It is mostly the luck of the draw that puts them together in three-man teams, and there is also luck involved in which four pros they draw for their four rounds. On that score, a New York real-estate tycoon named Lew Rudin had a right to be the happiest entrant in the field last week. One of his amateur partners was Telly Savalas—and not many of the amateurs can boast of drawing a celebrity, most often getting car dealers like themselves. Next, Rudin drew a pro rotation made up of Trevino, Nicklaus, Dave Stockton and Arnold Palmer. At the daily jam session at Indian Wells after the close of play, it was said that Lew Rudin must have had a lot of bodies hidden in various closets to be so lucky.
By contrast, there are amateurs who play in the Hope for years; if they see Nicklaus or Lawrence Welk across a crowded dance floor, or bunker, they consider it worth the $2,750 entry fee they pay for a goody bag of gifts and the chance to win some crystal.
The amateur involvement in the Hope makes it a weird event indeed. In any group you are watching only one pro, and while the amateurs are lining up their putts in a blaze of pastel ensembles, or fiddling with their fur head covers, the wait to see a golf shot can be agonizing for the spectator. Few in the gallery seem to care, however. As a woman said one day, "How many times do they go around? Actually, I'm only here to see Andy Williams."
What this does is make the Hope the least loved tournament on the PGA circuit among the pros. As Trevino said of the problem in playing four different courses—Indian Wells, La Quinta, Bermuda Dunes and Tamarisk—"It's hell finding your way home from a different place every night." The courses are scattered in all directions around the desert, as a matter of fact, and Tamarisk is the only one near Palm Springs itself. Still, the Hope remains the only tournament where in order to go anywhere you find yourself crossing and recrossing Bob Hope Drive or Frank Sinatra Drive. The committee's one oversight was to forget to paint green and red Gucci stripes around the leader board.
On the other hand, it may be appropriate that in 1979 the Hope began the tour, which is richer by $3 million than ever before, thanks to some new TV packages. The alpaca gang is only going to compete for $13 million this year, so it was nice that the pros got to look at all those nifty golf carts equipped with stereos, coolers and musical horns. Most of the fairways of the four courses meander by mansions that sport miniature garage doors for the carts. There was a question of whether most Palm Springs residents have adopted the King Tut theory of life, entombing themselves with every earthly treasure while they are still alive, or whether they have simply sentenced themselves to golf without parole.
As for the golf, there wasn't that much excitement during the four amateur rounds, despite Mahaffey's 66 on Thursday at La Quinta, where he had seven straight birdies. Hardly anyone was at La Quinta that day, because Nicklaus and Gerald Ford and Trevino and Savalas and everybody else was at Tamarisk. Nicklaus was actually seen to be yawning during his rounds.
He explained it by saying, "I have trouble getting up on a week-to-week basis. I guess I feel like I don't have much to prove this week."
Nicklaus did manage to wake up momentarily on Sunday at the 6th hole at Indian Wells. He hit an eight-iron exactly 146 yards into the cup for a hole in one. The roar out on the course was so loud you would have thought that Johnny Bench had got up again to dance in the Indian Wells clubhouse.
For Nicklaus hole-in-one collectors, it was his ninth lifetime and his third in tour competition. The others on the tour came at Jacksonville and Memphis in years he can't even remember. Nicklaus' ace helped him to a last-round 69 and pulled him into a tie for 11th place.
What thrills there were in the end came on the greens of Indian Wells, where Trevino, using his newly adopted Nicklaus putting style, made the putts he needed to keep Mahaffey worried about a sudden-death playoff and where Mahaffey made the big one he needed on 18 to avoid it. The winning putt made a perfect ending for the opener—a new time and a new place, but nothing shocking so far as the tour is concerned. John Mahaffey is a winner now.