Twice in the past four years, while the Palmers, Hogans and Sneads have competed in vain, the venerable and much esteemed Professional Golfers' Association championship has been won by one or the other of a pair of personally engaging and remarkably different brothers from the Cajun country of Louisiana.
In 1957 the PGA, one of the big three of U.S. golf tournaments (the others: the Masters and U.S. Open), went to 29-year-old Lionel Hebert, a development that shocked him as well as everyone else, since it was only his first full year on the tour. A short, plump extrovert, Lionel had then, and still has, the exuberance of a hound dog, the glibness of a southern senator and the rhythm of Dixie in his bones. He would, he has admitted, rather be a trumpet player in a jazz band than a golfer. He has tried both professions; golf pays better.
Last July, Lionel's older brother, Jay, then 37, also won the PGA. A tall, slim introvert with a tropic tan, a marine-straight stride and a dazzling smile, Jay has more the look of a TV western hero than a successful golf competitor. He is the tour's handsomest player and its most eligible bachelor ("I could just pass out," said a blonde, gawking at him during this year's Open). But the smile conceals an unrelenting determination to win. Jay's 1960 PGA victory caused far less wonderment than Lionel's earlier one, for Jay is one of the best, if least known, of the top touring professionals.
Next week, at Olympia Fields Country Club near Chicago, the PGA will hold another championship, its 43rd. As usual, the logical favorite will be Arnold and the sentimental choices will be Ben and Sam. But don't be surprised if you are carefully informed next week that the winner pronounces his name A-bear.
Junius Joseph (commonly Jay, but occasionally Pierre) and Lionel Paul (Frenchy) Hebert come from the crayfish and camellia country of southern Louisiana, where half the population is of French Canadian descent. Their home town, Lafayette, lists 275 Heberts in its phonebook, an Hebert (F. Edward) represents them all in Congress and more than one business advertises its name with a large A and the drawing of a bear to portray graphically the proper French pronunciation of the Hebert name.
Golf's Heberts were the sons of an easygoing Lafayette peace officer, two-term sheriff and sometime politician, Gaston Hebert, who died six years ago. "Pop was a good provider, but no saver," remembers Lionel. "Mom was a typical Cajun farm girl, always putting aside for a rainy day." She taught her sons to work and to expect rain. "I can't remember when I didn't have two jobs," says Lionel.
A gambler's advice
One of the jobs, as it was with Jay also, was caddying at the nine-hole city golf course, a frugal municipal operation where the rough was allowed to grow until it could be mowed for hay and where caddies were permitted to play free one day a week in return for hours of weeding greens.
Lafayette had fewer golfers (50) than caddies (100), at least part of this lack of interest in outdoor sport being accounted for by the area's liberal attitude toward gambling houses. Jay caddied regularly for a prosaic enough local man, a railway clerk, but Lionel's steady customer was a well-regarded professional gambler. "He paid me 50� for 18 holes and taught me that I should not bet," recalls Lionel.
Jay played his first golf in the family cow pasture, cutting his own oak shafts to fit into a battered iron head and hitting balls as the cow walked to the barn. Later, when he was 13, he and a group of five caddies traded several dozen golf balls they had found for an unbroken club, a driver.