As professional golf's 1971 pursuit of gold and glory begins this week in Los Angeles, the corpus of the tour—those 250-odd players who try to make their living at the game—begins again its annual rite of renewal. It does this by an uncomplicated act of attrition and rebirth: the old, the infirm and the un-gifted fall by the wayside as the tour grinds its 35,000-mile way toward next December. And standing ready to take their places is a platoon of young, healthy and clearly gifted youngsters on whom the PGA's Tournament Players Division has bestowed its most coveted prize—a brand-new player's card.
Of course, these youngsters—18 of them this year—face the same hardships and perils as their veteran companions, and a few besides. For instance, getting there in the first place. Qualifying for the school, traveling to it and paying the entry fee, not to mention expenses for the seven-day session, could set back the average rookie (or his hometown sponsor) $1,500. But if early results are any indication, the 1971 rookie crop—mostly Americans but with a sprinkling of Aussies, New Zealanders and one Italian, Roberto Bernardini—seems promising at least. In three tournaments since earning their cards in Tucson at the PGA players school last November, the new pros have earned an aggregate of about $10,000. Brian Allin actually led a tournament for one day, and five players have finished in the money at least once. One of them, Vic Loustalot, took home a $7,350 paycheck for third place at Coral Springs.
An explanation for this early blush of success may be the fact that they were taught so well. The TPD's Tucson session, and the ones that have preceded it for six years, gives these youngsters a savagely realistic taste of what professional pressure really is. Unlike the average tour event, where perhaps 80 of the players who qualify make money, the recent players school weeded out all but 18 over the 72 holes of competition. For the rest of the 60-man class of 1970, there was nothing.
Though the golf at Tucson was pretty good and the competition fierce the PGA does not tout the event as the Rabbit Open or some such. In fact, the competitive aspects are generally played down, even in the official title, which is the Qualifying School for PGA Approved Tournament Players. The school itself is really two afternoons' worth of lectures heavily laced with pieties and euphemisms of the sort that big industry often inflicts upon its recruits in the name of orientation or adult education. The similarity is so close that at times it seems that the PGA might really be IBM or GMC, and the 60 golfers the firm's brightest trainees brought together at a country club so that they can hear a lot of gingery lectures on loyalty, dedication and the virtues of old-fashioned competition.
The young golf pros even look a good bit like young IBMers. Herded into the club's dining pavilion, they are all conservatively dressed in ties and coats—because they have been told to so dress—carefully barbered, quiet, mannerly, smiling, being, in general (to use a quaint old phrase), as clean-cut a group of young men as one is likely to see in these troubled times. They also appear very earnest, listening wakefully, even taking notes as a variety of officials tell them how to get on the tour and how to behave after they get there.
People who run things, whatever they are, tend to believe that the world would be a better, more profitable place for all if underlings were undeviatingly obedient, predictable and respectful. In essence, this is what the 60 young golfers are told in various ways. The message is repeated so often that Don't Rock the Boat or, less elegantly, Keep Your Nose Clean might have served as the motto for the 1970 school.
The first speakers were two old parties, Leo Fraser and Warren Orlick, respectively the immediate past and current presidents of the PGA. They told the boys that wiser heads than theirs established the traditions of competitive golf, that golf is a wonderful, public service sort of profession, that there are great opportunities ahead of them. More specifically, they warned the boys not to bitch about exemptions, the golfing tradition by which stars are automatically permitted to play in big tournaments while unknowns must qualify competitively.
Three clean-cut golfers, Dave Stockton, Dale Douglass and Tommy Jacobs, were introduced as young men who have made it, like salesmen who have sold 300% of quota. The three successful professionals advised the class to develop repeating golf swings, remember the names of as many club members as possible and avoid bad company.
Joe Schwendeman, the tour's head publicity man, told them the press corps is very important to the tour and that as a rule it is manned by honorable men, but that it does not do to gripe to reporters or in places where reporters are likely to hear you.
Joe Dey, the commissioner of the tour, and Jack Tuthill, the tour director, came on as the two top working executives of the outfit. Dey, the world's premier golf administrator and a man in whom a will of iron is modestly covered by a diplomat's suavity, told the boys he was thrilled to see such a fine group, that he knew they would be a credit to the game of golf and to the competitive, free enterprise system. He advised them not to sign contracts with equipment manufacturers or sponsors without legal consultation, to pay all their bills promptly and know the rules of golf well.