"Everyone I have talked to has said to hell with the pros. They want everything for themselves and don't want to give a thing. They have no respect for tradition or sentiment."
In a sense Commissioner Dey is caught between the demands of tournament sponsors, who want stellar fields for their events, and the touring pros, who want a maximum of prize money and prestige for a minimum of travel and discomfort. The TPD contract guarantees sponsors a "representative" field, but, as Dey points out, TPD members are independent contractors who must play only 15 tournaments a year to keep their membership. Dey admits it is bad PR for players to drop out of tournaments with only a few days' notice, and he has considered assigning certain players to a limited number of tournaments. Members of the TPD reject the idea. "No one is going to tell me to play golf when I don't want to," said one. "If the purse isn't right and the course isn't right, I won't go."
Dey sees a possible solution in a revamped schedule of 20 or 25 major championships with as much prize money as possible, then as many other tournaments as the sponsors want—two or three at once if need be. All members of the TPD would play in the top 20 or 25 tournaments, but the sponsors of other tournaments would have no guarantees on participation. Dey would also like to see a variety of tournament styles. In addition to the Four-Ball, he envisions an elimination championship that would be conducted under stroke play and, possibly, a Scotch tournament.
To complicate his problems in trying to resolve the difference between sponsors and players Dey also must contend with a generation gap in the TPD. "Dey tries to railroad us," a young player said. "One meeting, a young guy got up and said, ' Mr. Dey, I think I have a solution' and Dey just laughed. He was acting like, 'How can you have a solution when I've been working on the question myself?' " Nevertheless Dey and the younger group of pros did work out an agreement recently whereby inactive players with lifetime exemptions are added to full starting fields at tournaments instead of displacing younger players.
The National Four-Ball Championship seemed just the elixir to alleviate some of these vexing problems. The players at Laurel Valley were noticeably relaxed—sometimes too relaxed, according to Johnny Pott. "Team golf is fun golf," he said, "but fun golf also gets to be careless golf." In other words, with a partner, you don't always feel that disaster awaits you on every stroke. Still, it's a fan's delight, watching a player go for broke knowing his partner is safe.
Most of the team pairings at Laurel Valley were fairly predictable: Palmer and Nicklaus, who won the second Four-Ball Championship together in 1966; Bob Charles and Bruce Devlin, both from Down Under; Miller Barber and Don January, both Texans; Bob Lunn and Dave Stockton, Californians; and Hale Irwin and Dale Douglass, Coloradans. The most predictable pairings were the family acts—Charlie Sifford and nephew Curtis, and brothers Dave and Mike Hill, Dick and John Lotz and Tom and Mickey Shaw. Perhaps the most unusual pairing in the field was the integrated twosome of Bob Murphy and Lee Elder. "People say it's unusual," said Murphy, a Floridian, "but it's nothing unusual to us. We've been close friends since our first days on the tour."
About the only American name player missing from the championship was Frank Beard, whose recent book. Pro: Frank Beard on the Golf Tour, gave some interesting and occasionally embarrassing glimpses of golfers off-guard. Nobody was exactly saying Beard would have a tough time lining up a partner at Ligonier, but one player did remark: "It's tough to play four-ball with a tape recorder for a partner."
And, as any Laurel Valley native can tell you, God is better than a tape recorder any day.