Devlin, the onetime master plumber, wins more often than the others, and with Bob Von Hagge is going to make a fortune building gorgeous golf courses for the growing legions of converts, there being no reason to think the end is in sight.
It is a sore spot with the Australians, however, that neither Devlin nor Cramp-ton lives there anymore. They have made their nests in the United States, where they can be closer to the egg. ( Thomson has been known to remind his readers of this on occasion.) Devlin returns every year to participate in the major Australian tournaments. He is an easy-swinging, easygoing, likable man who—blond, tanned, lean—looks like he should be playing in Western movies, and because he is conscientious and has put a lot of his money back into the country he has not gone out of favor there. On the contrary, he is probably the most popular Australian golfer of the lot.
Crampton, on the other hand, makes no pretense. He hardly ever goes home. The Australians have no use for Crampton. They are delighted when they read that he is referred to in the American press as a sourpuss.
How good these three are compared with the best Australian golfers who came before them—Jim Ferrier, Ossie Pickworth, Von Nida, Nagle, etc.—is a moot question and one I have no interest in answering. I would rather conclude that if I were compelled to follow golf forever I would have it be in the days not long ago when Australian golf really had some meat on its bones, and those happened to be the days of Pick-worth, Von Nida, etc.
I mean, I doubt seriously if any of the pros around today would get caught in a bunker with another man's wife, as a prominent Aussie pro once did, and then lived to win her for himself. I doubt if any of them will be as exciting as Ossie Pickworth, who played so fast the galleries panted in his wake; who, on his first trip to England, told a startled group of Fleet Street writers that he "trained on beer," and patted his ample stomach for emphasis; who said English golf courses were like "Chinese market gardens"; and who, in a dispute with Ferrier over the sharing of gate receipts, once leaped up on a table and shouted, "I'm king here!"
And Norm Von Nida, that irrepressible little man. Playing in the British Open in a floor-length raincoat. Chopping down the top of an offending bunker with his sand wedge at St. Andrews. Calling the burn at the 1st green "the bloody ditch." Telling off officials. Silencing chattering galleries and clicking photographers with baleful stares. Throttling Henry Ransom.
If there was one golf tournament in all the world I would like to have seen in its entirety (and maybe the only one), it was the Australian Open held in Queensland in 1955. Von Nida gave me an infinite replay that night at Canberra. The event, he said, was played at the Gailes Golf Club, which had been built in part by the inmates of the adjoining Goodna Insane Asylum. The course was, in fact, laid out alongside the asylum grounds.
Final preparations for the tournament were still being made the night before the opening round: paint was still wet on the walls. The locker room towels—only a handful, and cheap—were purchased the day before, and the fuzz was still so thick on them that every time a man toweled off, a thin layer of white fluff stuck to his face and body. There were only four or five tables set aside for pros in the tiny, teeming clubhouse—Von Nida called it the Black Hole of Calcutta. The stewards were new, but they were also unsophisticated. One was asked by Bobby Locke if there were any combs available for the golfers. The steward said, yes, sir, Mr. Locke, and whipped his own out of his back pocket.
A tropical rainstorm flooded the course the second day and rivulets of water coursed through the playing area. An amateur named Harry Hall-Kenny lined up a shot on the 18th fairway and a current of water picked the ball up and began moving it down a slight incline, between Hall-Kenny's legs. Hall-Kenny kept backing up, backing up, trying to hold his stance, waiting for the ball to pause so he could hit it.
The inmates of the asylum, having a proprietary interest in the event, lined the fence of the adjacent 12th tee each day, staring at the contestants who came by. One correspondent who was there said the inmates clung to the barbed-wire fence, oblivious to the blood running down their arms, and he swore you could hear the screams and moans from inside.