"We tried to make his eyes move," says Freddie.
"They didn't," says Robert with heavy finality.
The herd grew with the addition of Sundance and Teensy and Wobbles and Peekaboo and Dirtsy. "Another's called Moolah, because we're gonna have some money now," says Freddie, who thinks up names faster than a bad-check artist at a teller's window.
As a kid Robert couldn't afford to play golf. He was 22 when his uncle Foster taught him the basics. "I improvised from there," Landers says. He scraped together enough for a driver, a sand wedge and a Patty Berg eight-iron. A year later he got his first putter.
He started to play seriously six years later, in 1972, though always on municipal courses. He qualified for the U.S. Open and the U.S. Amateur in 1980, missing the cut in both, and twice was the low amateur at the Texas Open. However, a pinched sciatic nerve curtailed his career, and he stopped playing competitively in '81 to ease the pain that made his left leg go numb. The move to the country in '87 proved salubrious. "Farm life strengthened me," he says. "After building fences, hauling hay and splitting logs, golf does not hurt."
Landers got to thinking about the Senior tour in 1991 and prepared for it with a sense of sacrifice and stern calling. He played the Texas Barbecue Circuit, a series of two-round tournaments run by civic groups in small towns. Most other days he would whack balls in the pasture, walk after them and whack them back. Sixty thousand practice balls a year. Finally Freddie said, "Either you're gonna play, or you're gonna get a job."
So Robert composed a letter to friends and local business people about backing him in his effort to join the Senior tour. The prospective said, in part, "I will work hard, and there will be winnings."
But he never sent the letter out. "Forget everybody," Freddie told him. "You're gonna do it on your own."
To cover the $2,000 entry fee for the Senior tour qualifying tournament, Robert cashed in an IRA. Also, some buddies at a nine-hole muni where he plays put out a jug. "We raised 50 bucks," says Champion, who owns and teaches at the Casino Beach Golf Academy, in Fort Worth. "Robert graciously accepted."
After successfully competing at the regional qualifier in San Antonio, Landers advanced to the finals. Or more precisely, puttered. He and Freddie made the 1,300-mile trip to Lutz in their 1989 Chevy.