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They never said they were perfect
Curry Kirkpatrick
July 26, 1971
The U.S. Publinx Championship yields a bumper crop of crazies
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July 26, 1971

They Never Said They Were Perfect

The U.S. Publinx Championship yields a bumper crop of crazies

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Awwwwww, yeah. This one is really for you, Maury Municipal. You and Sid Civic and Matt Metropolitan and all you dedicated public-course crazies who stand in line at five o'clock Saturday morning, shuffling in the dew and itching to tee it up so you can whup one of your 150-yard beauties out there into the high weeds; you who play bareback in furnace weather, overcoated in snow or slickered up in driving rainstorms; you plant guys coming off the night shift to drag your carts for the grand old factory team; you slice-your-drive, shank-your-iron, cut-up-your- Titleist, take-no-divot, kick-a-few-out-of-the-rough guys.

Yes, this is the tournament, this U.S. Amateur Publinx Championship, for all of you who whack the ball off a rubber-mat at the Highway Driving Range, coax it into a pipe at the Putt-Putt, trust your T shirts to the Arnold Palmer cleaners, scramble for your solid 105s and love every hacking, slashing, duffing minute of it. It is the one time each year when tournament golf drops its middle-class pretensions and becomes a four-day, blue-collar scramble among an assortment of bricklayers, hairdressers, welders, carpenters, mailmen, firemen, cooks and cops.

This year's version of the USGA-directed Publinx was held last week under charming, blowtorch conditions in the Arizona desert, otherwise known as the Papago course, Phoenix. It was won by tall, blond Fred Haney, who brought his big swing out of the cool pine forests of Oregon and played through 115� temperatures as though he were air-conditioned, producing a two-over score of 290 and thrashing the field by five shots. On his way to victory, the 22-year-old former captain of the University of Oregon golf team seemed singularly unaware of the history he was helping to enrich.

Above and beyond its kaleidoscopic field, the Publinx has other claims to distinction. It was initiated in 1922 as a concession to those amateurs throughout the country who could afford neither private-club membership nor travel expenses to a national tournament. A man needs no established handicap to enter the Publinx sectional qualifying rounds, and if he does qualify, most of his travel costs to the national tournament, plus limited per diem expenses, are provided by the USGA. As a consequence, the USGA makes all but the top four finishers and ties ineligible for the U.S. Amateur that year. Despite this deprivation and the sideshow flavor of the competition, the Publinx endures, as much for its theater as for its golf.

In the very first Publinx, two players approaching a green late in their match were somewhat surprised to hear a shot ring out and discover that one of their gallery had assassinated himself. That seemed to set the tone. President Warren G. Harding lent his name to the Publinx team trophy, won this year by Haney's Portland contingent. Diverse personalities have won the individual title: a Pittsburgh stenographer, a Philadelphia waiter, a San Francisco riveter, a Yonkers truck driver and the only black man (Billy Wright in 1959) ever to take a national golf championship. It regularly produces a character like 6'7" Yates Adams, who stamped himself the leading zany in the clubhouse in 1964 by swinging like a Ferris wheel and pouncing onto putts like a caged animal.

Last week the legend of Yates Adams was put to rest by a 24-year-old, 300-pound Hawaiian short-order cook and bartender named Clarence (Junior) Honan. "Call me Thunder," said Junior. "I make a lot of noise on the greens." Junior drew much attention with his yellow and black shoes, green so ks and invisible backswing. Though he had some trouble turning around, Junior managed to, as he put it, "Scream it out there." Out there too often turned out to be Papago's ample rough (' Next time I'm bringin' me a lawn mower"), and his 83-81 in the opening rounds missed the cut. But he vowed to work on his game between his occasionally monumental bartending jobs back home in the Islands. "I once did a party for 10,000 people," he said. "You talk about pigs."

The second day featured another big man, Gary Balliet, captain of the Michigan golf team, who took the tournament lead at 144 despite a shortage of equipment. "Broke my seven, lost my four, never had a three-wood," he explained to the press.

"Wonderful," glowed USG A official Frank Hannigan. " Francis Ouimet needed only seven clubs to win the Open."

David Eisner, a high school student from Loomis, Calif., won near immortality—and the Tommy Aaron Memorial Pencil—by aiding in the disqualification of both his playing companions. In the opening round, he gave Larry Castagnoli a stroke less than he shot on one hole, whereupon Castagnoli carelessly signed the erroneous card and de Vicenzoed himself out of the tournament. The next day Eisner marked down another wrong score on one hole for Fred Lufkin, a former runner-up in the Publinx, and Lufkin also failed to note the error before signing. Exit Lufkin.

"If the tournament lasts long enough," said one player, "Eisner will win easy." Unfortunately, his golf clubs were no match for his magic marker, and he missed the cut by seven strokes.

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