SI Vault
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

When the tour didn't have Demaret for comic relief, it had Ky Laffoon. He was a portly, balding part Indian who got his start in golf by caddying for Titanic Thompson, the accomplished hustler. You've heard the story about Thompson telling some dazed opponent, "Why, I'll bet my caddie can beat you," and the guy calling it? Well, Ky was the caddie, and he could beat you.

Except on the tour. Laffoon won less than he should have, probably because of his temper. It wasn't a temper like Lefty Stackhouse had, the kind where he beat his head against a tree trunk, belted himself on the chin or pitched his clubs and caddie in a creek. It was a lovable temper. Well, almost.

Laffoon would wander off the fairway and discreetly flog all the leaves off a bush because his approach shot had not carried a pond. He would curse so audibly that his wife would stalk to the clubhouse and call a lawyer. He would miss a putt and spurt tobacco juice into the cup, enough so that the man putting next got his ball out rather gingerly.

Once Laffoon had three putts from five feet for a win at the Cleveland Open. He missed the first, missed the second and became so outraged he slammed the putter down on top of the ball, not caring anymore whether he was first or eighth, but luckily the ball hopped three feet in the air and—it's true—plopped right into the hole. He won despite himself. Seeing it in the newsreel later, his scream frightened three rows.

Another time Laffoon missed an important putt and banged his putter into the ground, breaking off the club head. Then, without realizing it, he took aim over the next putt with the jagged shaft.

"Wha-what the h-hell ha-happened?" he said, stuttering nervously, as he did in such situations.

To appease his wife during one of his rare periods of resolution, he tried to play through a whole tournament without cursing. Surprisingly enough, he scored fairly well in the first round, and he was in fine spirits that evening as he sat around the hotel lobby, telling stories to the younger pros. He told a lot about Indians, and he always made Sam Snead double over when he would say, "If the white man had found the Indian good to eat—no Indian."

But in the second round things got grim. Ky played himself into the lead, which meant every shot was desperate, and here he had promised his wife not to curse, which is practically impossible when you're leading. The situation grew more tense as his shots began to land off target. But he held back on the tobacco juice and the language. Finally, along about the 15th hole, he flew an approach shot over the green and into a bed of honeysuckle.

A jungle guerrilla with a machete could not have attacked the ball more furiously than Laffoon with his nine-iron. One swing. Two. Three. And out came a torrent of get-even words that had spectators blushing as far away as the parking lot, which was exactly where Ky's wife was heading. Laffoon somehow interrupted his verbal circus and went chasing after her and, catching up, began a panting, futile plea.

"I-I wa-wasn't m-mad, re-really," he said. "N-no kidding, d-darlin'. I-I j-just d-don't I-like honeysuckle."

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9