SI Vault
Walter Bingham
March 15, 1971
Jack Tuthill, the PGA's tournament director, is a cool-headed ex-FBI agent who week after week acts as a combination law enforcer, psychiatrist and comforting friend to golf's big names
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March 15, 1971

The Pro Who Runs The Tour

Jack Tuthill, the PGA's tournament director, is a cool-headed ex-FBI agent who week after week acts as a combination law enforcer, psychiatrist and comforting friend to golf's big names

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Did you happen to see Arnold Palmer sink that putt in his playoff with Raymond Floyd to win the Bob Hope Desert Classic a few weeks ago? And did you watch the ceremonies on the 18th green shortly afterward? Then perhaps you remember that while Hope was talking, surrounded by Palmer, Vice-President Agnew and other notables, there was a commotion that the television camera picked up briefly before turning away to focus instead on some golf fans strolling the fairways. Ten seconds later the camera was back on Hope and all was calm. Well, not entirely.

Let Jack Tuthill explain what happened: "I had just returned from the 15th, the first playoff hole," says Tuthill, "when the first thing I knew this guy comes running out of the crowd onto the green, swinging a putter and yelling. I was standing about 20 feet away from the Vice-President, and the guy had to pass me to get to him. I can't recall thinking anything. All I know for sure is I hit him first with my shoulder. I'm not certain I hit him with my hands, but I probably did—a chop in the throat, most likely. He just sort of went limp, and once he was on the ground he didn't fight."

So there you are, another routine day in the life of Jack Tuthill, the PGA's tournament director, a former FBI agent—as you might guess—who serves as traffic cop, Boy Scout leader and father confessor to the Palmers, Nicklauses and Caspers, as well as to the McGees, Brasks and Hoopers. In brief, Tuthill is in charge of everything connected with the pro tour, and he is responsible only to Commissioner Joe Dey in New York.

Protecting Vice-Presidents, comedians and Arnold Palmer is just one of his duties. Another is interpreting golf's sometimes confusing rules. One such case occurred at the Hope tournament when Dave Hill hit his ball into a palm tree. Or did he? Tuthill was at the Bermuda Dunes course when he received a message over his walkie-talkie from an assistant in the press room: a spectator had just telephoned to say that he thought Hill had taken an illegal drop during his round at Indian Wells, another of the four courses used during the far-flung competition. "He was just a man interested in golf who knows the rules pretty well," Tuthill says. "We get observations like that every once in a while, especially on courses with palm trees."

Tuthill radioed Jack Stirling, one of his assistants at Indian Wells, and Stirling phoned Hill to learn his version of the incident. Which was this: Hill, playing a Titleist 2, hit his ball into a palm tree, where it stayed. Hill established to his own satisfaction that the ball he saw in the tree was his—although Byron Nelson says if you shake a palm tree on a golf course you're liable to have half a dozen Titleist 2s drop out—so he declared an unplayable lie, took a drop and a one-stroke penalty. Now, if Hill had climbed the tree and positively identified his ball, his decision would have been correct. Otherwise, he should have called it a lost ball, which carries a two-stroke penalty. Alas, Hill finished his round and signed a scorecard that reflected the incorrect one-stroke penalty. Golf's rules can be harsh. When Tuthill learned all the facts, it was his unpleasant duty to tell Dave Hill that he had been disqualified.

More routinely, Tuthill is also in charge of checking the course where a tournament is being played to see that it is well roped and that its hazards have been properly defined, deciding each day where the holes should be cut on the greens, arranging the day's pairings and starting times, seeing that those pairings tee off on time and that play proceeds without too many slowdowns. Slow play is a constant problem on the tour, where 4½ hours is considered the acceptable maximum for a round, and it is within Tuthill's powers to levy a two-stroke penalty on any golfer judged to have played too slowly. It is Tuthill, too, who supervises the money distribution following the final round on Sunday, letting the sponsors of the tournament know who gets money and how much. No player can cash a personal check at a tournament site without Tuthill's initials, or those of one of his nine assistants.

Unofficially, Tuthill is also expected to be a fountain of information: Hey, Jack, what are the dates of Memphis this year? Is Tucson going to be held at that same course? Did they change the 11th hole? If I fail to qualify for the Hope, am I automatically in the satellite tournament? Does any airline fly direct from Monterey to Phoenix? Where's the best place to stay in Jacksonville? There are also a few "Is it true what happened to George last night?" questions, and chances are Tuthill will know the answer to these, too. There is very little that happens on the tour that Jack Tuthill doesn't find out about.

Every morning about an hour before the first pairing tees off, which can be as early as 7 o'clock, Tuthill meets with his staff in whatever facilities the club has provided for him as an office (at the Los Angeles Open this year it was the ladies' locker room). All nine assistants are not present; one is at the site of next week's tournament and one is two weeks ahead. Tuthill takes a pairings sheet and studies it.

"Look out for that 9:08 group," he says. "Geiberger, Schroeder and Payne. There's some slow players there." He moves through the list, pointing out other trouble spots. Then he asks one of his assistants to check all 18 greens. If it is a winter event, the cups will have been placed the evening before, rather than in the morning, for the simple reason that the greens are often frozen in the morning. Vandalism is a major problem. Greens are often scarred. Cups are filled with cement, or stepped on so that the edges are bent. Tee markers are stolen for souvenirs. It is not unusual for a marker to be swiped during a round. At one tournament, when Tuthill learned via walkie-talkie that some tee markers had been stolen, his solution was swift and simple. "Estimate where they were," he said, "then find a couple of empty beer cans and use them."

There are minor details to be taken care of at the meeting. The scorer's table at 18 is still too close to the green. Have it moved back behind the grandstand. And the cups on 15 through 18 should be painted white so they will show up better on television.

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