It was 10 in the morning when the young man in the leather jacket sauntered into the nearly empty Bunkhouse bar. The Vegas barflies didn't notice. They were watching The Price Is Right on a TV mounted above the open end of the horseshoe-shaped bar. The blonde bartender, Cindy McLister, approached the clean-cut stranger, who leaned against the bar looking at some black-and-white photos of John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe on the wall. She said, "Hi, how are you doing?" He said, "O.K." She said, "Can I get you anything?" He said, "Yeah," and raised his right hand above the bar. It held a black Beretta .40-caliber, a 10-shot semiautomatic handgun. With his left hand the boyish stranger pulled back the slide and racked a round into the chamber—click-click.
The sound took McLister's breath away. "It was very effective," she told a grand jury in Las Vegas. "It was scary." She went straight to the cash drawer—"you're told to do that"—and got the money, hearing the robber warn one of the customers not to move. When the gunman backed toward the door with the cash, McLister stood very still. "He pulled that gun back around on me and just aimed it at me," she said, "and he told me, 'If I get caught, I'll come back and kill you.' " He then disappeared out the door toward Fremont Street.
McLister didn't know it, but she was the last audience for a long and dangerous road show. In a 40-day stretch last fall, a 26-year-old San Diegan named David Casper was, according to court documents, involved in 22 armed robberies in Southern California and Nevada, including stickups of a Taco Bell, the Sands of La Jolla resort, two doughnut shops, two bagel shops, a cookie shop, a Chevron station, a Blockbuster store, a yogurt shop, a KFC, two auto-parts stores, a florist, a supermarket and a woman in a car with three children. In the California robberies the M.O. was almost always the same. Wearing a black Calvin Klein jacket, the gunman made it clear that he meant business by pulling back the slide of his Beretta and letting it snap back, click-click. That sound—and the no-nonsense look in the gunman's eyes—invariably made his victims freeze.
"My theory was that if I could put enough fear in them, I wouldn't have to hurt them," Casper told SI recently, his Calvin Klein replaced by the prison blues of the Clark County ( Nev.) Detention Center. "There was a lot of eye contact. I could tell when I had their attention." To illustrate, he put on his robber's face. His eyes darkened to a laser-like intensity. His lips formed a tight, unyielding line.
Yeah, scary. Even without the gun.
He dropped the look, restoring the boyish, handsome face, and chuckled. The laughter sounded incongruous in the stark, four-by-eight room. But David Casper, when he isn't courting death, can be charming.
A world apart. That's what Augusta National is to Billy Casper, David's adoptive father. Thirty years ago, a svelte, brown-haired Billy beat Gene Littler in a Masters playoff. Almost every year since, Casper has returned to Augusta in April to play in the pinewood canyons and to renew friendships. This year, as usual, he rented two houses to put up family members.
The Sunday before tournament week, Billy played a practice round at Augusta National with his son Bobby, a manufacturer's rep and the third oldest of his 11 children. The rest of the week Bobby caddied for his dad, except on Wednesday afternoon, when Bobby's 12-year-old son, Mason, put on a white jumpsuit and carried his grandpa's clubs in the annual par-3 tournament. Making his way around the gorgeous little course, Billy drew ovations from the fans. In addition to that 1970 Masters title, he had won the 1959 and 1966 U.S. Opens, two PGA Tour money titles, five Vardon Trophies and 51 Tour events—sixth-best on the alltime list. A smiling Billy raised his cap in acknowledgement. On the final hole, after he hit his tee shot into the water, the old pro playfully took a drop and tried to skip one across the pond, urging the ball on with upward waves of his club. The fans cheered. At the green Billy's playing partner, Tommy Aaron, invited little Mason to putt for him, and Billy watched proudly as his grandson trickled a slippery 25-footer to within inches of the cup. Spectators shouted their approval from the surrounding hills.
Afterward, friends and admirers came up to Billy and hugged him, whispered in his ear or simply grabbed his hand. "You're a great champion," said European tour commissioner Ken Schofield, stopping Casper on the clubhouse terrace, "and a great man."
The well-wishers could only guess what Billy and Shirley, his wife of 48 years, were feeling. Embarrassment, for a start—it's no fun reading GOLFER'S SON SENTENCED IN ROBBERIES over your morning coffee. But more profoundly, the Caspers acknowledged a relentless, almost unbearable ache for their wayward son. "It just tears your heart," Billy said. "David's really a good kid. It's just that he made some bad choices, and now he has to live with those choices."