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"I guess they don't know about this tour," I said.
"One of them does," grinned Knaggs. " Jack Nicklaus. He was sent a wire asking if he would play in the Philippine Open in Manila, the first stop on our tour. He sent back a wire saying he would be delighted to play in Manila if he were furnished with two first-class air tickets round trip, all expenses and $15,000 in tax-free appearance money. Our answer to that was N.O. We never pay appearance money. When this tour was first set up, Peter Thomson agreed he would play the circuit every year and would try to get other Australians to play it, provided we would not pay appearance money to anyone. Thomson, after all, has won the British Open five times."
"What will you do when the British military leaves Singapore in two years?" I asked.
"Do? You mean will I go back to Yorkshire? Oh my, no. I'm staying here," said Knaggs. "I've been out here 12 years now. We have a fine government. It's Socialist, but our taxes are relatively low and salaries are higher than in the United Kingdom. The climate is nice year round. I can play all the golf I want, I have a good house, servants, a driver for my car. Why should I go back? Being an independent country is good for Singapore. We have strong unions, a rising middle class, an honest government. Oh, I'll stay here, thank you."
By now the tournament had ended in a tie between Graham, Wolstenholme and Kamata, and the 30-odd Japanese players who were traveling the tour grouped around Kamata to encourage him. Kamata had never been close to winning anything before. His best finish ever was a 10th in the Japan Open. He was grinning and saying, "Aieeee!"
Caddies in rubber shower thongs padded off to the 1st tee with three bags, and soon a small portion of the crowd moved down the fairway. Wolstenholme dropped out at once with a bogey. About 15 minutes later the loudspeaker in the clubhouse had an announcement:
"Reports from the course state that T. Kamata made the 3rd hole in buh-dee while David Graham was having a par. Therefore, T. Kamata is declared winner of the 1969 Singapore Open. A word to competitors. Would all competitors make sure they remove their golf clubs and other equipment from the changing room this evening. There will be no collection tomorrow morning. Prize giving will take place more or less immediately. Would all of you congregate round the putting green."
Suddenly I thought I saw a body flying through the air. Then I saw it again. It was Kamata. The other Japanese were grabbing him and flinging him up, like a blanket toss without a blanket, in a ritual on the order of throwing a winning coach into the shower, and meanwhile they were laughing and shouting. I wondered how Nicklaus or Palmer would take to being used as the object in a game of mob catch. If that custom had ever begun in the United States, it would have ceased the first time Lawson Little or Jimmy Thomson won a tournament.
On Monday morning the 100 or so players on the Asian circuit moved 200 miles up the Malay Peninsula, northwest along the Strait of Malacca, to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. The airplane came down into a bowl formed by mountains and put passengers off at a new and gracefully designed terminal of swooping concrete forms that create shaded areas to catch the breeze. There waiting was a sign: THROUGHOUT SOUTHEAST ASIA YOU HAVE A FRIEND AT CHASE MANHATTAN.
That evening I went to the nightclub bar on the 15th floor of the Federal Hotel, one floor below the bar that revolves and gives a view of the stadium, the racetrack, the prison, a roller coaster, apartment and office buildings, mosques, the Moorish railroad station, shacks and extensive construction, with rubber plantations, tin mines and the mountains beyond. I was sitting alone, reading The Malay Mail, and I asked the bartender what time the show started.