I had the quick sense of failure—that I had been accorded valuable time and had not made the best of it. I walked from the clubhouse out into the afternoon. I began singing to myself—a manifestation of embarrassment that a friend of mine refers to as "the hummings"—making loud noises in one's head to drive out discomfiting thoughts. I often have them—the hummings—waking up in the morning and thinking back on the indiscretions of word or deed the evening before. The WPGA, I thought, boy that wasn't so hot. Why hadn't I done better with him, I wondered. The confusion over the dreams. I had been just as clumsy and ill at ease with him as the two men who had come around the corner of the lockers full of things to say and whose confidence had drained like meal from a split sack at the sight of him, his proximity. Perhaps one expected too much of such superstars—that one would sit in front of them awestruck and gape-jawed and no effort was necessary: one would simply bask in their presence. Of course, Palmer had not been particularly easy. Driving back to the motel I began to take it out on him. Boy, he let me down! If he knew how I strained watching him on television to help him sink that putt; or how an evening was just a little bit off if that afternoon I'd watched him charge the leaders of the tournament and just fail; or the long gloom and worry reading in the paper that he hadn't made the cut of some tournament in the West, as if some prop had been knocked out of the great order of things.
Lord, I wondered, am I going to desert him for Nicklaus, or Casper, or someone...?
I found out the last day of the tournament. I was no longer involved as a competitor, so I could stick with whichever golfer I chose. I toyed with some of the others. But I found myself drawn inexorably to Palmer's Army. I joined them. I craned to see what he was up to. I agonized over his play. "Drop, drop!" I shouted along with the others at a long putt as it went for the hole, and when it did drop I let out a great cry of delight. "Man, he did it!" I shouted happily at the stranger next to me. He was a man wearing a straw boater with a brim that read GO ARNIE. His eyes were glistening with excitement. We pounded each other on the back.
"D'ja see him will that ball in there," I cried.
The other man nodded wildly. He seemed speechless.
"There wasn't the slightest doubt in his mind."
He shook his head vehemently.
We moved happily for the next tee.
"That fellow doesn't coast," I said. "He's got to win."
On my way my companion caught his breath. "He really attacked that hole," he said in a high wheeze.