But—are you listening Travis, or Travers, wherever you are?—if the walls of unorthodoxy are weakening, the fortress still stands. It is still not only proper but accurate to say that the Australians have not allowed professional golf to reach the hysterical heights of priority that it has reached in this country. Australian golfers do not necessarily consider themselves deified when they turn pro. They are not always catered to and stepped aside for at the better clubs. In fact, the opposite is often true, and no amount of posturing by indignant American and English pros can shake the resolve of a stubborn Aussie club member who doesn't want his rules changed (even if he just made them up) or golfers' wives in his clubhouse. There are, in fact, still clubs in Australia where the pro can't eat in the dining room.
Challenges to the barricades are made every year and usually end ingloriously for the challenger. Wives were indeed kept out of the Kingston Heath clubhouse during last year's Australian Open, despite strong liberating remarks by Mrs. Gloria Devlin, and the pros themselves were not allowed to practice on the course the day before. Gary Player was refused a cup of tea after shooting a record 65 on his way to the Open championship. He was told rather stiffly, he said, that it was past teatime.
One learns quickly not to take the celebrated Australian stubbornness lightly. It is deeply ingrained. The classic example is the dispute that once arose between the rival states of Victoria and New South Wales over the gauge of the tracks to be laid for the new railroad linking the cities of Melbourne and Sydney. Neither side would give an inch. The track was laid five feet three inches wide inside the Victorian border, and four feet 8� inches the rest of the way. Passengers had to change trains at the border.
Neither do Australian galleries treat the professional golfer as though he were performing surgery. Rather, they regard him practically, objectively, as one enjoys a performer who has acquired a skill worth watching but not worth genuflecting to. They do not seem to regard the sport as being worthy of solemn assessment. Australian galleries are a breed apart—wonderful thundering mobs that charge down fairways and across the lines of fire like buffalo herds, and stand with their toes on the greens. They have been known to hoist a favorite onto their shoulders and carry him away, and think nothing of breathing down the backswing of a man making a shot, or chumming up for a little conversation.
There is, therefore, really no such thing as crowd control at Australian tournaments. Lee Trevino, who enjoys the bantering more than anyone because that is his style, says you can't walk a straight line down a fairway in Australia, mingling as you do. Trevino has become so taken by it that he says he will eventually have to live there himself. Others, who think golf deserves to be played in a vacuum, would not agree, of course.
I have a particularly fond memory, culled from the weekend at Kingston Heath, of little Gary Player, all in white, groping between the legs of the advancing gallery trying futilely to replace a divot. He had hit his shot, and immediately the crowd surged over him like a field of bamboo overwhelming a desperate cabbage picker.
Australian galleries are never exceptionally large, and often prefer to follow the foreign players and leave their own to friends and family. Australians, as a whole, are not a nationalistic people. They wouldn't burn the flag, but then they probably wouldn't have one to burn. Peter Thomson, their best player, passed by one afternoon at Canberra so unattended that I missed him completely. Either that or I was dozing, which is also a possibility.
Anyway, Australians flock to the foreign players, especially if they are Americans. Australians have an incorrigible fondness for Americans. Their newspapers are laced with news from the U.S. Their styles are America-oriented. Their faces light up when they hear a Yankee accent. I suspect a reason for this is that we have never weighted them down with our charity and they can therefore appreciate us on equal terms. In any case, they love to tell Americans-in- Australia golf stories. How Arnold Palmer once clubbed a ball into a tree and climbed 15 feet to hit it. Or the time Cary Middlecoff lined up his drive on the first tee at Royal Melbourne so that he was facing the players' hut and a stand of trees, 180 degrees off line.
Or the time in Sydney when Tommy Bolt, in a fit of pique over being handed the wrong club, threw it at his caddie, followed that by hitting two straight balls into a lake and then tried to walk off without finishing the round, announcing, "I'm through!" Ossie Pickworth, his opponent at the time, rushed over shouting, "No, you ain't quitting now," and Bolt relented. Ossie was probably leading at the time.
Just as professional golf breeds egotists, the galleries of Australia seem to have been put on this earth to take them down a peg when necessary. Englishman Tony Jacklin was badly shaken two years ago by a galleryite in Sydney who, reacting to Jacklin's too obvious show of pleasure about making a shot out of a bunker, called him an "arsey—." Gary Player, who in his perpetual soul-searching manner has a knack for being misunderstood—and practiced it often during his 1970 visit—issued a mild complaint about a hard green at Royal Sydney one year. His ball had taken an inflated bounce and rolled off the back side, and a man who heard Player's cavil yelled at him: "Whyuntcha start blaming yourself for a change and just hit the ball, ya mug." Last year Player and the galleries got along fine, but he was misquoted often by the Australian press and picked apart in columns by Peter Thomson.