For a while during the World Open at Pinehurst last November it looked as if Ben Crenshaw might win his second professional golf tournament in a row, and seeing as how he was only eight years old, or something like that, several members of the press got so excited they almost dropped their Olivettis. Writers adore instant heroes, as civilization knows, and now they had Crenshaw with his bleached mod hair and a smile like the nice young man who sacks your groceries, not to forget a long, powerful swing that looks as if an artist might have drawn it after studying the finest movements of Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and the Rolex GMT-Master. Already, Crenshaw seemed to be the best thing to happen to golf since beltless slacks.
Anyhow, down in North Carolina on a certain afternoon in the press room of Pinehurst Country Club, a British journalist was in the process of ad-libbing his daily report to London by phone when suddenly he stopped, blushed and glanced over at a friend.
"Oh, no!" said the Englishman. "I was just dictating about Crenshaw, and I think I used...flaxen-haired."
Maybe you have to have a writer's worries about clich�s to appreciate the humor in that, but the point is that Ben Crenshaw had scarcely had time to take the wrapping paper and ribbons off his golf game as a touring pro and he was a media problem.
A lot of questions were posed by this situation, questions that have been troubling if not infuriating people for years. People such as touring professionals, sponsors, gallery marshals, courtesy-car drivers, newspaper and magazine readers and even authors. Questions such as the following:
Why is Ben Crenshaw flaxen-haired while Frank Beard is somber?
Why is Ben Crenshaw "Gentle Ben" while Miller Barber is "Mister X"?
Why is Ben Crenshaw's facial expression described by the press as "angelic" while Bert Yancey's is "stoic"?
Why is Ben Crenshaw "warm and friendly" and "the next Arnold Palmer" and "a potential Jack Nicklaus," while Tommy Aaron is "the quiet, bespectacled Tommy Aaron," while Charles Coody is "former Masters champion Charles Coody," while Dave Stockton is "determined Dave Stockton," and while dozens of others on the tour are as invisible as a poltergeist except for the Amana caps they wear?
It is impossible to answer these questions to everybody's satisfaction. People are still trying to figure out why Arnold Palmer owned the 1960s. If Crenshaw winds up owning the last half of the 1970s—as many predict—it will result from his having done pretty much what Palmer did. He will have to win consistently, sometimes spectacularly, and he will have to remain the "nice guy" that everyone who either knows him, has seen him, or simply observed him, insists he is.