Still, he has
plenty of credentials to make him a threat to take a U.S. Open. Hill, 34 this
month, has won more than $100,000 in each of the past two years and has
gathered up the precious Vardon Trophy, among other awards. His Vardon year,
1969, he not only had the lowest stroke average on the tour, 70.3, but won
three tournaments, ranked second in money and made the Ryder Cup team, all of
which was sufficient to lower the temperature of his cold war with the PGA by
at least 10�. The PGA named Orville Moody—winner of one official tournament,
the Open—Player of the Year. "I thought it was like playing a joke on
people who follow golf," Hill bristles.
of his talent for gravitating to conflict, one does not see Hill's picture
splashed around in sportswear or lawnmower advertisements, although his
manager, Oscar Fraley, contends that only Hill's failure to win a major
tournament has kept him from cashing in. (Fraley's principal occupation is
writing, but his liaison with Hill is not illogical; Oscar's best-known book is
The Untouchables.) But Tournament Director Tuthill disagrees. "Dave has the
bad-guy image," says Tuthill. "Listen, I know how big-company policy
people think. They don't want unfavorable publicity of any kind—not even
questionable publicity. John Dillinger owned a few fast cars in his time, but I
cannot see the Buick Motor Division running ads that say, ' John Dillinger drove
coincidence, Tuthill's choice of imagery. Whether Buick likes it or not, Dave
Hill drives Buicks—free ones. In 1969 he won the Buick Open, whose first prize
included a five-year supply of you-know-whats. "They have since canceled
the Buick Open," Hill points out, bemused. "I once won the Hot Springs
Open, and they canceled that one, too. Do you suppose they're trying to tell me
something?" Though Hill is one of only eight players to have won more than
$100,000 in each of the past two years, his commercial spinoff at last word was
limited to a contract with Ram golf equipment and small deals with Munsingwear
and Etonic shoes. "I have an advertisement in mind for Etonic," he
points out. " ' Dave Hill says Etonics taste best.' I don't have to explain
that, do I?"
immense dark eyebrows, Hill's eyes sizzle like two fried eggs in a pan when he
thinks he has spotted injustice, something which usually accosts him wearing
the badge of a PGA official. Hill says his temper is not one-tenth what it used
to be, but since entering the $100,000 class he has been involved in no less
than five more or less major incidents. The first occurred during the 1969
Ryder Cup matches in Southport, England and almost resulted in his being packed
out of the country.
Following a round
in which a British referee had issued an arguable ruling depriving Hill and his
partner of a hole, Hill was standing with his wife and a priest friend in the
entrance of his hotel dining room. An acquaintance approached and asked him how
the day's golf had gone. Hill replied with words to the effect that the referee
had not known his posterior from a cavity in the earth. Well, horrors! At a
table six feet away, Eric Brown, the British captain, was visiting with the
Tony Jacklins and the Peter Allisses, and Hill's strong bass voice had reached
Brown's ears with much the effect that Andy Warhol might cause shouting from
the back pew at a Presbyterian service. Five minutes after Hill and his party
had been seated, two PGA officials marched briskly across the dining room to
his table, as if to the roll of military snare drums.
Apologize to the
British table for using foul language, they ordered Hill. Hill replied that
inasmuch as he does not consider the three-letter synonym for rump to be all
that shocking, he by no means would apologize, and that if Eric Brown would
step over to his table, he would show him what real cussing is.
minute, the PGA men commanded, or you will be on the next plane home. So Hill
strode to the British table and said, sarcastically, "I would like to
apologize for the statement you overheard while I was speaking to my wife and
friends in the doorway." Monstrous behavior, cried the British press.
For the next few
months Hill managed to stay out of trouble, owing to the fact that he vacations
from the tour most of the last three months of the year. But in January, at the
1970 Los Angeles Open, controversy immediately resumed its familiar place at
his side. He usually had played well at Los Angeles and had developed a small
Angeleno following, fans who now decided to advertise themselves as Hill's
Angels. They turned up at the tournament carrying banners and wearing buttons.
Horrors again. PGA officials swooped down upon them as though they were
carrying Vietcong flags.
years," says Hill, "the galleries had Palmer signs, Nicklaus signs,
Trevino signs. A few people come up with a Hill sign, and they ban signs. I've
always figured that if it's Dave Hill who does something, or is involved in
something, they'll come up with a reason or a ruling why it shouldn't be done.
When I think about it, it's funny. I wonder what I can do next to get a rule
changed or a new one adopted."
Still, except for
the PGA officials he kept busy, America remained largely unaware of Hill.
Previously, his only nationally telecast flare-up had occurred at the 1963
Sinatra Open where, having completed an aggravating round, he prepared to snap
his putter in two on the televised 18th green. "Don't break that club,"
he was told by Joe Black, then tournament supervisor, "or you'll be
suspended." The club never had a chance. Hill got two months.