Now, for the 20-point toss-up question. Name the following colorful golfing personality without using the words Super-Mex, Fuzzy or Chi Chi:
He once broke the course record at Atlanta Country Club while nursing a doozy of a hangover. He has a weakness for craps, expert ski slopes and dirt bikes. He has agreed to strap himself into a race car and go 160 mph this summer at the Michigan International Speedway. Playing in a high school tournament, he once gave his putter a heave that Tommy Bolt would have admired, slamming it into a tree and breaking it in half. He played the rest of the way with an eight-iron, one-putted the final three holes and led his team to victory. He cried after his latest win, cried at his own wedding and can get choked up just talking about his college coach.
Time's up. Did you guess Bob Tway? The man who makes Edwin Meese seem thrilling? Tway to go.
Tway is 27 years old, a 6'4" one-iron and a lot of things you wouldn't figure, such as interesting. All right, so he has never made "They Said It." And it's true that once, under "dislikes" in a
profile, he listed "reading books or magazines." But that's not true anymore. He reads a little now. For instance, he was reading his bankbook the other day, and under "1986 Golf Winnings" it read "1.15 million buckaroos," which is a real can't-put-downer. He won four tournaments last year, including the PGA Championship, and was voted the PGA Player of the Year. And though he has yet to win a tournament this year—currently he's 23rd on the money list with $102,089—he's the leading candidate for superstardom on the PGA Tour.
Of course, all of that is where Tway is now; the great American hope, sent weekly to defend the shorelines against sharks, Germans and Spanish armadas. But Tway is more about where he has been, which was treading sludge at the very bottom of the very deepest bunker in golf.
For three years.
You figured Brillo (so nicknamed for his ultracurly hair) was going to be pretty good when he won the men's championship at Redding ( Conn.) Country Club. He was 13 years old. An IBM brat, Tway bounced around from Oklahoma City to St. Louis to Wilton, Conn., to Marietta, Ga. Anywhere they gave Brillo a bucket of balls, he called home. "He was at the course from dawn until dusk," recalls his mother, Kaye. "I used to have to get in a golf cart to go find him and drag him home to eat."
With practice paying off and all that, Tway became a three-time All-America at the University of Golf, Oklahoma State, where he played for coach Mike Holder. Tway was the linchpin on two NCAA championship teams and the collegiate player of the year in 1981. All of which meant zilch when he tried to get his PGA Tour card in 1981, his first year out of college. That fall, only 160 players among 800 hopefuls even made it to the final six-day hell-week tournament. Of that 160, just 50 received cards.
Tway didn't make it. Not in 1981. Not in 1982. Not in 1983. "It was a shock," he says. "I assumed I'd make it right through." So it was off to play in South Africa and Asia, where a man whose favorite meal is chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy is bound to be a very tall Okie out of water. "Once, he came back from Asia looking like a skeleton," remembers his father, Bob. After playing in 10 Asian countries in 11 weeks Tway weighed 160 pounds, the world's only breathing ball retriever.
"It's the kind of thing where the further you get away from it, the more fun you think you had," says Tway's wife, Tammie, who suffered through every moment of the Asian tour with him. There was much fun to be had. Like not wanting to go into the woods in India to get your ball—even when you could see it—because of the vipers and cobras.