Public-course golfers, even the best ones, are not used to being pampered, or being fed and feted and fetched here and there by smiling volunteers as 159 of them were last week at the Amateur Public Links Championship in Coon Rapids, Minn. These golfers are a self-sufficient breed, inured to hardship, to long waits and slow play, to hitting sand shots out, of footprints and to putting across wastelands of spike marks. Treat them kindly as the good people of Coon Rapids did, trail them down the fairways, applauding their triumphs and grieving with them over their failures as the galleries did at the Bunker Hills Golf Course, and they tend to go to pieces.
Frank Hannigan of the United States Golf Association was officiating at the 1st tee as the semifinal round began Friday afternoon when a young player, Victor Wolfe from Livermore, Calif., approached him. Wolfe had won his first three matches, each on the 18th hole, but Friday morning he had lost to another Californian, Gary Hitch of Ventura. Now Wolfe was on his way home and he wanted to thank someone.
He held out his hand to Hannigan, but as he began to speak his voice broke and his eyes filled with tears. He talked on anyway, his delivery somewhat hesitant but his message clear. He had had a wonderful time, he said, the experience had meant a great deal to him and he was aware that somebody had gone to a lot of trouble to make it all possible. Then he turned on his heel and was gone. Hannigan, once a public-course player himself, had to clear his throat before he went back to work. The last time the USGA threw a national championship for men was a month ago in Atlanta when the competitors turned dyspeptic upon arrival and complained about everything from the hors d'oeuvres to the baked Alaska, then left, most of them, without a good-by. But, of course, that was the famous U.S. Open.
At the APL in Coon Rapids the hosts were rewarded with more than just gratitude for their efforts. The 36-hole final match on Saturday, like Jerry Pate's finish at the Open, would have been enough all by itself. For one thing it brought together on a perfect summer day on a well-designed and well-conditioned course the two best players in the tournament, something a match-play format cannot always be counted on to do.
Archie Dadian at 42 was playing in his 10th APL Championship. His best finish was in last year's tournament in Hawaii when he reached the semis, but he lost the match when he missed a 15-inch downhill putt. He is a claims supervisor for an insurance company in Milwaukee, has four children and plays golf twice a week. His parents were Armenians, born in Turkey, who settled in Racine in 1920.
These days Dadian plays in eight or 10 amateur tournaments a year, all, except the APL, in Wisconsin. He considers the year a success if he wins two or three. Eleven years ago Dadian was out on the PGA tour and making expenses. He might still be there if he had not shattered the metacarpal bone of his left hand when he hit a rock with a sand wedge at the 1965 Azalea Open. He quit the tour and in 1968 underwent surgery that allowed him to begin playing again. In 1969, after doing three years of penance, he was reinstated as an amateur.
Dadian is short and stocky, with a gentle voice and the fierce, dogged competitiveness that makes a good match player. He drags a pull cart along behind him like a reluctant child as he barrels toward his next shot. Sometimes he breaks into a run. A spectator, watching him approach the 18th green at a dead run one afternoon, shook his head in wonder and said to no one in particular, "Look at that crazy Armenian!"
Crazy like a fox. In that match his opponent, Jim Peterson of Scottsdale, Ariz., was three up going to the 13th tee. Archie played the next six holes in two under par and won the match one up. "It was a nightmare," wailed Peterson later. "The last six holes went so fast!"
Out of the other half of the draw emerged 22-year-old Eddie Mudd of Louisville, possibly the only good tobacco-chewing golfer in the U.S. A pitcher with a chaw in his cheek is one thing, but a kid in double-knits with tobacco-juice stains on his golf shirt gives one pause. When a Louisville tournament director told Eddie to take his choice, chew or play, Eddie pointed out that he neither littered the fairways with cigarette butts nor burned the greens as smokers did and, furthermore, when he spit he fertilized the grass. "It relaxes me," he drawls. "Sometimes I mix Beech-Nut with snuff and sometimes I mix Red Man and Beech-Nut. I like that a lot. My wife chews, too, Applejack. She likes it, but she don't spit too good."
Sharon Mudd has been married four weeks. Eddie was involved in an 18-hole playoff for the Kentucky Amateur title on their wedding day. Despite that, Sharon gave up smoking at her husband's request and the decision led to Applejack. It seems safe to say that Sharon Mudd is probably the only tobacco-chewing female math teacher in the Jefferson County school system.