The Grand Strand, midway between New York and Miami, is a place of pilgrimage, and the preferred tone, any local will tell you, is reverential, as in this snippet from the Myrtle Beach Golf Directory: "Lodging, dining and entertainment is plentiful with over 60 miles of beachfront accommodations to suit your varied taste." The Dunes Golf and Beach Club is in the heart of the Strand, just off the main street, King's Highway, where you can find motel rooms for $22 a night and more discount golf shops than any healthy population can sustain. Yet a guest round at the Dunes, a private club with only one African-American member, can cost $128. Varied is correct.
The players stayed at the local Radisson, expensive and oceanfront, and on Sunday morning on the hotel TV you could find preachers on eight channels and golf on three. On Channel 18, the Myrtle Beach Golf Channel, devoted to selling Myrtle Beach golf, you could hear rich abuse of the word "absolutely."
American golf has long been commercial, but the Senior Tour Championship revealed new ways to sell. The event was sponsored by Energizer, the battery people, and the poor rules officials, grown men for whom rules disputes are a form of scholarship, were given metal pins to wear, depicting the pink Energizer bunny carrying a drum and wearing shades. George Archer negotiated the course in a cart sheathed in plastic and emblazoned with the name of the ball he is paid to play.
But this tone of commerce is appropriate for the Senior Tour Championship: It's about money. When the regular Tour closed its official season a fortnight ago at Southern Hills, in Tulsa, the players said high-minded things about playing for the title and not for the money, even though the winner was given $540,000. The old guys think differently. The Senior tour became competitive when the money got big. They live by the adage that the guy who dies with the most toys wins, and for Jim Colbert there's no toy more meaningful than the money title. Colbert said he planned to enjoy his victory for about three days, then find something new to go after. And with that he gathered his wife, his two pilots and his trophy, boarded his Sabreliner 80 and flew home to Las Vegas, contented by knowing that for the moment, at least, he was the envy of his peers.