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Dan Jenkins
October 30, 1978
Golf war flamed up on both sides of the Channel last week, with money the ammunition and a handful of U.S. players the big winners
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October 30, 1978

Big Bucks Flamb�

Golf war flamed up on both sides of the Channel last week, with money the ammunition and a handful of U.S. players the big winners

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The European Open was being run by Executive Sports, a company jointly owned by John Montgomery and Eastern Airlines. It just so happens that Nicklaus was once also a partner. But Montgomery, who runs 11 PGA tournaments on the U.S. tour, does not guarantee a purse as McCormack does. You pay him a fee and he tells you how to put on a tournament, and he does it quite well. It was Tumba who raised the money for the European Open, as he does for his Scandinavian Open.

Ken Schofield, who might best be described as the Deane Beman of the British PGA, was asked if McCormack had intentionally tried to hurt the European Open by "pressuring" sponsors not to put up any money and by getting Lanc�me to lure Watson, Trevino, Player, Graham Marsh and Isao Aoki away from it.

"All I can say is that Mark knew the European Open dates almost a year ago," said Schofield. "The Lanc�me could have been held another week."

Tumba said, "I had much hard time getting sponsors. I think I know why."

McCormack said, "Most Europeans don't understand the nature of the American pro. The American players don't care if some foreign country is holding a $200,000 event after their own tour is over. They don't want to know what the first prize is. They want to know what the last prize is. They want to be able to go somewhere with their wives or friends or children and have fun and play golf at the same time. They're worn out emotionally from their own season. If you can find something for them to do, whether it's in Europe or Australia or Japan, and guarantee them some money and a good time, you can get them."

To the people in the agent-manager-sponsor area of European golf, last week's situation was a juicy one, and there was much talk about it on both sides of the Channel, about who was right, who was wrong, who was honorable, who was not. Everyone cared but the American pros, who giggled a lot and went away with various amounts of cash.

At St. Nom la Breteche, where the golf course sits below an ancient and charming clubhouse that once belonged to Louis the XIV's horses, the illustrious entrants put on quite a show for the 3,000 or so French spectators, shooting for the $17,000 first-place money—which came on top of the up-front money and all the first-class plane tickets and free hotels. Watson seized an early lead, and in the third round he, Trevino and Player made a bushel of birdies.

Trevino led by one stroke over Watson and Player going into the final round, and on Sunday he reeled off a 66 to win by five over the other two. But, in fact, they were all winners before they even went through French customs.

It was different on the outskirts of London, but only in degree. Tumba, the founder, and Montgomery, the organizer, were paying out some money, too. Each of the 24 Americans in the field of 100 was guaranteed $5,000, out of which had to come his expenses. Tumba thus was in hock for $120,000 in appearance money himself.

So the ultimate question was: Do you want 24 Americans with names ranging from Tom Weiskopf to Bobby Wadkins for $120,000, or do you want Watson, Trevino and Player for roughly the same amount?

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