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Just when it seemed as if half the world had put on a sombrero, taped a Band-Aid across its forearm and ordered an enchilada fix in deference to everybody's favorite Super Meskin—Lee Trevino made an eight and missed a cut the other day.
This distracting episode unfolded at the Westchester Golf Classic and, sure enough—Here come de judge—enabled everybody's favorite Super Gringo, A. D. Palmer of Latrobe, Pa., to step out of a prolonged slump and save the week for those who require their winners to be familiar and want a change of expression once an hour.
What Westchester was supposed to be was something far removed from the Palmer laugher it became when Arnie produced four sub-par rounds (64-70-68-68-270) that enabled him to dominate the event from start to finish. His 72-hole total was 18 under par and five shots better than runners-up Gibby Gilbert and Hale Irwin. Still, the outcome was something of a surprise.
Indeed, this tournament was expected to be a resumption of the battle between Trevino and Jack Nicklaus for present-day superiority in the game. That it turned out, instead, to be good old Ahno's 99th glorious return from the dead (and his 74th career victory) did not take much away from the watching.
Trevino, as everybody knows who has visited the corner newsstand recently, had beaten Nicklaus in a playoff for the U.S. Open title at Merion in June, then had gone on to win the Canadian Open and British Open championships. He had played badly two weeks ago at the Western in Chicago, but admittedly he was tired, psychologically down and coasting after his return from the trip abroad. Here now—in Harrison, N.Y., one of those very special suburbs just far enough out of Manhattan to require a live-in chauffeur—Trevino surely would be able to get himself up to contend in earnest for the $50,000 first prize in the World's Richest Golf Tournament.
Since Westchester is certainly that—total prize money amounted to $250,000, tops on the PGA tour this season—the tournament also brought out most everybody else, too, some from the woodwork. Sixteen of the top 20 money leaders were there, as well as all but three of this year's tournament winners. Youth was represented by current U.S. Amateur champion Lanny Wadkins and British Amateur Champion Steve Melnyk, both of whom had chosen Westchester as an advantageous spot to officially open their pro careers. Moreover, Sam Snead, Julius Boros, Jerry Barber, Jim Ferrier and their wizened like were also on hand—a rousing tribute to long years and the lure of long green. Snead, in fact, shot two closing 68s to finish in a tie for fourth.
Westchester has always been a major attraction for golfers and spectators alike. Not only is the site of the tournament just a traffic jam away from the largest audience of human bodies possible, but there are all those media people scurrying around, all those talk shows to appear on and, yes, all that money.
When the New York and Newark Ford Dealers Association took its Thunderbird Classic out of the Westchester Country Club in 1966 and drove it over into New Jersey, William Jennings, the holdover general chairman, vowed to bring a bigger and better tournament to Harrison. He enticed Eastern Airlines to help underwrite the affair, offered more money than anybody had before and donated all the proceeds to six local hospitals. With the exception of the ill-starred $300,000 Dow Jones Open last August, the Westchester Classic has been the World's Richest ever since.
Practically by necessity Westchester offers a pile of moneybags to the touring pros, for if it had to depend on its course, the Classic would hardly get enough players to fill out one side of a leader board. Besides being (next to Atlanta) the hardest layout on the tour for spectators to walk, Westchester's short (6,700 yards), hilly West Course has elements of the cheap shot in it.
"The worst thing you can say about a golf course is that you can hit a good ball and get burned and hit a bad one and be rewarded," says one Westchester hater. "This baby fits the bill."