Herbert Warren Wind
discovers the irrepressible (and only slightly fictional) Harry Sprague again on the winter tour. As he continues the correspondence he began last year, Sprague—in the first of two installments—tells his new sponsor how things are going
Jan. 19, 1959
Mr. Amos A. Tabor
Red Snapper Isles, Florida
Dear Mr. Tabor:
I am dictating this letter to you as per our understanding we agreed last fall on before we closed up the old Otter Lake course for the season. That is, as we pros on the circuit make the winter tour, I will make sure to latch on to a stenographer from time to time and dictate you some reports on how the assistant pro at your club is making out. This is the least I can do for a guy like you, Mr. Tabor, who has done so much for me already. When I think it was only a year ago I came out here to the West Coast practically a complete unknown with a jerkwater sponsor, Walt Parmenter from my home town, I say to myself, " Harry Sprague, you are a lucky stiff to have as a sponsor a wheel who runs the largest golf resort in Michigan and is still as regular and affected as if he had no dough at all." I am not laying it on thick, Mr. Tabor. I am laying it on thin.
Just to fill you in on the schedule, I am dictating this letter the morning after the finish of the Crosby to a lady with the name of Miss Loretta Welch who should have a picture of Harry Vardon hanging on her wall, if you follow my drift. Miss Welch has her office on Ocean Avenue which is the main drag in Carmel which is a nice little town right next door to Pebble. There are a lot of artists in this here town of Carmel so earlier in the week I brought in the big new golf bag I just picked up and had some guy print on it in big red and gold letters: Harry Sprague, Otter Lake, Michigan, winner of 1957 Micawba Open and 1958 Charlevoix Pro-Am. A lot of the artists in this town don't sell many pictures, Miss Welch tells me, and that is why some of them run haberdashery stores. I moseyed into a couple of them earlier this morning looking for some sportshirts since my supply is running low and I still got a little cabbage from my fine showing in the Tijuana Open last week or so ago. The trouble with these stores is all they stock is Italian clothes from Italy like mohair sweaters. Anyhow, as you know from watching me play and teach at Otter Lake last summer, I am strictly a conservative type dresser. As I was telling Mrs. Bud McKay yesterday, "Just give me a pair of light blue slacks and an alpaca sweater to match and just a plain old yellow or red sportshirt. I am out here to play golf, g-o-l-f, and not to win any dressing contest."
Mrs. Bud McKay is the wife of Bud McKay who is a big public relations man in San Francisco who has a house near Cypress where me and Albie Vickary stayed as his guests during the Crosby. His real name is S. Curtis McKay but everyone out here calls him Bud which is a very popular name with businessmen on the West Coast. Bud was my partner in the Pro-Amateur part of the Crosby, and he is a real amateur who no one is ever going to accuse of hustling for dough, since he claims to be a 7-handicap golfer with a straight face but cuts across every ball like Demaret but not so good. He helped me only a total of eleven shots during our four rounds with his handicap strokes and he hurt me about twenty strokes because he thinks he is a whiz at golf technique and kept on coaching me how to play nearly every shot. To get away from him and his kibitzing, I began to pull my drives down the left side on purpose so that after slicing his tee-shot and playing his second he couldn't cross the fairway quick enough to louse me up with his advice before I played my second. The only trouble was that sometimes I got too much draw on my drives trying to keep away from him and had to play my approaches out of the rough which is pretty matty, so I didn't have much stuff on the ball when it landed next to the pins, which is why I finished out of the money. Bud McKay asked me to come back as his partner for the Crosby next year. I guess this is like signing your own debt warrant but I said I would.
I am taking your advice and going easy on the night life and the feminine sex. This isn't easy for there are lots of women in this world who all they got to do is see a golf pro apparently and they would give the brush to Gregory Peck, or almost. As you saw from the papers, I finished tied for fourth at Tijuana, and you would have thought I was running some television show the way all those terrific-looking babes suddenly learn your name and start sticking around and talking like they got no place else to go. Like I was telling Mrs. Bud McKay, who is a terrific looker but more on the Joan Fontaine type and who also has got some brains to match being a veteran society girl from some place called Burlingame, I am steering clear of women this year because I am out here to win tournaments, g-o-l-f tournaments. I am not interested in getting into complicated relations with someone like Marian Haydock. I told you about Marian and how we went up to the Augusta Masters together from St. Pete last year where she ran into that smooth-talking advertising guy from Madison Avenue and later married him before she realized he was driving a rented Jaguar auto.
Bud McKay spent every night during the tournament hitting out practice balls at a driving range so I got to see a lot of Mrs. Bud McKay. To get my mind off the pressure, we would take out her Mercedes at night and go for a spin on the Seventeen Mile Drive. "That is even farther than I hit my drives—seventeen miles," I said to her in a joke one night. "I was afraid you would say that," she said, which is typical of Mrs. Bud McKay. She always has a real comeback. The difference between society women and other women, as I see it, is that they've got the old confidence like good putters.
She tells me I look corny in alpaca and should wear Shetland sweaters which come from Shetland, Ireland, and is going to send me some.
Hope you enjoy yourself in Florida at your house there, Mr. Tabor
Ass't Pro, Otter Lake C.C.
Jan. 31, 1959