Jack Nicklaus has used a MacGregor golf ball most of his career, and his loyalty to the brand is such that last year he bought the company that makes the ball, Atlanta-based MacGregor Inc. That's why eyebrows were raised on the Tour when Nicklaus played three tournaments this spring with the new Tour 384, a ball manufactured by archrival Titleist. Quite a few touring pros have switched to the 384, which is said to travel farther because of its aerodynamically designed pattern of 384 dimples—60 more dimples than the conventional pattern. But why did MacGregor's boss seemingly endorse a competing ball by using it on the circuit?
Nicklaus explains that MacGregor was about to introduce a new ball and that he wanted to check out the competition's ball for himself before giving the go-ahead to his company's new product. Nicklaus, who's not exactly an impartial witness on the subject, says that the 384 did indeed travel farther but "was too hot around the greens. I lost control of the ball. I didn't play well those three weeks [he finished ninth, 28th and 23rd]." At any rate, MacGregor introduced its new ball, called the Jack Nicklaus Muirfield, at last week's U.S. Open at Oakmont (page 28), and whatever the relative merits of the two balls otherwise, the Nicklaus Muirfield surpasses the 384 in at least one respect: It has 392 dimples.
WELL WORTH THE BOTHER
Commander Gerald Forsberg writes a slightly breathless column for The Swimming Times, a British publication, in which he chronicles the perils as well as the pleasures of long-distance swimming. Forsberg recently reported that one race was "9.3 miles across complex tidal system. Flat calm, mainly cloudy, water 57 degs F. Exceptionally low tide at start—competitors had to run 150 yards before getting to swim depth." On another event: "Thunder and lightning and torrential rain. A year's supply of heavy hailstones in 15 minutes—agonising on bald heads without swim caps." Through it all, Forsberg conveys the impression that the indignities that long-distance swimmers sometimes must endure are well worth it. Of another race, he wrote: "Presumably they also invited every jellyfish on the South Coast to come and enliven the big occasion. Little wonder the times were so fast!"
When George Steinbrenner, during the latest Yankee upheaval, fired Pitching Coach Art Fowler last Friday, Manager Billy Martin was separated from his longtime friend, confidant and right-hand man. Some observers were surprised that Martin hadn't quit after the dismissal of Fowler, who had been with him for 14 years, following faithfully along as Billy went from Minnesota to Detroit to Texas to the Yanks to Oakland and finally back to New York. At the start of the season Martin said of Fowler, "A billionaire couldn't get him away from me," meaning presumably that he and Art would stick together through thick and thin. While nobody has ever called Steinbrenner a billionaire, it's at least possible that the $1.25 million contract Martin has has influenced Billy's thinking. At any rate: So long, Art.
Last week, after a two-year investigation involving 80 federal and state wildlife agents, about 50 individuals were charged with killing or trafficking in bald and golden eagles, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Federal officials said that some 300 birds hid been killed in the last three years to supply raw materials for a "lucrative black market in Native American artifacts." A warbonnet of eagle feathers can bring as much as $5,000; a single eagle can be worth $1,000 to its killers.
Interior Secretary James Watt flew to Sioux Falls, S. Dak. to announce the crackdown. Standing behind a table covered with eagle carcasses, he called the killing of the bald eagle, the national symbol, "revolting and repulsive." Praising Operation Eagle, as the investigation had been dubbed, he said, "Protecting the national bird was worth the cost."
The acts that Watt decried are indeed reprehensible and the crackdown is to be applauded, but if the secretary is now convinced that Operation Eagle's funds were well spent, he didn't always feel that way. During his first two years in office, he cut the budget for enforcement of the Endangered Species Act by $987,000 each year—nearly 45% of the law-enforcement field budget. Each time Congress reinstated the funds. Again this year he tried to cut the same $987,000. but Congress, with far less fanfare than attended the doings in Sioux Falls, is once more in the process of putting the money back in the budget.
"If Watt's budget cuts had gone through each year," says Amos Eno, Director of Wildlife Programs of the Audubon Society, "it is unlikely that Operation Eagle could have succeeded."