A few miles southeast of the Alamo, in a sunken oven of pecan trees and thick, baked Bermuda grass, on land so unpicturesque it makes you wonder why Mexico ever wanted to keep it or why Texas wanted it even for shopping centers, a middle-aged man struck a marvelous blow for tired, portly, beer-drinking, slow-moving fathers of seven. Last Sunday Julius Boros, who is all of the above, and who says he doesn't so much play spectacular golf as simply "throw a lot of junk up in the air," won the 50th anniversary PGA Championship.
It was a rousing tournament that had just about everybody in contention at one time or another except Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and Jack Nicklaus. With nine holes left to play during Sunday's final round, and the sun over San Antonio's Pecan Valley Country Club turning the course into the world's largest sauna, the 48-year-old Boros was one of 10 players all jammed up and sweating and within a single stroke of each other. Then Julius calmly emerged from the pack with a 69 for a four-round total of 281 to become the oldest man ( Jerry Barber won the PGA at 45) ever to win a major golf championship. Boros did it by rescuing a par 4 on the last hole—a brutal, narrow, long, uphill, evilly conceived thing that had the golfers in a mutinous state.
Only moments before, Arnold Palmer, playing beautifully and hitting some of his finest shots in years, had come to this 18th hole looking like the miracle maker of yore. He had smashed a 230-yard spoon shot out of the Bermuda rough, up the hill and onto the rolling, grainy green about eight feet from the flag, while his multitudes, which had been swelled by deserters from Lee's Fleas when Lee Trevino double-bogeyed himself out of contention on the first six holes, went into a yowling fit.
Arnie would make the birdie and either tie or win. Just like old times, right? Palmer hunched over the putt, and absolutely nothing could be heard but the hum of the Goodyear blimp circling overhead, and perhaps a cricket or two. He gave it a good rap, as he had so many other good birdie putts during the afternoon, but he played just a hair too much right-hand break, and, for the ninth time in his brilliant career, Palmer was a runner-up in one of the big four tournaments.
With the crowd still agonizing for him, he moved into the scorer's shed and turned his back to what Boros was doing. "I can't play any better," he said.
"The way you hit the irons, it could have been a 64," a friend said.
And Palmer said, "That's what it should have been. That's right. But they just wouldn't drop."
It was Palmer's 11th try in the PGA, the one big title he has never won, and this was the closest he has come. Ironically, little was expected of him. He had missed the cut at the Masters, played terribly in the U.S. Open, finishing 59th, and was really never a contender in the British Open a fortnight ago.
Still, he was enthusiastic. He had won the Texas Open three times in San Antonio and considered it a lucky town. He said he liked hot weather and Bermuda greens. And one of Palmer's traits is that he has always been able to "get up" for something he hasn't accomplished—like winning the PGA. "I want this title," he said before the final round got under way. "I'm not playing for the $25,000."
Julius Boros never looks like he is playing for anything except self-punishment. He wastes no time; he just strolls up and slaps the ball. Good or bad, whichever it turns out, Julius walks away expressionless. He stands under an umbrella like a man who has had to wait for every red light throughout his life and is used to it. He smokes and sips a beer, and you can almost sense the pain in his back when he slowly bends over to mark his ball or to take another birdie putt out of the cup.