A year ago, in a story called 'Rabbits Chase Kings,' Sports Illustrated reported the pro debut of a rookie. Here is how he has fared
On the practice tee at the L.A. Open last Wednesday, Chris Blocker, very much older and considerably wiser than when he set forth on the pro tour exactly a year ago, was hitting big, long, 300-yard hooks into the adjoining 18th fairway and feeling miserable. In this tournament last year he had begun his pro golf career by finishing tied for 13th and winning $1,400. Things were never that good again. The following week he won $505 at San Diego and four weeks later at Phoenix he picked up a check for $660.71. It was about there that he also picked up his hook, the thing that a strong golfer like Blocker wants least. "After that," he recalls, "I lost confidence in myself. I began fighting myself. Everybody tells you, if you miss a putt or hit a bad shot, forget it. I know the champions can, but up to now I haven't been able to."
Blocker did not make another dime until he reached Houston in mid-April. There he tied for 19th and earned a thousand dollars. Then came $150 at Colonial—given to all invitees—and $102.50 at New Orleans. That, except for $645.64 in unofficial tournament earnings in such events as the Alvin Dark Open, was it for the entire year, a total of $3,818.21 that left him in 107th place on the 1965 official money list.
"One thing I discovered," he says, "is that you have to learn so many different kinds of shots. When you aren't playing well, you have to be able to save those pars, and that's where you need the experience. When I was playing well I was just shooting par, but when I was going badly I would have a 76 or 77."
Through the St. Paul Open in late June, Blocker tried to qualify for every tournament on the tour. Then, disgusted, he went home to Jal, N. Mex. to rest and think things over. After visiting his parents he moved on to Lubbock, Texas to practice with his old coach in the hope that the rhythm of his game would return. But he found he had no appetite for golf, or anything else. His weight was down 15 pounds, to 185, and he felt so poorly that he decided to "just lay around for a couple of months." He did not rejoin the tour until the Carling Open in late August, where he shot a 76-77 and missed the cut. By the time he reached the Cajun Classic in Louisiana in late November he had put 32,000 miles on his car and flown another 4,000 miles. The glamour was gone and it was "just a job to do." His expenses had been $10,000 for the year, the money to meet them coming largely from his own savings and his parents.
So far, he has not decided if he can make a success of tournament golf. "One thing I do know," he says. "It's going to take a lot longer than I thought it would."
With that he hit a good, straight drive. Then he hit another hook. Turning to a nearby pro, he said, "Just when you think you've learned something, you're too tired to do it." The pro advised him to rest awhile. Soon the caddie returned with the practice balls and set them down. Blocker took a seven-iron out of his bag and said wearily to the caddie, "O.K., let's start out all over again, right from the beginning."
By Sunday night he had shot 71-74-73-78—296 in the 1966 L.A. Open, which earned him nothing, and he was off for the San Diego Open, a rookie no more.