They held a mixed foursomes at the White House last Saturday night—Dick and Pat, Ted and Judy, the Duke and Duchess, Arnold and Winnie, Billy and Shirley. That was the class of the field, although some 50 other teams qualified. It was a best-ball affair—white tie and tails, sparkling gowns, Ruffles and Flourishes.
The Chief Justice was there, and three ambassadors, and three cabinet members, plus a smattering of industrialists such as Henry Ford II, two fliers (Lindbergh, Charles and Borman, Frank), a dancer (Fred Astaire), a touch of society, some of it merely identified as golfing partners of the Duke, and even a third U.S. Open winner, Johnny Farrell, whom the Duke toasted as "my savior at golf."
While warm light reflected off the golden candelabra, the saumon froid Windsor, the suprêmes de pigeons veronique and the feuilles de la line du Kentucky came and went. There was a toast to the Duke and Duchess by the President, in which it was noted that dinner-guest Palmer that very day had maintained his lead in the Greater Greensboro Open with a 67. With the soufflé Duehesse came the U.S. Air Force Strolling Strings, and moments later, over brandy and coffee in the Blue Room, Palmer and the former King Edward VIII of England were deep in conversation. The Duke was explaining that he uses Palmer's clubs, and....
As midnight neared, the Nixons slipped away, followed shortly by the Palmers and Caspers, the golfers flying back to their competitive concerns. Golf plainly has made it in the Great White Clubhouse, and as Sam Snead was saying at Greensboro, "The old game sure has changed." Greensboro week showed how much.
The White House invitations brought the Greensboro event a degree of reflected glory, which it can use, since it is played the week prior to the Masters and is usually lost in Augusta's shadow. Greensboro is an old tournament, dating from a time when golf professionals lived out of the trunks of Model A's and weren't much welcome in clubhouses. Back then, the citizenry of Greensboro viewed the pro golfers uneasily, to say the least, and there were suggestions from time to time that the town might well be rid of them. But in the three decades since, the annual tournament has become an esteemed civic venture, with an announced purpose of "making Greensboro greater." It benefits local community programs and provides the Jaycees, the group of intense young men who run the tournament, with an opportunity for "leadership training."
"We are operating a half-million-dollar business," explains Mike Haley, the tournament's 31-year-old assistant chairman. He opens the glossy GGO program and turns the pages to a spread of photographs. "These are the men who have run the tournament in the past," he says. "They own Greensboro. They are the Who's Who of the city." His fingers pass over the daguerreotypes of success—state senator, car dealer, manufacturer, oilman, mayor, insurance man, dentist.
To earn a place in this gallery of straight-lipped men is the ambition of young Jaycees like Mike Haley. The tournament has six dozen committee chairmen charged with various projects—everything from getting portable toilets, to the selection of a Miss GGO, to coffee klatches and cocktail parties, to a fishing rodeo for the golfers, to the appearance of Loretta Young in marabou feathers at the pretournament banquet. Their mood is one of tense endeavor. To be a Jaycee must be wearing, for at the age of 36 a man is dropped from the club and thereafter is known as "an exhausted rooster."
One man who much appreciates Greensboro's tournaments is Sam Snead; he won the first one in 1938 and seven more after that. Last week Snead wasn't to be found in any Holiday Inn or Ramada or Howard Johnson's, but in a cabin at a Brand X establishment. He was putting balls across the carpet at a chair leg—knock, knock, knock; the balls ricocheted off the wood. A handsome woman was popping corn on the stove while Sam waited for some friends to go fishing with him for brim.
"I remember that first year heading down here in a 1936 Ford," he said. "I got stopped in Candor [N.C.] for going through a red light. I didn't go through a red light, or even an amber one, but they stopped me and the cop took me to a one-armed justice of the peace in a feed store. All I had was $3 in cash and some $20 traveler's checks. The justice of the peace said the fine would be $5. He wouldn't cash a traveler's check, said he didn't want none of those things. I went across the street to the bank, but it was shut. The man had gone bird hunting. I had an awful time. I drove through that town yesterday. There's still just the crossroads and the one light, and I got to thinking about that day. I guess there aren't many people around still who remember that first tournament."
The balls continued to knock against the chair leg. "My fans are dying out"...knock, knock..."You know Sam Snead can still putt with the best of them," the handsome woman said. "Bull...bull...bull," murmured Snead.