"All I got was heat," Pate said after his ace, recalling the teasing he got in England from his teammates. "I said then that there wouldn't be a white ball left on the tour in five years. Now I make a hole in one at Cypress and I read in the paper where Nicklaus says that!"
Nicklaus did in fact mention that the Easter-egg balls have some virtue. He said he might consider using a Safety Yellow if MacGregor invents it. It would tie in with his Golden Bear logo. It probably shouldn't matter which shade of ball Nicklaus uses; he is, after all, color blind. As he says, greens are grays to him.
Naturally, everybody at the Crosby was asked about the funny balls. Tom Watson said he would consider using a non-white because he is nearsighted and it might be easier for him to follow a shot, but his wife, Linda, promptly said, "I hope Tom will never use a colored ball. A white ball is part of the game's tradition." Watson's manufacturer, Ram, already markets an orange and a lime ball, as well as a bright pink one.
Curiously, about 20 pros on the men's tour are using the oranges and limes, but only one competitor, Kathy Whitworth, is using a colored ball, the orange Wilson, on the LPGA circuit, where one would think pastels would be in vogue.
The colored balls finally disappeared from the Crosby like Christmas tree decorations in January. Lietzke's lime, a PGA Tracer, didn't glow too vividly on Saturday at Spyglass Hill, where his 79 put him out of the chase. And Pate's hole in one did little for his scoring. His orange rounds of 74, 73, 74 weren't good enough to make the 54-hole cut.
Apart from the esthetics, there's another drawback to the colored balls. They aren't all that easy to see on television, and TV is as important to the pro tour as caddies. The lime green is nearly invisible on the screen, and the orange is a color that "bleeds" for some technical reason and is therefore hard to see. A golf ball is difficult to see on television anyhow, so the networks may have more to say about the future of the designer ball than anyone else.
At the end of last week's Crosby, though, it was easy enough to see Stadler's golf ball gleaming whitely down there among the rocks below the 17th green at Pebble Beach. Traditionalists hate to see any kind of ball—even a white one—in such a terrible place. Considering the kind of week it was, the ball should have been, oh, grayish-brown, let's say—the color of a walrus.