Inasmuch as Arnold Palmer was not to have his triple slam, or whatever label the three victories would have acquired, this particular tournament could not have produced a more popular victory if it had been prearranged. Junius Joseph Hebert, whose name is pronounced "A-bear," is a man of great charm and modesty, so much so that one wonders how he has remained a bachelor all these years. Just before he was to start his final round on Sunday, Al Laney of the New York Herald Tribune said to him: "Jay, you'll make a lot of people happy if you win this." Hebert seemed genuinely surprised and said: "Do you really think so?"
A wounded veteran
Of course, it should be remembered that Hebert, despite his youthful good looks, is somewhat more mature than most of his friends on the tour. In the early 1940s his college education at Southwestern Louisiana Institute was interrupted by the war, and he eventually served as a lieutenant platoon leader with the Fifth Marine Division at Iwo Jima. A Japanese bullet through the left thigh hospitalized him for a year, but he fully recovered. At a victory press conference last Sunday after the tournament, a young reporter asked him facetiously, "Jay, is the 16th hole here tougher than Iwo?"
Hebert looked at the reporter seriously and said, "Nothing is."
Throughout the four days of the PGA, there was a good deal of carping about the severity of the Firestone Country Club course, which Robert Trent Jones, the architect, had redesigned over the past couple of years at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars. Art Wall Jr., last year's golfer of the year, who is currently in the midst of a hot streak after some early-season infirmities, said at one point, "It's just too much for me. All you can do is get out there and slug, slug, slug. You're always on the defensive. You can't ever attack it." Many, like Wall, felt it was not quite fair to put the home pros on such a course. They will have to explain to their members why they shot 82 or 85 as soon as they met the touring pros.
But looking at it in another way, such a demanding course is just what the PGA needed to restore the prestige it began to lose during the postwar years. This year, promoted smoothly by Firestone and the people of Akron, the tournament had the polish of the Masters. The total prize money of $63,130 was second only to that of the Masters. It is argued by PGA officials that it would downgrade the tournament at this stage to play it on just any old patsy course. Hebert, for one, put the cause for the affirmative when he said, "If I could keep my sense about me when I play every shot, I would say this is the perfect golf course. You've just got to stay out of those bunkers and out of the rough if you ever want to break 75 around here."
Although Arnold Palmer failed last week to win the PGA, and also last month to win the British Open, there can be no doubt about his overwhelming new stature in American sport. Even in losing he is the thrilling and appealing new figure that golf has been awaiting since Ben Hogan saluted the inevitability of age some half dozen years ago.
Man of the people
Golf being the game of imponderables and inconsistencies that it is, Palmer will not win more than a minority of the tournaments he will play in as time goes on. But he will be the player the people come to see wherever he competes. Every shot Palmer plays is executed with such determination and confidence that not only he but his opponents and audience and friends are sure it will succeed. Neither as self-absorbed as the earlier Hogan, nor as acquisitive as Snead, Palmer enjoys the sympathy and affection of his fellow players. If they can't win, they hope he will, and none begrudges him his sudden prestige and success. As a top PGA official said of Palmer last weekend: "He is very good for golf. He has character."