- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
When Deke Palmer heard of the offer, his Scotch-English blood boiled. "Absolutely ridiculous!" he snapped. His wife Doris wondered if he'd pay a few thousand to play with Arnie's mother.
Meantime, the sportscaster in on the plot had taped the phone call and shipped it off to his radio station, where it was put on the air three times. Finigan, as a result, was the talk of Laurel Valley for the first couple of days.
It was a good thing they had Finigan to provide a few chuckles. An all-morning downpour washed out the first round on Thursday, marking the first time since February at Tucson that tour officials had to postpone a day's play. Friday the players at last teed off and, although the previous day's rain caused the 7,045-yard course to play exceptionally long, the first round more than demonstrated that the team event produces spectacular golf. Bobby Nichols holed out three times from off the green, in one instance from 120 yards. But there was no upstaging Arnie at his own party. On the well-trapped 10th hole, 150 yards out, the genial host let fly his seven-iron. Even before the ball crossed the trap at the front corner of the elevated green, he called out, "Get in once, ball!" The ball obeyed, taking a single bounce and diving into the hole for an eagle 2. "I knew right then," Nicklaus quipped later, "that this was a member-guest."
With Palmer adding three birdies to his eagle and Nicklaus racking up four birds, the defending champions came in with a nine-under-par 62 to give Arnie's Party a heady beginning. But Bruce Crampton and Orville Moody lay only a stroke behind, and just behind them stood a titillating collection of partnerships—Hill & Hill, Lotz & Lotz, Archer & Nichols and Smith & Schlee.
The rain came again, catching Friday's tail-enders and continuing through the night. It left the greens under more than two inches of water for Saturday's round and forced a four-hour delay. This was a terrific development for Earl Fennell of Macon, Ga., who drew probably the biggest gallery of his pro career when about 50 early birds with nothing else to watch stood around while he hit practice shots at the driving range.
The second round finally got under way past noon, when Palmer and Nicklaus trudged across the moist fairways and mushy greens to a seven-under 64; they were now 16 under for the two rounds, four strokes ahead of Hill & Hill and so relaxed that even Palmer's remarks about Nicklaus' slow play at the U.S. Open were the subject of good-humored banter. "We went fast today, didn't we, Jack?" Palmer remarked after the first round. Nicklaus replied, "Well, it took you a little long to select a club at 18 but, except for that, yes."
Sunday's 36-hole final rounds, forced upon the tournament by Thursday's rainout, gave pause to Sam Snead, who, at age 59, was not very enthused over his 6:30 a.m. starting time. Upon reflection, he brightened a little. "Down home," he said, referring to his base at White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., "when you have a couple little pigeons on the wire and they only have two or three days to stay, well, we just go 'round and 'round and 'round. I say, 'Boys, let's get in as many holes and as many rounds as we can possibly go.' If we had 24 hours of daylight, I think we'd still be going."
But Sam and the rest of the field were Arnie's and Jack's pigeons as the Team Championship sloshed through the muck to its conclusion. Of the two champs, Nicklaus had been the heavyweight, delivering 17 birdies to Palmer's 11 and one eagle. But the split on the $40,000 first prize was 50-50, pushing Palmer's 1971 earnings to the $184,749 mark, and Jack's to $187,763.
Meantime, a development encouraging to the tournament's future had transpired at the box office. Almost 46,000 spectators—5,000 more than last year—had paid their way in, notwithstanding the newspaper strike and the weather. With prices having been lowered, the Team Championship would just about break even again, but the increased attendance surely demonstrated that the process of educating the public to four-ball play was paying off. Industrialist George H. Love, Laurel Valley's answer to Augusta's Cliff Roberts, said, "The Masters had. 10 lean years before it started to take off." He-said he would argue that the Team Championship be kept right where it is. And up there in those Laurel hills, the canon is, "What George Love wants, George Love gets."