Dave Hill was
only 11 at the time, so short and frail you almost could have stuffed him into
one of those golf bags he carried at the Country Club of Jackson in Jackson,
Mich. This particular day he was caddying for one Andy Andrews, who though only
16 already was the club champion. Now Andrews' ball lay in a trap, but the ball
sat free atop the sand and the trap had no lip to be surmounted. "The
putter," said Andrews.
wedge," suggested caddie Dave.
"No, give me
David," said Andrews, annoyed. "Please give me my putter, and don't
argue with me."
club for that shot, the wedge. You putt that thing," little Dave declared,
"and you're gonna carry your own bag." Andrews took the putter,
whereupon Hill dropped the bag and walked off the course.
Today, Dave Hill
probably is the pro tour's most opinionated player, a sort of underweight Alex
Karras of the golf links but, as Andy Andrews has known all along, Hill started
training for the part at an early age. Professional status merely gave him a
gymnasium, so to speak, in which he could work harder at the strength of his
convictions. On the tour he once terminated a motel-room game of gin when,
after playing 30 straight losing hands, he picked up his fully packed suitcase
and hurled it through a window, not taking the trouble to open the window. When
golf courses have depressed him, he has been known to quit tournaments in the
middle of a round, undeterred by the fact that he would be fined. "Go
ahead," he says as he heads for the clubhouse. "Lay the hundred on
me." And as the PGA whets its ax, Hill relaxes over a drink. "There is
one thing I can say about old Dave," says old Dave. "I am what I am and
I'm not what I'm not, and I don't ask no favors."
Well, if no
favors, how about a little mercy says the USGA, with next month's U.S. Open
golf championship in mind. Relax. Dave Hill says he thinks he will like the
course. After all, the Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. was good enough for
Bobby Jones when he completed his Grand Slam there in 1930. The stately old
dame was good enough for the Open in 1934, when Olin Dutra beat Gene Sarazen by
a stroke, and she was good enough again in 1950, when Hill's idol, Ben Hogan
won it. So Hill, who during last year's Open shook pro golf to its
tradition-rooted spikes by recommending that the Hazeltine National Golf Club
be converted to cornfields and dairy pastures, suspects Merion is steeped in
class and that it will not be necessary for him to so much as suggest that even
a small rutabaga patch be planted on the back nine.
But wait a
minute. All those Merion Main Liners in their royal-blue blazers will please
refrain from standing at ease. Hill as yet has never played their sacred plot
(where, instead of flags, Scottish wicker baskets crown the pins). His jury
remains out. And remembering how, at Hazeltine, this onetime Jackson mailman
squinted through his granny glasses and speculated that those Minnesota doglegs
best qualified for crop subsidies, the possibility remains, his mouth being
what it is, that for the Open the postman may indeed ring twice—that he may
recommend Merion's tight little fairways for conversion to bridle paths and
that he will grind to a halt somewhere along the front nine and tell the world
the truth about those Scottish wicker baskets, that they were made in Hong
Kong. As one of Hill's middle-aged neighbors told him following last year's
tumult: "Dave, by the time you're my age, your mouth will be 300."
Hazeltine sound and fury, the fury having been supplied by PGA Commissioner Joe
Dey in the form of a $150 fine, Hill finished second. Standing 5'10�" and
dwindling toward his normal season-ending weight of 130. he is not much thicker
than an out-of-bounds stake and is, to those who prefer the pro tour tranquil,
about as welcome. Some say that only an obsession with perfection—and the toll
it takes on his physique and composure—keeps him from being right up there with
Palmer and Nicklaus. "Tremendous ability," says PGA Tournament Director
Jack Tuthill, one of Hill's periodic opponents in his battles with the
Establishment, "but a poor shot dwells on his mind. It might interfere with
his overall management of a golf round. He's wasted a lot of money by letting
things get to him." Indeed, a bad case of player's nerves once drove Hill
partially blind for a period of 10 days.