Oh, it was a shame," said Cherif el Sayed Cherif as he sipped coffee in the clubhouse grillroom late Saturday afternoon. "It was such a shame."
And when you finally got used to the idea that Cherif el Sayed Cherif of Cairo and Mohamed Said Moussa of Alexandria had come to Mexico City with every serious intention of defeating Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus—as well as two-man teams from 38 other countries—and winning the World Cup matches on behalf of Egypt, you more or less had to agree that it was a shame. After nine holes of leading the tournament and two days of optimistic developments, they had come apart on the 8th hole at formidable Club de Golf Mexico. And it hurt.
The pain of it tells something about what it is like for an obscure pair of golfers to travel 7,500 miles or so, their hopes flying in the breeze and visions of a triumphant homecoming dancing in their heads, only to come face to face with the reality of Palmer and Nicklaus.
These were not two dumdum players taking a free pass to some international goodwill gathering. They had learned their golf caddying for the British and their rich countrymen—Cherif at the Gezira Sporting Club in Cairo, Mohamed at the New Sports Club of Smouna in Alexandria—and learned it well.
They had seen all the best foreign golfers during the years when the Egyptian Open used to attract a pretty talented field, and each of them had played in the World Cup (which up to this year was the Canada Cup) nine times. Cherif had modeled his compact, classic swing after Sam Snead. Mohamed's more fluid action would grab a few ohs and ahs at Augusta.
The Egyptians looked like athletes, too. Both are close to six feet and stocky. Cherif's tightly cropped hair is just catching its first flecks of gray, and his dark face is rutted by all those winds off the Sahara. Mohamed, an inch or so taller, could make it as the leading man in an Yvonne de Carlo harem epic. Striding down the fairway on Saturday in their tasteful gray jerseys and slacks, their hopes still intact, they were a team you could pull for. The Arabian Knights ride again.
It is part of the nature of the World Cup that it brings together golfers from places like Czechoslovakia and Morocco and Paraguay and gives them a round-trip ticket from Pan-Am, a free room at the local Hilton, $500 in greenery and a sort of worm's-eye look at the world of such celebrities as Palmer, Nicklaus, Gary Player, Bob Charles and others who pass through the same hotel lobby or change shoes in the same locker room. A few of the bolder ones try to talk to Arnold. "I'd like to get a shipment of your clubs," they usually use as an icebreaker.
That, in fact, was exactly the conversation between Palmer and Mohamed Said Moussa on the afternoon of the second round at Mexico City, when things were still looking fairly rosy for the Egyptians. Mohamed pointed out that he himself was playing with Arnold Palmer clubs, the foreign variety manufactured by Dunlop in England. Palmer was delighted, of course.
Since there was nowhere farther to go on that topic, Mohamed asked, "You like to play with us tomorrow?"
"With pleasure," Palmer replied.