Julius Boros walked along the edge of the water hazard, whistling and swinging a club, keeping an eye out for possibilities in the water. (His ball would not be in there, of course; his ball would be out in the middle of the fairway. His ball is almost always in the middle of the fairway.) If he were to catch a glimpse of activity in the water, he might come back in the evening, when the diminishing light had chased the golfers, and try a few casts. He scouts these spots wherever he plays. When the inhabitants of the water hazards in Palm Springs and Augusta begin to disappear, five will get you 10 old Julie's back in town. He has a favorite spot on the Palm Aire course near Fort Lauderdale, 10 minutes' drive from his home, and of an evening when he is not on tour he can be found there, his Riviera rammed up in the weeds hard by the 13th hole, his eyes alert for moccasins and rattlesnakes as he moves around the water, his big sausage fingers flicking out delicate casts, tempting the bass.
Satisfied that there was nothing in this particular water, which was at the Indian Creek Country Club in Miami Beach, he walked up to his ball. The amateurs in the foursome had branched out off the tee and had already hit their second shots. Vince Lombardi, the football man from Green Bay, was able to duplicate one powerful slice with another into the rough, and he followed after it muttering aloud about not having played since July and giving himself a pep talk—"C'mon, Vincent, get behind the ball, behind it"—as if it were necessary in Boros' presence that he play golf as well as he coaches football.
Boros barely settled over his ball, glancing to check the line, before swinging. In an era of tortuously slow professional golfers whose amateur imitators clog up play on courses throughout the country, Boros has an original technique. Commandolike, he calculates how he will hit the ball even as he comes on it, and, once there, he does not primp over it in the style of Jack Nicklaus or go through the contortions and the preening of Arnold Palmer. His is a kind of golf-polo: up to the ball, into position, wham. As his one concession to color, he might occasionally spit into his glove before gripping the club. He says he developed his style at a tender age while living on a farm alongside a golf course in Fairfield, Conn. He would scale the fence, clutching a few rusty clubs and a ball to his chest, and try to get in as many shots as he could before the greenkeeper ran him off. The Boros swing, however, is neither hurried nor exaggerated, but rhythmically undisturbed, like the implacable progress of the plastic horses on a carousel. Words used to describe Julius Boros playing golf for a living have been "placid," "relaxed," "plodding" and "unemotional"; "laconic," "phlegmatic," "pokerfaced," "serene" and "Sunday afternoon at the club." "Comfortable" would be another. He does not throw clubs or mutter.
The ball went on a low line to the 15th green at Indian Creek, cheating the high wind coming off the ocean, and rolled three feet to the right of the pin. There were sighs of appreciation from Lombardi and the others. "A little to the right," smiled Boros, "but I'll take it." Once, in 1963 at the Brookline club in Massachusetts, he played an entire tournament with windcheaters like that and won the National Open, and when he was done he went into the locker room, ordered a beer and began reading his mail. ( Fred Corcoran says that Boros fell asleep while being interviewed by a nationally syndicated columnist, but Boros says he was just resting his eyes.) He was 43 then, the oldest professional ever to win the Open. He had also won it in 1952, when he had been on the tour only three seasons and had not yet qualified to carry a PGA card.
Now he is 48. When he is being interviewed by older-timers like Gene Sarazen for television, the interview usually begins, "How does a man of your age...?" Last season, going about his business in that placid, laconic manner, he won $126,785, his grandest accumulation in 18 years of profitable plodding. Only three golfers—Palmer, Casper and Nicklaus—won more money, and that is how they rank on the alltime money list, Boros fourth with nearly $600,000. In 25 tournaments in 1967, Boros averaged 70.79 shots a round (computed for the Vardon Trophy), and only Nicklaus and Palmer averaged fewer. His tournament performance standing, based on finishes in tournaments entered, was third to Nicklaus and Palmer. He won three major tournaments. Only Nicklaus and Palmer won more—one more.
Boros (also called the Moose, Big Jules, Big Julie, Jay and the Bear) used to say his arthritic bones needed springtime to warm up his putting, because he had never won a tournament before May of any season, but last year he won the Phoenix Open in February, and he putted well all year. In May he played a special TV match head-to-anointed-head with Palmer at the Cotton Bay Club on Eleuthera in the Bahamas. Palmer's shots were a little longer, and often a little straighter, but Boros had eight one-putt greens and won the match and another $7,000. "Moose," said Cary Middlecoff afterward, "you can't say your putting wasn't good today. How does a man of your age...?" "Everybody makes mistakes," smiled Boros.
Doug Ford used to ride with Boros years ago when they were golf-circuit vagabonds crossing the country by car to shave expenses. Ford believes that Julius "has the greatest tempo in golf," and the best temperament for it. "He's getting better, and hitting the ball farther, can you believe that?" says Ted Kroll, who rode in the same car. "Rhythm, that's Boros' secret," says Claude Harmon. Blonde Judy Kimball, a bright young lady pro in search of the secrets, always follows Boros when she is taking in a men's tournament, on the theory that the only thing she can get watching the glamour boys is her feet stepped on. "Watching Julius, I can learn."
Now, a week before starting his new season (he passed up the Crosby, Kaiser and Los Angeles Open to begin at the Palm Springs Desert Classic), Boros was working the bends out of his game playing with friends on a rich man's course at Indian Creek. One man was an investment banker, another manufactured major appliances. Lombardi had just coached the Packers to the world championship. Men of affluence and influence, but who continually deferred to Boros, as men who play at golf are apt to do when they are with a man who can take par apart. "Golf is a great equalizer," says Boros, who grasps this phenomenon without being spoiled by it.
Boros is not an active charmer. He is, in fact, a somewhat mechanical conversationalist. When he talks he keeps his teeth together. Only his lips move. Younger brother Ernie remembers him growing up as being "quiet, just very quiet." But what Boros conserves in words he makes up in surprising perception. He does not make the star's social error of patronizing the people who hover around his game. He is never unfriendly, is gracious and adaptable, whether they play like Jack Nickiaus or have a 20 handicap. The difference might be that he will spend more time scouting the water hazards when he is with the latter. He is also an attentive listener, especially if his companion can tell him not only that Nuclear Corporation is up two points but why it is up two. "Economics," he explained to Middlecoff when asked why he still plays 25 tournaments a year. "A matter of economics. I have seven children."
The others moved up toward the green and Boros got back into the cart with a friend from Miami. "I'll ride for a while, keep you company," he said. "But [patting his stomach] I should be walking." He said he was overweight, the consequence of an unprecedented three months at home indulging his children and indulging in wife Armen's cooking. He is stockily built, anyway—210 pounds, scarcely 6 feet—and he had to leave undone the bottom three buttons of his sweater to accommodate an expanding way of life. "You wouldn't think it, but when I started into high school I was 4 feet 11 and weighed 103 pounds."