Among those who choose to teach golf at America's country clubs for a living you will not turn up an excess of free spirits. Most of them are hardworking men, short-haired, clean-shaven, courteous, who have disciplined themselves to serve their members. They itch to play but seldom have the chance. So put 252 club pros together in their own tournament, dangle an unprecedented $100,000 in prize money before them, throw in Sam Snead and you've got a scramble unlike just another humdrum installment of the regular pro tour.
Actually, it was unlike the sedate, old-fashioned Pinehurst Country Club to be holding a pro tournament at all. This was the first since 1951—too commercial, thought Pinehurst's then president, Dick Tufts, of the Boston Tufts, and vowed never to have another. Then last December Pinehurst—the club, the town, the works—was bought for $9 million by Diamondhead, a bustling New Jersey-based development corporation. So what's commercial? Certainly not the PGA Club Professional Championship.
For purposes of the tournament, a club pro was defined as someone with a legitimate club job who had not played in more than 11 tour events since the beginning of the year. Of course, not everyone at Pinehurst last week was the friendly neighborhood club pro. In addition to Snead there was on hand, briefly, Touchy Tommy Bolt, who stalked off the course in the middle of the second round grumbling something about a sore shoulder. There was Jerry Barber, the 1961 PGA champion, and Mike Souchak and half a dozen others who, not so long ago, were better known for winning tournaments than giving lessons. Most of those in the starting field, however, hardly counted on picking up the $15,000 first prize. They seldom get a chance to play enough to be able to produce good golf for 72 holes.
A prime example at Pinehurst was Ed Rubis. Rubis, 46, is short and stocky. He is the head pro at the Chicopee Country Club, a public course in the industrial city of Chicopee, Mass., and he has problems.
"I'm lucky if I can sneak in nine holes late in the day twice a week," said Rubis on the eve of the tournament. "There's no such thing as a quick nine holes at my course. We had 42,000 rounds played by Labor Day. It takes so long that people come out with a picnic lunch and a six-pack. They've gone to a department store, bought a few clubs and they play in sneakers. They'll shoot something like 85 for nine holes. I say to them, 'Eighty-five for nine holes, isn't that enough golf for one day? Whyn't you go home?' No. They want to go on, and they finish with a score of 180. One day we had to take action. This girl came out to play with a friend. She shot a 65 on the first hole! We sent someone out to lead her off the course."
While it may stand as a world-record high for a par-4 hole, this sort of thing seemed to have had a debilitating effect on Rubis' game. He shot a 72-76 and missed the 36-hole cutoff.
Souchak and Barber seemed to have lost their competitive edge almost as thoroughly as Ed Rubis. Souchak is diligently at work becoming the Super Club Pro. In the summer he heads a staff of seven at the illustrious Oakland Hills Country Club in suburban Detroit, where the members are chiefly high-rollers from the auto industry, very few of whom play in sneakers, brandish department-store clubs or shoot 65 on a single hole. In the winter he is the pro at Innisbrook, a resort on the west coast of Florida.
"One morning in 1966 I woke up and realized how hard I'd been working on the tour all those years," said Mike, over a highball in the Carolina Hotel bar, interrupting himself to shout greetings at friends. "I knew I'd never be able to keep it up. Now I suppose I could play more than I do, but I'm too busy. I think it's important to get out to a couple of tournaments a year, especially if it's a great place like this, but I can't expect to do too well. I feel like a rookie, a regular rabbit." Unfortunately, he played like one, too, shooting a 15-over-par 301 to finished tied for 85th.
Barber, 55 years old, is head pro at the Griffith Park public course in Los Angeles, and he is busy turning himself into the superhustler of golf, merchandising division. Jerry arrived with two dozen putters of his own creating. He missed the cut, but off the course he had a very profitable few days. Since the second round of the Westchester Classic last July, where he finished with scores of 68, 68 and 277, Snead has been using a Barber putter, which seems to complement his peculiar crouching, sidesaddle style. As Snead proceeded to shoot good scores at Pinehurst and lead the tournament, the other players gathered around Barber on the practice green in front of the clubhouse as if his putters were emitting blue sparks. He sold 21 on the spot and took orders for about 150 more.
As for the tournament, Snead seemed likely to stroll off with it, and the less notable club pros settled down to see who could grab off the second-place prize money of $9,000. For the first two rounds the field of 252 alternated between Pinehurst's 7,051-yard long No. 2 course and its short 6,129-yard No. 1. After the cut had reduced this mob to 97 the final two rounds were played on No. 2.