Beating the Boss might present a precarious problem for most of us, but not for a bunch of crusty old guys who go by nicknames like Sarge, Mr. X and the King. So it was that Orville (Sarge) Moody and Bruce (sorry, just plain old Bruce) Crampton teamed up to win their second straight Legends of Golf tournament last week in Austin, Texas, pummeling par to earn $60,000 apiece.
Moody and Crampton tied Tommy Aaron and his partner, 50-year-old senior rookie Lou Graham, at 26 under par when Sarge birdied the 72nd hole with a four-foot putt. Aaron had holed out a 115-yard nine-iron for an eagle at the 70th. The playoff ended when Moody the Magnificent holed another birdie, this one from 12 feet, on the sixth extra hole.
In addition to the Aaron-Graham pairing, Moody and Crampton beat 28 other teams, including sentimental favorites the King and Mr. X, a.k.a. Arnold Palmer and Miller Barber, who finished fifth, two shots back, after having a share of the third-round lead. Meanwhile, in 14th place, 10 strokes behind, were the Boss, PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman, who turned 50 last month, and his horse, Al Geiberger.
"I don't think I scared too many people," summarized Beman, who took a few personal days away from his office in Ponte Vedra, Fla., to play in his first senior competition.
It was Beman's entry into the field that distinguished the 11th Legends. No commissioner of a major professional sport in America had ever competed with or against the same people he could slap a fine on, or penalize a few strokes.
Beman is a competitor—just ask the CEOs he gets to cough up the $50 million that the pros, young and old, are playing for this year. He can also play some—he won the U.S. Amateur in 1960 and 1963, the British Amateur in 1959 and, from 1967 to 1974, won $370,000 and four tournaments as a player on the PGA Tour.
Decreeing such things as the official tanning lotion of the PGA Tour probably doesn't give Beman the same thrill it did when he became commissioner in 1974, and, given his makeup, it's not surprising that he has the itch to compete at a high level again. In the last two years he has played respectably in the British, Irish and Scottish opens. The fact that the Legends is not a PGA cosponsored event and is not played for "official" money allowed Beman to say he felt "comfortable" about competing.
The commissioner asked Geiberger to be his partner last summer, before Geiberger had even started his senior career. But when Geiberger got hot, winning $380,000 and four tournaments in his first seven months, the other seniors suspected that Beman intended his appearance at the Legends to be more than a cameo.
The idea of the commissioner, who draws a salary of about $400,000, dipping into their buried treasure, with perhaps the best senior player as his muscle, didn't sit well with some of the seniors.
"He shouldn't be playing," said Bruce Devlin, who joined the senior tour last fall. "We pay him to be the commissioner, and he's taking the spot of some guy who's trying to make a living."