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The national PGA championship is a major sporting event that usually is played in comparative secrecy each year, its winner accustomed to taking his place in fame alongside the pie-baking champion of your suburban neighborhood. Although the PGA is one of golf's big four tournaments, and certainly the one with the toughest field, the average fan can come closer to naming the greats of pinball than he can the last five men who have won it. No one knows exactly why this is so, except that it gave up its one distinctive feature—match play—a few years ago, and then rattled around on a few dog courses for a while. This was pretty much the spirit in which a lot of people gathered in Dayton last week. Would the event have changed by some happy accident, or would the historic old National Cash Register Country Club give us Rick Jetter nipping Stan Thirsk on the last nine Sunday afternoon? Would this finally be a PGA to be remembered, or would we go on yearning for those marvelous days of Nelson vs. Snead, one on one?
It would get itself remembered, all right. It would be remembered best as the tournament that furnished the inspiration for the bullet-proof Alpaca, the new MacGregor repeating four-iron, the Foot Joy sprinter, a shoe guaranteed to get you around the course faster than any other, and a new golfing vernacular: a man played a hole, everyone laughed, by hitting a driver, a spoon and a demonstrator.
More importantly, of course, the PGA would be remembered as the tournament that let golf in on what's going on out there in the real world, which is that there are these huge numbers of individuals who aren't terribly concerned whether Frank Beard and Dave Hill can find peace and happiness on only $150,000 a year, whether Arnold Palmer can pilot his jet after an 82, or whether the new champion, Raymond Floyd, being big, handsome, swinging and single, gives added hope to all watchers of the dating game.
The golfing Establishment's reaction to Saturday's disruption of play, which almost turned Jack Nicklaus into a chain smoker and Gary Player into a member of CORE, was predictably amusing. As disturbances go these days it was strictly minor league and totally inept. You could have found a better protest in a number of Dayton restaurants when the check came. But everybody said boy, they've done it now, those shaggy-haired pigs. It wasn't so bad when they just shot people, burned down cities and tore up universities. Now the lazy, dope-crazed, oversexed, Communist, Nazi, welfare medicare, hippie treasonous Red Chinese spies have picked on golf.
What happened was, Gary Player got a rolled-up program thrown at him, a cup of ice tossed at him and a golf ball hurled out onto the green by a girl while he lined up a putt. Jack Nicklaus, meanwhile, had a big guy come out of the crowd and onto a green and start toward his ball, which in turn made Jack draw back the putter as if he were offering a new tip—always hold the club high when swinging at a demonstrator. And everybody went crazy for a moment or two with shouts of "Club 'em, kill the pigs," meaning the hecklers. It was not what anyone particularly wanted to have happen in a championship, of course, since Player and Nicklaus were at the time trying very hard to catch Raymond Floyd. But then again, anyone who had ever played much golf on a municipal course would have known that these were normal hazards.
There had been threats of protest all week because there were these groups in Dayton, it seems, who felt that too much money and man power were going into the PGA effort and not enough into a poverty program. But the busloads of protesters never showed up, and the few who did often got lectured by officials and pros driving to the course every morning in courtesy cars.
"If you're so hungry, why are you so fat?" one pro asked a man holding a picket sign one morning.
"Ever thought about gettin' a job?" another pro said.
Maybe it was this atmosphere that put everybody in a testy mood all week and had the tournament sounding like an episode from As the World Turns even before the big incident on Saturday. It seemed like every day everybody was gossipy and picky. First, Dave Hill expressed a distaste for Frank Beard's attitude toward the game. He thought he understood Beard, the leading money winner, to say that golf was work and no fun, whereupon Hill told Beard off in local print, and Frank responded with "I guess neither one of us has learned how to handle success."
Then it was Tom Weiskopf is turn. Weiskopf is from Ohio and was supposed to be at home, but he turned off the press one day and they got even quickly, WEISKOPF CURT WITH WRITERS a headline said, and behold, a photo of him throwing a club, which in turn got him a private lecture from Joe Dey. Tom said the paper put him right out of the tournament. "I saw that picture, and I knew I'd shoot 76," he said, after shooting 76.