson, and still can't match him.
Before selling Johnson short, let's realize a few other important facts. Whereas Thorpe was 24 years old in his Olympic triumphs, Johnson was just a 19-year-old freshman when he first broke the world decathlon record. And we still haven't seen the best of this tremendous athlete and fine gentleman. For big Rafe hurt himself in 1956 and hasn't been sound since.
The best proof that he is operating at something less than 100% efficiency lies in the events in which he competes during the regular season. In 1956 he broad-jumped 25 feet 5� inches (making the U.S. Olympic team) and hurdled the highs in 13.8, both marks among the half dozen best in the world that year. By this time he already had run 100 meters in 10.5, 220 yards in 21.0 and 400 meters in 47.9, plus the 220 lows in 22.7. He was, obviously, a speed type, ideally suited for the sprints, hurdles and broad jump.
But then he banged up his knee and sat out most of the 1957 season and part of the 1958 campaign. Still unable to put his knee to the test of hurdling or jumping, Rafer turned to the weights, and in one amazing day (April 26 against Stanford) put the shot 54 feet 11� inches, threw the discus 170 feet 9� inches and the javelin 237 feet 10 inches. No one man has ever done so well in these three events—in one day, or in a lifetime.
With practically no sprinting, hurdling, jumping or vaulting behind him this year, Johnson still shattered the world decathlon mark. Should he be completely healthy in 1960 he will score so many points that he will again amaze those of us who think we cannot be amazed by anything the fabulous athlete does.
Publisher, Track and Field News
Los Altos, Calif.