WAY OFF COURSE
Anyone who has been around tournament golf much knows that it is a sport you listen to as much as watch. The best place to listen is the players' locker room, if you happen to be a journalist entrusted with the job of trying to make reports on a tournament as accurate, interesting and colorful as possible. Well, everyone seems to know this except William H. Lane, the new chairman of the Masters, and Will Grimsley of the Associated Press, the president of the Golf Writers Association of America. Lane and Grimsley got together last week and barred the press from the locker room for more than half of each tournament day. No journalist was permitted in the lockering area until the last pairing had teed off.
This is one of the few mistakes the Masters organizers have ever made and the sort of thing that would not have happened if Clifford Roberts were still alive.
Lane apparently thought he was doing the golfers a favor. A few have always wanted to bar the press from life itself. The great players, however, have never complained about the press watching them tie their shoes, eat their eggs, deal with their nerves and trade banter. If anything, they have enjoyed the attention of journalists.
Many members of the press at Augusta last week agreed that Grimsley should have fought vigorously against Lane's idea rather than agreeing to its implementation on a trial basis. "The Masters is one of the most difficult tournaments in the world to cover," said Dave Anderson of The New York Times, "and this just makes it more difficult." And a disgruntled Marino Parascenzo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, confronted with an empty locker room, resorted to interviewing Tom Watson's shoes. "If they hadn't spoken up I wouldn't have known whose they were," he said.
However, one writer, our own dauntless Dan Jenkins, seemed to feel that Lane and Grimsley had done the world a good deed. "It's a step in the right direction," he said. "Next, they should bar us from the course and the final result. Then we can make up our own winners."
If you still fail to appreciate the sports-writer's burden, consider these sad tales:
Dave Heberle, an outdoors writer for the Erie, Pa. Times, wrote in an April 2 column that the monofilament line used by trout fishermen had been banned in three states because a "Dr. Ayper Ilfu" found that it caused cancer in brook trout. "I thought people would get it," said Heberle. Heberle got the ax.
Then there was the case of Bill Livingston, pro basketball writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, who was waiting to enter the 76ers locker room after a game in San Antonio. When a TV cameraman was allowed in and Livingston was not, Livingston took issue with the policeman guarding the door and wound up wearing a set of handcuffs. When the cuffs were finally removed (no charges were pressed), 76er Coach Billy Cunningham told Livingston, "I wouldn't have bailed you out." Which is exactly the kind of respect a writer expects from a coach.