The $75,000 tournament, Heath decided, would be a community affair. He started an immediate promotion campaign. He mailed 12,000 brochures, distributed 10,000 automobile bumper stickers, placed 1,500 posters and arranged for 25 billboards. And he went to meetings to talk the tournament up. "I ought to be an honorary Rotarian by now," he said.
Money was the most pressing need. The Alcan corporation contributed $33,000 to the Robinson purse as part of an agreement with the PGA since 12 PGA pros would be playing opposite the Robinson in the Alcan championship at Portland, Ore. Heath somehow sold 95 gold sponsor badges at $500 each and gave each gold sponsor two places in the pre-tournament pro-am, a fistful of tickets, a man's blazer and a woman's sweater. He obtained the clothing at cost from his wife's dress shop.
Next, Heath sold more than 70 patron-sponsor badges at $100 each. He also sold advertising for the official tournament program and the daily pairing sheets. "We had to put a synthetic tee down at the 9th because the grass never grew there, and the Monsanto people charged me $700 for it," Heath says. "The day after that I sold them a pairing sheet ad for $600."
Heath had more than $90,000 in the bank long before the players arrived at Robinson last week. Expenses were always minimal. "I didn't mind begging, borrowing and stealing," he said. "And I hired only one employee—a part-time secretary. Everybody else volunteered."
The people around Robinson laugh when Heath mentions volunteers. "Dick thinks he's with the church," one lady said. "He's always asking you if you'd mind doing something for him." Heath even asked the town's Episcopalian minister, Father Paul Baker, to volunteer and all last week Father Baker was checking everyone's badges before he would let them into the clubhouse.
Bob Jones, the local Cadillac dealer, volunteered to handle all the picture-taking. Horace Maze, a volunteer fireman, worked the parking lot, taking time off to chase the fire engines if need be. And then there was this message on the desk in tournament headquarters, addressed to Mrs. Maxine Zwermann, the mayor's wife and Heath's volunteer assistant: "Maxine. If we need extra help on the phones, we are to contact Doris Prier and she will get Gladys Keeley. Gladys can't work on Tuesday. She may be available Wednesday afternoon."
With everything in order and almost all expenses practically guaranteed, the Robinson Open began last Thursday. During the four days of the tournament, Heath estimated that the club grossed $30,000 from daily ticket sales, $28,000 from the concessions, $7,000 from a special raffle with three different prizes (a trip to Hawaii, a new automobile and a color television set) and $2,500 from parking. He forgot to mention how much the 4Cs made from the six slot machines in the private room in the clubhouse.
Despite the financial success of the tournament, Heath became a disillusioned individual as the week progressed. "I'm learning that the players don't realize what the sponsors do to make a multimillion-dollar tour available to them," he said. "The things provided for them every week don't just happen. I'm not talking about the players who were here this week. I'm talking about all the others who became rich because of people like us."
Last week the only real name players in the Robinson field were Doug Sanders, Goalby and Dow Finsterwald. They all were there for the same reason: they were having poor seasons, were way down on the money lists and needed a victory to guarantee their exempt status for another year. The rest of the field was composed of the young players.
"We're glad they all came to see us," said Dick Heath. "Next year we hope there will be more of them, if you know what I mean." Well, Heath is learning about the pros, and the golf pros are learning about Heath. The Robinson Open may not be a big-money deal yet, but the money is real—the checks don't bounce.