"No, that's much too short a time," Alliss agreed, regrouping his trio of practice balls. "But even the brief exposure is bound to be helpful. What your top players have and we don't is the knack of playing well even when they're really not playing well, if you know what I mean. On an off-day when they make a pack of errors, they still bring in a good score. Let's say a chap has played a hole really badly and has an 11-foot putt left for his par. He looks it over and really works on it, and where I would probably miss it, he makes it. He salvages his par. Now that's tournament ability, and that's what we're trying to gain, along with learning how to play several shots we rarely get on our courses."
"Oh, those lovely low wedge shots with bite on them you all play so expertly. You're always on the pin. What a stroke-saver that shot is!"
"Peter, I've got news for you," the Texan remarked pleasantly. "That's why all us natives are on the tour, trying to learn the same damn things."
BOLT AND THE YOUTH BRIGADE
For all the abundance of youthful talent on the tour, no one has been playing better golf than the veteran Thomas Bolt, 35. In winning the San Diego and Tucson Opens, Tommy did everything right. His medium and short irons, which he plays with a deft, rhythmic stroke, have been especially formidable. At San Diego he got off on a very right foot by racking up seven consecutive birdies, the result of wafting seven consecutive approaches six, six, three, eight, four, four, and four feet respectively from the flag. He was never headed after that. At Tucson it was a matter of starting fairly slowly with a 69 and a 67, and then edging up with a 65 to within a shot of the leader, Bud Holscher, as they moved into the pay-off round. Bolt made up that stroke on the first nine and won the tournament on the 16th, a straightaway, moderate-length par four, by sticking an elegant pitch about 11 away and holing that birdie putt with his glass-shafted cash-in putter. Holscher, playing in the threesome behind Bolt, came to the 16th some five minutes later. He misgauged the strength of his pitch and it trickled some five yards over the back edge of the green. From there he rolled a " Texas wedge" some four feet short, and when he missed that short putt, it was all over.
Surrounded as he is today by the brigade of youngsters who have enjoyed a college education and many other advantages early in their lives, Bolt stands out, just about the last of the old hard-bitten crew, a fascinating and enigmatic personality, generous with his money, florid in his speech, cynical, spontaneous. And when he is decked out in his black-and-gold outfit (the one with the black suede shoes with gold saddles, mustard-gold slacks, a black sport shirt bordered with white, the black sweater piped with yellow, a dark gray baseball-type cap, and a yellow glove) he somehow conjures up the image of the outlaw horseman of the Old West, bizarrely transported to the fairways. But make no mistake. Here is a marvelous golfer.
It is the winners the galleries watch and the winners who are talked about, but the actual tournament rounds are only a small part, in truth, of that sports phenomenon, the winter tour. As the pro pack meanders across the brown southern states, stopping, starting, and stopping again, a hundred-odd quick-takes repeated weekly, or daily, make up its flavor.
There is the hurried dash by the whole caravan, the afternoon a tournament finishes, to get on the road and headed toward the next proving ground on the schedule. At the hotels, motels and trailer camps, the bags are tossed into the trunks of the cars, the wardrobes hung on the metal rod that stretches above and across the back seat, and the cavalcade roars off.
Golf pros are notoriously fast drivers. Doug Ford and Bo Wininger are regarded as the hardest on the accelerator now that Toney Penna is no longer making the circuit. Not counting their travel expenses, it costs the average pro around $175 a week to live on the tour, and a pro who is traveling with his wife seldom breaks $200. This adds up, so the only players who can afford to fly from tournament to tournament are the big winners. Cary Middlecoff is, in truth, the only regular air traveler.