In golf circles Doc Giffin and Larry O'Brien are almost as well known as the two legends they represent, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, respectively. Giffin, 67, a former golf writer for The Pittsburgh Press, will observe his 30th anniversary as Palmer's right-hand man in July, while O'Brien, 69, has worked as Nicklaus's publicist since leaving Montreal, where he had been a radio announcer, in 1972. Considering how much they have in common, it is remarkable that Giffin and O'Brien had never sat down to compare notes until SI brought them together recently.
SI: You two are unique. Nelson, Snead and Hogan didn't have aides like you. How would you describe your roles with Arnold and Jack?
Giffin: The original idea was to be like a traveling secretary in baseball. My job is to make sure that everything on Arnold's schedule gets done. The people in Cleveland [IMG] put together a business schedule, and I do the tournament schedule.
O'Brien: I think our biggest strength is that we've never passed ourselves off as managers.
SI: Loyal as both of you are to your man, you also seem to have a lot of appreciation for the other guy.
Giffin: When I was the PGA press secretary from 1962 through '66, Jack was just starting his career. In fact we both joined the Tour the same month. Jack's first tournament was in L.A., and he tied for the last money spot.
O'Brien: Yeah, his first check was for $33.33. I've still got a copy of it. But you know what's interesting, Doc, is that I was with Arnold when he won his first pro tournament, the 1955 Canadian Open. I was doing the broadcast and went into the locker room looking for Mr. Palmer. I was well into the interview when I found out I was talking to Johnny Palmer, not Arnold.
Giffin: Arnold was good for Jack early in Jack's career. He watched the way Arnold handled the press. Once, when the press wanted to interview Jack after he had shot a 78, he told Arnold he didn't want to do it. Arnold told him, "Look, if they invite you in there, you go."
SI: Were Arnold and Jack friends from the beginning, or is it true that they really didn't like each other all that much?
Giffin: If there was a time when there was something less than a friendship, it was when Jack left Mark McCormack and went out on his own. They had a rivalry because they were competing for the same things, but to me it was overblown.