Tired and bored
I have often been asked if the players on the tour ever get tired of hitting a golf ball. The answer is that we do, frequently. A few, notably Arnie, can play well even when the game ceases to be fun and turns into plain, hard work. Most of us, however, cannot. When we stop enjoying the game we also stop playing our best. Unfortunately, not many of us can enjoy the game on a lengthy week-in, week-out basis.
This is partly because playing golf every day and traveling every week is extremely fatiguing. Some of the fatigue is caused by the tour's lack of variety. Each tournament is the same—18 holes of golf for four days—and the monotony can dull even the strongest appetite. The only thing that differs from week to week is the course that we play on and the amount of money we are playing for. Perhaps I am not experienced enough to judge accurately, but from what I have seen it might be a welcome relief if the tour's format could be changed from time to time. Why not have the players team up occasionally for a best-ball or alternate-shot event? Team matches are the most popular form of play at all country clubs, and it might be fun to find which pros fare best on a team basis.
Pro golf is growing so fast that the Professional Golfers' Association is going to need both sound judgment and imagination to keep abreast of the sport's opportunities. The PGA is meeting this week. Among other changes, it is considering the possibility of sponsoring four or five minor tournaments on its own to serve as qualifying events at which new players can earn their Approved Player cards. This would eventually increase the quality of players on the tour because all of them would have had to prove themselves in these qualifying tournaments.
Professional tournament golf is booming not just in the U.S., it is becoming tremendously big all over the world. The U.S. pro tour already has taken on a strong international flavor, and we can also look forward with some hope to annual major tournaments not only in the U.S. and Great Britain, but also in South Africa, Argentina, Mexico, Australia and Japan. These nations have proved they can support big-time golf. The $200,000 Carling World Open certainly supplies one hint of things to come. In 1964 and 1965 the event will be held in the U.S., but world-wide qualifying rounds will be conducted in an effort to build up a strong international field. Then, in 1966, the tournament is scheduled for Great Britain. A world tour of the best golfers is a distinct and very desirable possibility, but to achieve it the professional golf associations representing all of the world's important golfing nations will have to stage a summit meeting to work out a sensible schedule.
A few of us, notably Palmer, Gary Player, Bob Charles, Phil Rodgers, Doug Sanders and several others, have already played abroad. We have found that we enjoy it, even when the problem of travel gets hectic, which it can.
I was not much amused, for example, the day after the Portland Open when I found myself at the San Francisco International Airport about to leave for a series of exhibitions in Japan. I had my clubs and luggage. What I didn't have was my passport. My wife Barbara had accidentally taken it home to Columbus, Ohio. I sat in San Francisco an extra day waiting for it. And I well remember the minutes right after last October's fog-delayed Canada Cup matches outside Paris. Palmer and I were driven at breakneck speed through the fog to the airport, where we were trying to get a plane to New York. We were two hours late, but fortunately had sent Barbara and Winnie Palmer ahead. They had somehow prevailed upon the airline—with promises that we would be arriving at any moment—to hold up the flight. When we climbed on board and took the only empty seats in the entire plane a lady passenger informed us we were quite lucky to have made it. Mechanical difficulty, she said, had caused a delay. Mechanical difficulties named Barbara and Winnie, I guess. Troublesome or not, it is the international aspect of pro golf, rather than the prize money, that I would like to see get added emphasis.
It is obvious that the prize money is going to keep growing, but I wonder if that will make much difference to the top money winners. A golfer's winnings sound like a lot, but they don't necessarily change his life a great deal. That I know. Pro golfers are like the owners of business concerns. The eventual profit margin, after expenses and taxes, is only a fraction of the total gross income. Take me, for example. I earned that $100,000 in official money, plus another $100,000 in unofficial tournaments and exhibitions. To handle my complicated financial affairs I need a business agent, who justifiably is paid a share of everything I earn, and a full-time secretary. My deductible expenses for the year come to between $75,000 and $80,000. In addition, I travel a great deal of the time with my family, certainly not a deductible expense. When the government has taken its share there is still plenty left for Jack Nicklaus, Inc., but it does not exactly allow Jack Nicklaus & Family to live like millionaires. Like anyone who gets a little ahead of the game, we are trying to make life for ourselves and our children as comfortable as possible. For instance, we are building a new home in Columbus. But materially our life has changed very little. We have the same friends, eat the same food, go out to the same restaurants. Except for the traveling involved in being a professional golfer, we live pretty much the same life that we would have lived had I remained an amateur golfer and sold insurance.
We are young, of course, and indulge ourselves occasionally. Early this year I purchased a part interest in a harness horse. It has proved a pretty good investment. My partners and I paid about $5,000 for the horse, Bervaldo, and were recently offered more than twice that. Considering the whacky propositions I get all the time, this investment is a model of conservatism. I have been offered opportunities to buy into everything from a desert weed—when boiled in water it produces a broth that is supposed to cure bursitis—to shares in an obscure California silver mine.
If I don't spend money on silver mines, I do on my favorite hobby, fishing. I now have a 28-foot boat, the Busy Bee II, and I hope it leads me to some marlin this month. Though prior to the Masters Tournament I did hook two dolphin, two barracuda and four cobia on one outing off Fort Lauderdale, Fla., my fishing luck usually is bad. Pretty typical is a trip I took this September after the Seattle Open with Barbara and our two-year-old boy, Jack Jr., to Stuart Island, Canada. For $300 we chartered a plane to fly the three of us up and back. For $200 we rented a lodge and a fishing boat. In two days, while limit catches were being reported at some other sites that I had rejected, I managed to catch two salmon. I had them smoked and shipped home to Columbus. When I got back there and opened up the box the fish looked spoiled. I threw them out. That was my year, bouncing up and down the whole time. I may have won the Masters and earned a lot of money, but I also blew the British Open and paid $500 for two moldy salmon.