In historians' critiques of his role in molding the shape of our times, the fact perhaps will deserve no more than a fat footnote or two, but it is true that Dwight Eisenhower, commander of history's greatest military force and 34th President of the U.S., was a man given to profound enthusiasm for and eager participation in sport. Only a lame knee kept him from being a fine football player at West Point, and (in his own mind, at least) only a maddening inability to hit a curve kept him from pursuing his dream of playing professional baseball. He was an adept hunter of quail and partridge, as well as an honorable fisher of trout and bass. His bridge game was sharp, though flawed at times when his notoriously short temper exploded in the face of the one thing he could not abide in bridge—an indecisive player.
But it was golf that came to be Ike's Game in the minds of most people. That is ironic, for Dwight Eisenhower, the country boy from Abilene, had hardly played the game at all until he was in his mid-40s—when his peacetime Army career had sentenced him to an uninspiring tour of duty in the tropical ennui of the Philippines. He did not become a constant player until he reached his 50s—the commander of the Allied invasion of Normandy. In those days of killing tension he often relaxed at golf on a course near his headquarters.
When he was President—and in good health—a day seldom passed that he did not work out with his special set of Spalding clubs (each inscribed with five stars) and his personal supply of golf balls (each stamped MR. PRESIDENT). Often during the Washington twilight he could be seen punching out iron shot after iron shot across the White House lawn while grim Secret Service agents shagged balls. He had a putting green installed and soon created a storm of protest from animal lovers when it was learned that White House guards had been trapping and removing squirrels from the grounds because they had been digging at Ike's putting surface.
Indeed, golf became a cause c�l�bre during the Eisenhower Years. For one thing, the sport boomed in popularity—in part because of Ike's wholesome fanaticism for the game. But to critics of Eisenhower, golf became a symbol of vacuous and unimaginative government. One popular bumper sticker of the day proclaimed: BEN HOGAN FOR PRESIDENT! IF WE GOTTA HAVE A GOLFER, LET'S HAVE A GOOD GOLFER! The subject of golf had become so touchy by the end of Eisenhower's White House years that during the 1960 presidential campaign John Kennedy refused to be photographed playing the game—even though he was a better golfer than Ike.
During his presidency and in the years of his retirement, Eisenhower played often at Burning Tree in Washington, Cherry Hills in Denver, in Palm Springs and, of course, at the Masters course in Augusta. He frequently vacationed at a cottage built for him just 60 yards from Augusta's 10th tee. Among the furnishings were two of Ike's own paintings: one of Augusta's 16th hole, the other of his grandson David—in a golfing stance, of course.
Eisenhower's game was never really expert. Usually he was delighted to score in the low 80s, and he was positively ecstatic whenever he dipped into the 70s. Contrarily, of course, that famed blush of rage and a boiling stream of profanity would usually erupt at the slightest hint of bad fortune on the course. Indeed, Ike himself admitted that his first heart attack in 1955 was probably the direct result of a golf game at Denver's Cherry Hills being interrupted—twice—by insignificant State Department phone calls that forced him to leave the course and return to the clubhouse. "My always uncertain temper had gotten completely out of control," Ike recalled. "And this one doctor says that he had never seen me in such a state, and that is the reason why I had a heart attack."
A year ago, only a few weeks before his last series of heart attacks sent him to Walter Reed Hospital for good, Eisenhower was playing a round at the Seven Lakes course in Palm Springs with three golf friends—Freeman Gosden of Amos 'n' Andy fame, Leigh Battson, a Beverly Hills executive, and George Allen, long one of Ike's closest political confidants. On the 104-yard 13th hole, the former President hit a nine-iron shot off the tee, then watched in incredulous glee as the ball rolled into the hole. "Ever since the end of World War II," said Ike later, "I've been hacking around courses hoping that "this might be the day." For once, that 10,000-to-1 shot paid off for me."
TRIUMPH ON ICE
Not at any time since the Soviet occupation had Czechoslovakia been so united in its hatred of the occupiers as it was last Friday night. In the world hockey tournament at Stockholm the Czech team scored its second astonishing victory over the powerful Russians, who were in the process of winning their seventh consecutive world championship. In Prague jubilant throngs poured into Wenceslas Square waving newspaper torches and anti-Russian placards. Czechs painted bold denunciations of the Kremlin on building walls and even ransacked the Soviet Aeroflot office on the square. For three and a half hours they milled and shouted—young Czechs and old, women in shawls against the freezing rain, mothers with babes in arms, office workers and shop girls, cab drivers and overalled laborers.