Not everyone gushed about the experience. Lee Elder was not thrilled to find himself in a threesome on Friday with Lawrence Taylor. This meant that Elder was destined to spend four hours with several hundred of Taylor's closest friends, a boisterous group that would have been more at home at, say, a Giants Stadium tailgate, or a cockfight, than it was on the meticulously manicured grounds of Upper Montclair. This was a group that arrived wearing Giant jerseys and windbreakers emblazoned with the names of local taverns or the numbers of teamster locals. It also arrived—through no fault of its own—with only a loose grasp of golf spectator etiquette.
"They're not golf-oriented," said Elder after the round, straining to be diplomatic. When LT wasn't hitting, his fans talked among themselves; as soon as LT holed out, his minions moved noisily toward the next hole. "Meanwhile we're lining up three- and four-footers," said Elder, "and it's a distraction. I know [the presence of the NFL players] is good for the game and good for the gate, but we're out here trying to make a living."
Did LE have a chance to bond with LT? "He was driving the ball all over the place, and he walked ahead of us all day," said Elder. "He didn't seem very happy out there."
LT needs a little time by himself these days. His zest for physical combat apparently unsated by a brief foray into professional wrestling, Taylor hinted last Tuesday that he might emerge from retirement to play for his former mentor, Bill Parcells, now head coach of the New England Patriots. To this Parcells responded, through the Patriot front office, "No, no, no."
There was no way of knowing whether Taylor's postround surliness derived from Parcells's rejection or from his failure, following his 83 on Friday, to be one of the dozen NFLers to advance to Saturday's final round. There was no shame in missing the cut. Charger quarterback Stan Humphries, an early favorite, went out with Arnold Palmer on Friday and turned in a starstruck 83 of his own.
"No gimmes," said Philadelphia Eagle guard Dave Alexander, citing the biggest difference between playing this tournament and playing against his buddies. Alexander was the sole offensive lineman among seven quarterbacks, three kickers and a tight end to qualify for the final 18. "It's tough grinding over eight-inch putts for three days," he said. "After a while you start seeing breaks in those things."
The toll on the players' nerves was evident. On Friday, Dan Marino dribbled his tee shot 50 yards on the par-3 3rd hole, and L.A. Raider punter Jeff Gossett left a 30-foot putt 15 feet short on the 15th. Meanwhile Gossett's teammate kicker Jeff Jaeger sent his drive on the 2nd hole screaming into a knot of bystanders standing near the green on 3. Jaeger was forced to make small talk as he waited for the approaching threesome to hit up on 3. Then, with two galleries watching, he hit his second shot. On the 9th hole Jet quarterback Glenn Foley bounced his second shot off the clubhouse. He took a drop, then muffed one chip before knocking his next one into the hole.
If their uneven play did not betray them as amateurs, their uniforms did. In their white knickers, caps and argyle socks, the players appeared to have escaped from The Great Gatsby. The Payne Stewart getups lent them a certain stateliness, an effect that dissolved only occasionally, such as when Nagle sent a stream of tobacco juice hissing onto the 13th green or when Kinchen, squatting to line up a putt on the 8th green on Saturday, split the seat of his pants.
Kinchen's knickers weren't the only thing coming apart at the seams. The previous evening, at Eccola, an Italian bistro in Parsippany, Del Greco looked up from his veal marsala and said to Kinchen, one of his best friends in the NFL, "Wouldn't it be great if we were in a playoff tomorrow?"
Such a finish seemed implausible by the time Kinchen made his embarrassed way off the 8th green. Del Greco had apparently self-destructed, playing the front nine at six over. Having started the day with a one-stroke lead over Del Greco, Kinchen now had a four-stroke lead.