SI Vault
 
IT WAS FUN TIME IN THE THIRTIES
Dan Jenkins
April 04, 1966
Arnold Palmer flitting around in his twin-booster, partly deductible rocket ship PGA One, and Billy Casper eating baked leopards' feet and sea-lentil casserole for all those allergies, and Gary Player, the Lord improving his lies, always suiting out in bondage black—you call this colorful? You like it that the pros play the same event every week, a $500,000 Lucky Desert Cajun, everybody getting rich by finishing a nervy 29th? It doesn't bother you that Jack Nicklaus isn't there because he is limiting his play to five tournaments a year—the Grand Slam plus one to be announced—and is off in Addis Ababa filming a TV series? You chuckle and nudge your friends, do you, when Al Besselink grins at a lady scorer and hollers, "Say, bey-bah, old Al done got hisself a birdie"? You wink all around when you see that full parade of snug, flowered bell-bottoms foraging after Doug Sanders? And it really swings, does it, upstairs in the cocktail lounge when Lionel Hebert works his handicap down from 8 to 6 on the trumpet? Say, bey-bah, you know something? If you think the tour is fun now, you would have gone right out of your Spalding Dot back in the Thirties.
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
April 04, 1966

It Was Fun Time In The Thirties

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

If Jimmy Demaret had won the $600 he would have been 8 to 5 to leave it in a bar or blow it on a pair of handmade lime-and-purple saddle oxfords. But the man who almost singlehandedly led golfers out of the necktie era and into knit shirts and beltless slacks found that the least of his problems was worrying about money. On the contrary. Jimmy's problem was that he destroyed it with the ease of the rich guys with whom he loafed around.

When Demaret struck out from Houston for L.A. as a rookie in 1935 he had a set of clubs, a car and a stake of $600 given to him by Sam Maceo, a Galveston nightclub operator, D. B. McDaniel, an oilman, and, yowza, Ben Bernie, the bandleader. He also had the fervent hope that he could drive past Ju�rez without stopping. Of course, he never made it. And all it took to nearly ruin him the first night in Ju�rez was for a man to ask, "Hey, se�or, you want to shoot a leetle pool?"

Demaret said he didn't know, he hadn't been around the game much, didn't understand a whole lot about it, but, well, seeing as how he was there and all, what would the fellow say to some eight-ball perhaps? Demaret blew the car the first night. The second night he lost the $600 and his golf clubs, and the only reason he didn't lose the River Oaks Country Club was that nobody would take an IOU for it. If he did anything right it was saving the pawn slip for the clubs so his brother, Milton, could retrieve them and ship them to Los Angeles, where, hopefully, Demaret was to arrive at about the same time—by freight train.

Demaret did finally get there, and he did survive his first week on the tour, eating sandwiches and drinking muscatel. By his third undaunted week, as destiny so often provides for free spirits who can also fade a high two-iron, he had won a few hundred and was throwing a party that has never ended.

From almost the instant he appeared on the tour, Demaret's fast-quipping nature and passion for dressing like an Olsen & Johnson skit made him the best unofficial publicity man golf has known. If ever the sports pages nurtured a grander clich� than "Navy won the toss and elected to receive," it was "colorful Jimmy Demaret, golf's goodwill ambassador."

Colorful was rather a tame word for it. Demaret wore lavender, gold, pink, orange, red and aqua slacks, yellow, emerald, maroon, plaid, checked, striped and polka-dot coats, and more than 500 different hats—berets, Tyroleans, straws—that he mostly had imported from Switzerland. He paid $250 for the coats and $125 for the trousers in a decade when that kind of money could avert a bonus march. He ordered ladies' pastel fabrics from abroad and had them tailored in the U.S. His idea about shoes was to give a factory swatches from his slacks and have matching saddle oxfords made that looked as if something had been spilled on them.

Demaret's reputation as a wisecrack artist dates much further back than his classic remark to Roberto de Vicenzo at a relatively recent Masters. "Play good, Roberto," said Jimmy. "I'm betting on you to be low Mexican." It goes back to a time 30 years ago when a radio announcer asked Demaret which player on the tour had the most even disposition.

"Clayton Heafner," said Jimmy quickly, referring to the big, grumpy Carolinian whose professed lifelong ambition was to have a one-foot putt to win the U.S. Open so he could bitterly backhand it into a USGA official's but-toned-down throat.

"Heafner!" the announcer gasped. "Are you kidding?"

"No," said Demaret. "He's mad all the time."

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9