FAST CAR—FAST HORSE
So this is it. The stretch run to the Masters. One week to think, one week to get set, and then the first tee at Augusta. Nobody has ever won the Masters twice in a row, and now I have a chance, a good chance. And a start on the Grand Slam? What if I lose? I have spent all winter keying on this one tournament. If I lose, will I want to play any more golf this year—will I even be able to play any more golf? A scary thought. A loss at Augusta would kind of make 1964 just another year. Daydreams.
Daydreamers get speeding tickets. I will never be accused of speeding on a golf course, but I seem to get my share of tickets on the highways. I was barely out of bed the Monday morning after the Doral tournament before a highway patrolman was handing me one. I was on my way to play in a pro-amateur event at Lost Tree Club, which is just north of Palm Beach, and was doing about 35 in a 25-mph speed zone. I was not more than half a dozen blocks from the house when it happened. Boom! $20.
The following day another big Nicklaus travel snafu began. I guess when you travel a lot you have to expect some problems, especially when you have to make last-minute changes. No wonder Arnold Palmer has owned a plane for so long. This time I had seven reservations for our return to Columbus. The group included Barbara and the two children, my dad and Barb's mother and father. Our reservations were confirmed on the phone. On Wednesday I go to the airline office to pick up the tickets and learn that the flight I am on does not operate anymore. Now come the problems. About six jillion college kids want to fly north at the same time I do. I finally got us on a flight the following day that would stop at Tampa and Cincinnati. We would change at Cincinnati, stop at Dayton and finally reach Columbus late the same day. (It was a long trip, but not nearly as long as the one taken by the three suitcases I decided to send on by Railway Express. They arrived 10 days later.) Why am I going to Columbus? Well, one reason is that Barbara had planned to get home in time for her once-a-month Thursday-night bridge-club meeting. She's a competitor, too. And I figured I could practice for a week in Columbus if the weather was warm, or go down and play in the Greensboro Open if Columbus was too cold.
We got back to Columbus without any more trouble—but Barbara finished out of the money at the bridge club. And it was cold. By the end of the week I was beginning to get a little itchy about my game because I had not hit a golf shot since the pro-am at Lost Tree. I decided to play at Greensboro. Meanwhile I had plenty to keep me busy at home, to keep my mind occupied. Our new house is nearing completion, and on Saturday I went over to the farm where my harness horse, Bervaldo, is stabled. My trainer, Bill Evilsizor, invited me and some of my friends to watch him work Tarport John, a half brother to Del Miller's money winner of last year, Tarport Doug. Bill hopped off the training sulky and handed me the reins. "Here," he said, "you work him." Me work him? I had not been on a horse since the eighth grade, much less steered one from behind. I didn't know how to turn him or stop him, and I felt about as secure on that tiny seat as I would have on the top of a flagpole. One bump and you are in the air. But my buddies were laughing like crazy, and I was not going to let them get away with that. I took the horse around the track twice, not caring to think what a sprained wrist could cost. Great fun!
Barb and I were planning to get together in the evening with a group of our friends, but everyone seemed vague about it, so we dropped the idea and made a dinner date with a dentist friend of ours, Jack Lewis, and his wife Diane. We decided to eat at the Columbus Country Club, where the PGA Championship will be played in July. What do I find when I get there? All the buddies who were so casual about what they planned to do that night. It was a going-away surprise party. There were two big cakes, one saying, "Good Luck at the Masters," the other, "Let's Make it a Grand Slam Year." They knew exactly what was on my mind.
I had planned to fly to Augusta on Sunday night to get in a couple of practice rounds at the Augusta National course before going on to Greensboro, but the plane was late at Columbus and I would have missed my connections in Charlotte. So I chartered a plane to fly to Augusta the next morning. Whatever the cost, I was going to be ready.
Miles this week: 1,300
Miles to date: 14,360
Winnings this week: $550
Winnings to date: $19,577
THE LAST OF THE GREAT SHORT HITTERS—ME