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Tumba's argument was that the European Open at least looked like a golf tournament, with ropes and fences and scorers and grandstands and tented villages and big crowds instead of an afternoon in the French countryside. In any case, Montgomery had picked a jolly good golf course for the inaugural European Open. Walton Heath, which is only a short way past Wimbledon on the Surrey route from London, is considered one of the two or three best "inland" courses in all of Britain. It played to a par of 73 and had multiple pot bunkers and multiple heather. And fittingly, it also had an upper-crust membership. One of the members was heard to remark that the Open was the most fascinating thing to happen at Walton Heath since Henry Cotton "went round with Denny Shute."
Tumba thought it was wonderful that Nicklaus showed up at Walton Heath for a day, shook some hands and granted a press conference, at which he commented on the rival Lanc�me by saying, "What tournament? Oh, you mean that exhibition in Paris?"
The British press took a mildly acerbic view of Nicklaus' social appearance, if not his role on the "advisory board" of the Walton Heath tournament. "He thinks it's a great tournament," said one reporter, "but evidently not great enough for him to play in."
With Jack only spectating, or advising, the two biggest names in the field were Weiskopf and Ballesteros. One had a beard, and the other lost his clubs, and neither was a factor when the event came to an end in the fading light of England last Sunday evening. Weiskopf, who had grown his beard on a hunting trip, started out pretty well, then injured his wrist in the heather and shot an 81. He spent a lot of time trying to get a glass of ice water in the dining room of the Copthorne Hotel, where most of the players were headquartered.
Ballesteros' agent, Ed Barner, had asked for $8 billion in appearance money but had been refused. Sevvy came anyway. He then misplaced his clubs and had to borrow a set for the first round. When he found his own clubs in the locker of a Walton Heath member, he did worse. After two rounds, he was out of it, having missed the cut.
One had to wonder whether Ballesteros would have misplaced his golf clubs had he been at the Lanc�me, to which he had been invited. But British PGA rules no longer permit anyone to play an event if it is up against one of its own. This has been called the "anti-McCormack rule" by some. At the Lanc�me, the only cut you can miss is the one that comes when you discover that the Lafite-Rothschild has run out.
At the finish, the European Open was captured by one of the more lightly regarded of the Americans, Bobby Wadkins. Not Lanny. His brother Bobby. He had to fire a last-round 68 to tie Gil Morgan and Bernard Gallacher, making an eagle and two birdies in the last five holes to do it, and then he had to birdie the first sudden-death hole in the playoff. Thus the first European Open turned out to be a real sports event with a fairly dramatic conclusion.
But as to whether the future winner of European golf will be a Gaetan Mourgue d'Algue or a Sven Tumba, no conclusion was reached last week. Maybe we'll know more next year. European golf wasn't built in a day, you know.