T.M.'s greatest success as a professional has come on the Japanese tour. In 1983 he won two of Japan's five major tournaments. To commemorate the feat, Japanese Premier Yasuhiro Nakasone, himself, executed a piece of calligraphy that hangs on a wall of the Chen living room in Linkou alongside dozens of lesser awards, THE BEGINNING OF THE HUMAN'S LIFE, it says, in bold black brushstrokes.
The parents, Chen Soon-ling and his wife, Mai, 67, live on the second floor of an eight-room house on Linkou's main thoroughfare. On the ground floor of the Chen house is a grocery store that Chen Mai operates. On the roof are quarters for 200-odd racing pigeons, the hobby of an older son. When he is at home T.C. lives in a one-room apartment at the rear of the second floor. He shares with his brothers the use of a Ford, a Jeep, a Toyota and a BMW.
T.M., his wife, Pao-Kuei, and their two daughters live next door. Chen Chi, the grandfather, lives one door farther on, in a 200-year-old brick farmhouse. Gnarled cypress trees flank the gate to its inner courtyard, and red banners lettered in gold decorate the archway, CONGRATULATIONS FOR THE NEW YEAR reads one banner; THE WHOLE PEOPLE WILL CAUSE THE CULTURE TO CONTINUE Says the Other. A small red light burns in a Buddhist shrine in the center wing of the U-shaped house.
In their polyester slacks and cashmere sweaters, T.C. and T.M. look slightly out of place in their home surroundings—too contemporary for a simple country town where a monkey skips along the top of a garden wall. T.M. is 10 pounds lighter and a couple of inches shorter than T.C. He is a wizard, it is said, of the short game. When T.M. won the 1983 Dunlop Phoenix in Japan, beating Tom Watson in a playoff, he was up and down out of 18 bunkers. Some people, T.C. included, think T.M. is the better player of the two.
T.C., at 5'10", is a big man in Taiwan, a long-ball hitter. "For my weight, I'm a long hitter," he says. "In the States a lot of other guys are longer. When I started to play I was just trying to see how far I could hit it and I really didn't practice the short game. My short game is terrible."
T.M. spoke up for the first time. General Chang translated: "His brother says T.C. is also good with short game."
T.C. muttered under his breath, "Did you see the U.S. Open?"
In 1980 T.C. turned pro. For two seasons he played the Asian and Japanese tours, winning one tournament and losing two others in playoffs the first season. His second season was less successful, but T.C. was encouraged enough to try the U.S. tour. He went home to Linkou in the summer of 1982 and for three months did nothing except hit golf balls by day and study English by night.
In October, with a loan from GAROC in his pocket, T.C. flew first to Los Angeles and then to the PGA Qualifying School in Ponte Vedra, Fla. He finished fifth in a field of 200. In the year that followed he won $79,030 on the American tour. In his three seasons in the U.S. Chen has conquered the problem of jet lag, which used to leave him feeling sick for several days after every flight, and of stomach problems caused by a new diet. Although he is friendly and the players like him, he rarely initiates conversation because he thinks his English is bad.
"I think it's good," says caddie Lealos. "He's a very intelligent guy. Once in a while he'll hear a word he doesn't understand. Appreciate was one of them. Someone said, 'I appreciate your coming.' So I spell it for him, and he looks it up in a Chinese dictionary and then he kids me with it. He uses it every chance he gets for the next two days."