ample proof that if you give amateurs a large enough goal they go after it with
more verve, fervor and confidence of sweeping success than professionals can
ever muster. Amateur infantrymen won world wars, amateur voyagers discovered
Plymouth Rock, amateur zealots led Crusades, and no pro from the Nile to the
Tiber ever commanded a hotter barge than an amateur named Cleopatra. Next week
the U.S. Open golf championship will be held at Congressional Country Club in
Washington, D.C., and once again it will be proved that if you can harness the
energy of the amateur you can forget about the atom.
The Open ranks in
both hoopla and prestige with such annual spectacles as the World Series, the
NFL Playoff and the Kentucky Derby, yet each year it is presented, in all its
awesome complexity, essentially by the membership of the country club where the
event is played. A field of competitors is provided by the United States Golf
Association, which ranks as a co-host; advice is offered by USGA officials who
have been overseeing Opens since 1895; and warnings of horrible pitfalls are
given at length by the club that put on the previous year's tournament. The
rest—from tent pegs to parking stickers to teletype machines to programs to
concessions to squads of police and armies of marshals—is up to eager neophytes
whose closest previous connection with big-time sport has been finding their
seats in a stadium. It is the amateur hour of sports promotion, it is
surprisingly successful and it is sublime to behold.
Country Club's plans are realized, this year's Open is likely to top them all.
There is more prize money ($97,800) at stake than has been offered at any
previous Open, and the lucky 150 who make it to the tournament proper will
challenge the longest Open course (7,053 yards).
records may be of interest to golfers, fans, reporters and other outsiders,
they are more or less of incidental significance to the Ins of Congressional
Country Club and the USGA. The Ins are agog in anticipation of a whole litter
of what might be called ancillary mostesses. Barring some really major
disaster, the '64 Open is expected to draw bigger crowds (70,000) and take in
more money ($700,000) than any Open since the thing began. Building on these
predictions, Congressional is preparing to outdo all its past competitors in
such events as selling hot dogs, beer, scorecards, 272-page programs and
periscopes (with daily galleries of up to 30,000 it will be hard to see, let
alone tell the players, without a periscope). Plans are being made to park
11,000 automobiles around the course; police and medical helicopters will be
ready near it; and underneath it three and a half miles of telephone cable have
been laid to satisfy the craving of the crowd and the outside world for
knowledge of what is happening. Some 50 Burns detectives, 400 marshals, four
first-aid tents and 10 batteries of portable toilets are expected to be fully
occupied. For good measure, this will be the first completely uniformed Open
(955 officials, scorers, caddies, etc., will be draped in 3,000 yards of the
stretchiest red, white and blue stretch fabric available), the first Open to be
guarded by K-9 Corps operatives and the first Open to be insured by Lloyd's
in this category are skimpy, the '64 Open may also have a record-sized general
chairman in the person of 6-foot-4, 210-pound Frank J. Murphy Jr. Two years
ago, when Congressional was awarded the tournament by the USGA, Murphy, an
intense, broody Irish type, simply walked off from his Arlington, Va.
real-estate business in order to devote full time to Open affairs. Much of what
is making this a very large golf tournament stems directly from the persistent
activity and insistent manner of this large golf promoter.
ought to make a constructive contribution to society at some stage in his
life," says Murphy, explaining his Open motives in a ferocious whisper.
Since he has contributed two working years, gratis, to getting ready for one
week of golf, this statement of principle can be taken at face value. However,
it should not be inferred that the "constructive contribution" of
staging the Open was forced on either Murphy or Congressional. The club
volunteered, and volunteered persistently, for what one less-than-enchanted
member has termed the "Open ordeal."
Congressional formally applied to the USGA to host the 1958 Open, but was
turned down with the suggestion that its 18-hole course did not meet
championship standards. Taking up this challenge, Congressional started in 1956
to make $300,000 worth of improvements that included the construction of a
third nine by Robert Trent Jones, the Le Corbusier of golf architects. More or
less as a test run for both the course and members, the USGA awarded the 1959
Women's Amateur ( Frank Murphy, chairman) to Congressional. In May 1962,
following further negotiations and more course revisions, the '64 Open was
granted to Congressional. Since it was to be the first Open held in the
District of Columbia area since 1921, official joy, as the saying goes, reigned
supreme. A Washington sportswriter exuberated, "The greatest thing since
the Senators won two in a row." Murphy, who manages to contain exuberance
well, said, "We have to get started right away. Two years is not a very
long time and this is a hell of a job."
aims at collecting 70,000 people in one spot can legitimately be described as a
hell of a job, but there are certain built-in difficulties that make an Open
more hellish than the average presentation. To begin with, golf and golf
courses are not designed for spectators. The action of a golf tournament is
spread over more ground—Congressional occupies 256 acres—than a tiger hunt.
Normally, golf courses comfortably accommodate 150 or so people in foursomes,
walking along at a moderate pace, separated by a few hundred yards of turf.
When, as in the case of the Open, hordes of spectators, a thousand or so
officials, TV men, photographers, reporters, hot dog vendors,
walkie-talkie-carrying scorekeepers and ambulance drivers, all in frantic
motion, are added to the players, chaos is not only possible, it is highly
probable. Nevertheless, every year, through Herculean efforts by the host club,
this mob is assembled and contained, after a fashion. Then, at the completion
of the three-day tournament, the elaborate facilities and ingenious
arrangements are scrapped—permanently. The next year the whole hullabaloo moves
on to another country club, equally but uniquely unprepared to accommodate it.
Finally, one must constantly remember that all this is being done by true-blue
beginners. Exclusive of the brigade of press men, some 1,500 people will work
for the '64 Open. Caddies, cops, concessionaires, the K-9 Corps and other
professionals number about 500. Most of the remainder of the labor force is
recruited from the membership rolls of the host club. By way of comparison, the
Kentucky Derby, though less complicated in such things as crowd control,
employs a staff of 6,000, few of whom presumably work for the love of it. There
is the further difficulty that since the Open's volunteers are donating both
their time and club to the tournament they cannot be commanded as firmly as a
professional staff is. "You don't tell a club member what to do,"
explains Frank Hannigan, USGA tournament relations manager—and that means as
cordial relations as possible. "You negotiate."
USGA contribution toward getting ready for the Open is to supervise the
preparation of the course. As co-sponsor of the tournament, the USGA controls
all matters affecting the play, the players, the pairings and the prizes. In
turn, it takes all the entry fees, television money, 60% of the gate receipts
and 12� % of the advertising revenue from the program.
When it awarded
the club the 1964 Open, the USGA obviously implied that Congressional could
become a championship course but, as everyone involved has discovered during
the past 25 months, the difference between a potential Open course and the Open
course is considerable. Joseph C. Dey, Jr., the USGA executive director, has
made a dozen or so painstaking inspections of the premises. Customarily he has
been accompanied by USGA greens experts ("golf agronomists" they are
called these days); Wiffy Cox, the Congressional pro; John Henley, the grounds
superintendent; Chairman Murphy; and occasionally the maestro of the bent,
Robert Trent Jones. This high command shuffled through Congressional's 27 holes
as if they were a deck of cards. The hand they have finally dealt is made up of
16 holes from Congressional's first and third nines plus two from the middle
nine. Par for the already long course has been shaved from 72 to 70. Jones and
Dey sprinkled additional sand traps, bunkers and jungly thickets of rough all
over the Congressional map. Behind them, Henley has sprinkled 7,000 pounds of
grass seed and about 200 tons of various grass tonics to bring the vegetation
up to lush snuff for the June 18 deadline.