Good God, Arnie will be 40 years old in September, Forty, folks. And let's see. Finsty must be 39 now, and Sootch is 41, Rossy's 42, Casper and Venturi are 37, Littler's 38 and everything aches. It's almost a full chorus of where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? Meaning, of course, those young lions, that new guard of only a moment ago in the flashy 1950s. Can doctors perform a four-wood transplant? Or do we beat on, never trusting a wedge shot over 30? Is the new-new guard really here?
We persevere for the time being, of course, but that stout young man spraying giddy blue sand at us from the cover of this magazine—and some others like him—are posing the serious questions. Bob Lunn is the name. Strong, even-tempered, undaunted Bob Lunn, who roared into the establishment of professional tournament golf last year, at 23, with back-to-back victories at Memphis and Atlanta. The others were just as flagrantly surprising. There was sneaky Bob Murphy, aggressive Bob Dickson, quiet Dave Stockton, volatile Tom Weiskopf, little Tony Jacklin, picturesque Ron Cerrudo and, as if the world and El Paso could ever forget, lively, Flea-bitten Lee Trevino.
What do they have in common? Oh, well, they went out last year in their rosy 20s, not too far removed from a campus or a driving range, and won themselves a shag bag full of tournaments and something like nine hundred billion dollars while the establishment posed for shirt ads and drank Binaca on the rocks.
The establishment did not immediately form a welfare line, of course. Bill Casper won himself $205,000, which was more than Ben Hogan made in a lifetime, and Palmer got his $114,000, and Jack Nicklaus, whose maturity and success erase his age, got his usual $155,000, and old Julius Boros had quite a year, and so did the new middle guard, that experienced group that includes the likes of George Archer, Frank Beard, Bert Yancey, George Knudson. That group.
Everybody was O.K. financially because pro golf is the unending Brink's robbery of sport. Tanned, blazered sponsors push and shove each other to give away money to guys who, were it not for golf, as Jackie Burke once said, might be wearing a tin hat with a light on it waiting for the elevator to go up. But there glistens the tour, as Arnold Palmer invented it a few years ago on television, and here come these youngsters every year to challenge the best and get rich. Some make it, most don't, but last year, in 1968, more good looking newcomers arrived than at any time since the mid-1950s, when Hogan and Snead and Middlecoff looked over their shoulders and there stood Palmer, Casper, Littler, Venturi, Souchak, Finsterwald—the young lions that most of us relate to.
What happened was that things went along acceptably through last winter, with your Potts, your Dickinsons, your Knudsons and even your Arnie at papier-m�ch� Palm Springs, doing their thing with only Tom Weiskopf's win at San Diego to disturb the order. Then here came a Tony Jacklin at Jacksonville, then Bob Lunn, then Trevino at the Open, then Stockton at Cleveland and Milwaukee, then Murphy at Philadelphia and the Thunderbird, and finally Bob Dickson at the Haig and Ron Cerrudo at the Cajun. And golf, excitingly, had a whole new cast of players who could win.
Suddenly, there were 14 players, twice as many as ever before, who won $100,000, and Trevino, Weiskopf, Murphy, Lunn and Stockton were five of them. Meanwhile, Jacklin got over $50,000, Dickson over $40,000 and Cerrudo just under $40,000. Combined, they won 13 of last year's 45 official championships.
The tour reached Palm Springs again last week, so what better place could there be to look at golf's new lions? One could observe them amid the Aqua-Net-scented mountains and deodorized cacti of the California desert that gave us The Racquet Club and was now giving us blue and red bunkers. It seemed time for everyone, especially veterans struggling to earn a buck—guys like Venturi, Doug Ford and Jack Fleck—to ask: Who are these young guys who are grabbing all the money? All except what Casper, who won the Bob Hope last week, hasn't grabbed first?
Well, the main people to know are Lunn, Murphy and Dickson—for several reasons. First, we know Trevino. He pumps gas, sacks your groceries and wins the U.S. Open. He also talks and clowns incessantly, gets in the newspapers a lot and is fast becoming a parody of himself—like Howard Cosell. We know Trevino. We know Tom Weiskopf. Hits it out of sight, groovy wife, fights his temper, in the Army now. We know-Stockton a little. He goes to USC, wins the CBS Golf Classic, has a crooked swing but putts like a charmed guru, or, as Jack Nicklaus says, "He makes 10-footers like he's 12 years old, if you know what I mean." We know Stockton. And, according to the establishment, we don't need to know Jacklin and Cerrudo yet because they aren't strong, solid, fierce, positive, intuitive, aggressive and confident—not quite yet—like this Lunn, and this Dickson and this Murphy.
Here are the real immediate threats to the establishment—Lunn, who can almost drive it up with Nicklaus and is astonishingly straight, and Dickson, who has a sound fundamental game and knows he can beat anybody, and Murphy, who is "sneaky long," as Dave Marr says, has a good golf head and competes like a middle linebacker.