Raymond Floyd also displayed a martial discipline in his game, learned from his father. Floyd played hundreds of rounds on the Enlisted Men's Course at Fort Bragg as a kid, often with soldiers, went to a military boarding school for two years in high school and served in the Army reserves. He learned the value of playing with a game plan. He once told his sister, the former LPGA player Marlene Floyd, "I visualize the ball taking off like a fighter jet. When I hit it well, I can smell the jet-fuel fumes coming off the ball." Last August, L.B. Floyd, who enlisted in the Army at age 14 with a fake document claiming he was 16, had a military funeral. An officer in dress grays presented Floyd with the ritually folded American flag. He saluted Raymond, and Raymond saluted back.
The link between the military and golf is as old as the game. The word caddie is from a French military word cadet. Bunker is a term of war and a term of golf. So are redan, round, wedge and shot. Bert Yancey, one of the great ball strikers of the 1960s, whose career was diminished by his battle with bipolar disorder, attended West Point. Larry Nelson served in Vietnam then taught himself golf out of the classic instructional book Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, by Ben Hogan and Herbert Warren Wind, and went on to win 10 PGA Tour events. Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Lee Trevino and scores of others, all had stints in the military or the reserves. Bernhard Langer's father was a German soldier who jumped out of a Russian prisoner-of-war train, and Langer himself, after high school, spent 18 months in the German air force. Nick Price served in the Rhodesian air force after high school. When Pine Needles, the Donald Ross course where Annika Sorenstam won the '96 U.S. Women's Open, was undergoing extensive renovations recently, the architect, John Fought, wanted to know precisely what Ross had originally built. Old fuzzy aerial photos, circa 1935, were uncovered. Kernan brought them to a Fort Bragg imaging expert, and within hours the precise depth of the bunkers, the height of mounds, the dimensions of the greens were all known. There's a 1988 movie, based on a book and a real-life experience, titled Bat 21, starring Gene Hackman as Iceal Hambleton, an Air Force colonel shot down in Vietnam who uses golf course design terms to secretly radio his position to Bart Clark, an Air Force captain played by Danny Glover.
Many of the great clubs of England and Scotland have been run by retired military personnel, most notably Muirfield, which was ruled for many years by its imperious secretary, the late P.W.T. (Paddy) Hanmer, who had been a captain in the British navy. In 1991 he famously refused to allow Payne Stewart, who had just won the U.S. Open, to play the course on a day it was not open for guest play. "The members want the voice of authority in their lives, and the military man has that voice," another club secretary, a retired British army lieutenant colonel named J.G. Tedford, once said. "I can say to a senior member, 'Sir, you are no longer an 18 handicap--you are now a 21.' From me he will accept that. If a committeeman told him that, he'd tell him to bugger off." In the U.S., for good or bad, most country clubs are run by general managers with college degrees, experts at taking polls and letting the majority rule.
Fort Bragg doesn't suffer from that problem, but the use of public money brings with it other problems. Abutting the base is an estate called Overhills, a 10,500-acre spread formerly owned by the Rockefellers that had a short Ross course, a fishing pond, tennis courts, horse stables and a shooting range, all the things associated with the country version of the good life. In 1997 the Army bought the estate from the Rockefellers for $29 million. The golf course is completely overgrown, although it could be restored, at a cost in the millions.
There's an ongoing debate about what the Army should do with the land. It's rugged country, and there are enough houses and buildings on it to simulate urban warfare situations. One idea is to use it for military training. Another would take 500 acres of the property and turn it into a luxurious, Army-run, for-profit conference center with its own Ross course. Last week Kernan led a four-wheel-drive tour of the vast tract. He thinks a training site and a fancy conference center could coexist at Overhills. But his fondest wish is to have the restored Overhills course serve as the site for an annual national First Tee championship, an event to which kids from all backgrounds could come and experience competitive golf in a wilderness setting. He knows how much golf can enrich a person's life. He knows, too, that iron was once a word Scots used for sword, and now it's just the thing you take out of your bag when you've run out of fairway woods to hit.