These days the fields are stronger (45 pros broke par for 72 holes at the La Sabana Open in Bogotá in October), and the South American tour operates independently of Benda and the Asian tour. "I'm thinking of moving our headquarters to Miami," Cook says. "A move like that might make the sponsors more comfortable." Two part-time employees, meanwhile, conduct some of the tour's business from Cook's home office in Seal Beach, Calif.
Players keep peeking into the room, trying to catch a glimpse of the old golfer. He sits in a comfortable armchair. Everything in the clubhouse seems to complement his calm dignity: the polished plank-and-peg floorboards, the stucco walls, the framed clippings showing him with pleated pants and dark, slicked-back hair. His first tournament win came here, at the Rosario Golf Club, in 1942. He was also the club pro for two years in the '40s. "I come here because I like the golf," says Roberto DeVicenzo, the famous warmth still evident. "No pay. These people are friends."
Someone mentions the Masters. Not the famous mishap of 1968, in which DeVicenzo forfeited a possible victory by carelessly signing for a higher score than he had shot—but the tournament of today. Will he ever return? Might he one day grace the dawn at Augusta and smack a ceremonial drive with Byron Nelson, Gene Sarazen and Snead?
DeVicenzo shakes his head. To visit again with old friends, old players, he would like that...but to be in the clubhouse and not on the course...impossible. "I want to play the way I used to play," he says. "I don't want to show my game in public."
Today is different. Today, in the pro-am of the Litoral Open, the 1967 British Open champion will play to support the new tour. "This one is really a South American tour," he says, comparing Cook's operation to the handful of winter events that attracted stars such as Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus in the '60s. "The other one was a Caribbean tour—Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Panama. The prize money was just $10,000 or $12,000."
Someone mentions the South American tour's purses—as little as $80,000 in Colombia and Uruguay, as much as $310,000 for the Argentine Open and $200,000 for the season-ending Volvo Masters in Brazil. "Is that enough?" he is asked. "Will players continue to come?"
DeVicenzo nods. "They come here to get the money, but also to get the power." He thumps his chest. "Inside. To win!"
An hour later, in bright sunshine, the old golfer shows what he means by the power. On the 2nd hole Dunlap, the designated pro in his fivesome, smacks a 285-yard drive. DeVicenzo, 73, answers with a perfect draw up Dunlap's tailpipe, about 280. "Is that unbelievable?" asks Phillip Hatchett, one of a half-dozen tour players in the gallery. At the green Jonas asks DeVicenzo for his autograph. The great man complies, and Jonas carefully covers his treasure with plastic.
On the next hole DeVicenzo rifles a long iron over the flag, a shot that has the young golfers rubbing their eyes. "If I could hit like that," Jonas whispers, "I'd turn pro." On the 4th DeVicenzo wedges to four feet and makes birdie. "That's tempo at its best," says another player.
But the golfer who seems most elevated by DeVicenzo's play is Dunlap. "I'm not trying to outdrive him," the 33-year-old says with a grin. "I'm trying real hard to beat him." Whatever his aim, Dunlap looks like a man who has bitten into magic fruit. His drives whistle, as they must have in 1995 when he won the Canadian Masters by 10 strokes. His iron shots shape themselves to wind and terrain. Dunlap is five under par at the turn, and when he stops in the clubhouse for a soft drink, he practically glows. It's as if someone from memory-impaired Macondo has taken a soft brush and written across him: WINNER.