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There are certain people at a professional golf tournament whom everybody knows. There are the players who perform for you, the writers who report for you, the marshals who stand up in front of you and the officials in the carts who rush out and rule that the unplayable lie your favorite player has hit his ball into was not made by a burrowing animal. But there is one other crucial figure almost nobody knows or recognizes, the tournament chairman. When he is good, a tournament can be very, very good, but when he is bad, well....
If you want to spot a tournament chairman, you can usually look for a tall, distinguished, gray-haired gentleman with a tan so deep it appears as if he got locked outside his Palm Springs bungalow for a week, and with a coat of arms on his blazer no smaller than the insignia on a B-52. He will smile a lot for you and give you an insurance salesman's handshake and turn most of his chores over to his entourage, which consists of six guys who have smaller coats of arms and shallower tans and are fresh out of badges and parking stickers.
But there is one notable exception on the PGA tour, a Texan known affectionately as "Old Wool" to all of the players and press at the Colonial National Invitation. Frank Rogers is his proper name, and last week was Frank Rogers week from start to finish. While Australian Bruce Devlin played super-golf to win $22,000 on a super golf course at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, the scurrying, perspiring, laughing antics of Old Wool made him the busiest, most tormented and happiest man in the game.
Essentially, a tournament chairman's duties are to be the leading spokesman for his country club in helping sell the event to his city, to round up a field, to deal with the PGA and to preside over dozens of committee meetings. He has to assure the club's board of directors that everything is O.K.—that there will be marshals, parking, concessions, television, ropes, flags in the cups and, of course, people paying to get in. Old Wool not only handled all of these chores last week, he thought up lots of new ones and had several thought up for him. Nonetheless, he frolicked through his Colonial like a vaudeville performer who had just been signed up for the Palace.
"What can I do for you?" Frank Rogers said to about everyone he met. "Can I get you a car, a badge, a room or a wife?" And then he would march off singing, "Seventy-two top pros in the starting gate/With a hundred and ten big bills on their mind...."
Old Wool is a salesman in his private life, which is hardly ever private. After doing 11 years in the Navy, he now owns his own company, Tossco, and sells airplane parts all over the country. "Nut-and-bolt man, that's me," he says. "Sure do hope somebody's sellin' 'em for me, 'cause this thing has got some kinda hold on me." Translated, that means the job of tournament chairman is for certain a six-months-of-the-year thing, and really a year-round problem.
The 1966 Colonial began for Rogers in early February when he went to Palm Springs to extend engraved invitations to the bulk of the field. Old Wool, 40, pudgy, unpretentious and oozingly polite, approached each player softly, extended his hand and said, "I just can't tell you how excited and pleased I am to give you this invitation to our tournament. I love my pros."
He went to the golf writers' tournament at Myrtle Beach, S.C. to recruit reporters for the Colonial. "Love my national press," he said. He went to the Masters to get more players and writers. Nor did Rogers' recruiting end there. A pro-member-guest event preceded the Colonial proper on Wednesday, and for that the chairman was determined to find some celebrities. "Love my celebs," he said, announcing that he had cajoled Phil Harris into coming along with four country-music stars. He also had his favorite musical group returning, The Headliners.
Old Wool loved his tournament, too, but at times you wondered why. The first of his major problems was parking space. There wasn't any. "I'm gonna close me a street," Wool said, reaching for a telephone. He called a friend on the City Council and said, "I just don't know anybody that I trust and rely on more than you, podna. How's your health? Well, that's just wonderful. Sure hope we can get together soon. By the way...."
Golfers always expect courtesy cars, and Old Wool sure had those. "Why, son," he would say to a Tom Weiskopf or a Terry Dill, "I'd get you a helicopter if you need it. Build it right here with my own hands." When George Bayer's car almost exploded in the 98� heat Wednesday, Frank said, "Leave it where it is. I'll send somebody and have it destroyed."