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.
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."
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.
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."