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Harry Sprague, the fictional young golf pro, is back for his third swing around the winter circuit, reporting his successes and near misses both on and off the course to his backer, Mr. Amos A. Tabor, owner of the Otter Lake Country Club in upper Michigan. Mr. Tabor is at the moment in Martinique, where he is constructing a new course. Harry finished well up in the money in two tournaments on the West Coast, but his game and everything else went to pieces after a climactic encounter in Phoenix with his best tour girl friend, Helene Dahlborg, who wanted to get married. Harry subsequently went into a sizable personal slump. As we meet him now, however, the lour has made its way to Florida, and Harry, under lime's healing influence, is beginning to look and feel once again like his old irrepressibly high-spirited self.
March 21, 1960
Mr. Amos A.
Not only is my game back but my personality is once again back in the groove, which I knew for sure yesterday afternoon after my practice round in the Seminole Pro-Am here in Palm Beach when I went out for a little cruise party on a yacht owned by one of my Am partners, Mr. Burton "Burt" Hillcroft, who has made a ton of it in the carpet business. What I am referring to is that when I was trying to write you on some stationery inside the cabin, these three terrific babes dragged me away from the writing table and hauled me out onto the deck, and I am not objecting to the idea at all because your boy is back to normal where he is noticing how good looking good-looking babes can be. The only one I am having trouble with right now is Miss Marjorie Sundstrom who is sitting across from me in her steno office downtown, glaring over at me as if I had stepped on her line on the putting green or something. She is one of the prettiest gray-haired ladies you ever saw but she is making this dictation difficult by interrupting all the time and asking, "Semicolon?" and "Period?" and "Paragraph?" and stuff like that instead of just picking the right club herself and playing the shot without bothering me. Now she is smiling finally.
As those three society girls who were hauling me around on the yacht was expressing it, this Seminole Pro-Am is what they call a fun tournament. At the same time, that is about the only word those girls use: the word fun. For a sample they say Mr. Burt Hillcroft's yacht is a fun boat and so-and-so is throwing a fun party and your boy is fun company and so on like that. I guess when you have been to college like these girls and your family is loaded, you can toss the old vocabulary right out the window and use the same word over and over again.
During this tournament at Seminole I am staying as his guest at Mr. Burt Hillcroft's house which he calls a villa, which is O.K. with me since there is nothing to give a guy a lift like living above your income for a couple of days. Mr. Hillcroft has two daughters called Beedo and Kay Kay, which are their society nicknames, who are really put together, and I guess they are also good-looking; but you can't tell for sure since they both wear their sunglasses all day long and have never taken them off yet even when we ate last night with only the candles on. Incidentally Mr. Burton Hillcroft and I ought to finish right up at the top in the Pro-Am since he has got a very useful size handicap for a pretty good player being a member himself of the handicap committee, if you follow me in your window. He calls me "Harry" or "fella" and I call him "Mister Burt" which is how if you are on the ball you address all your partners in a pro-am—the Mister and then the nickname—just like old Dutch Harrison does on that Sunday TV show. All in all, the only trouble I got to find with the set-up at Seminole is that they still have got those old wooden lockers. With all their dough you would have thought they would have smartened up long ago and changed over to some modern metal jobs.
Outside of me missing the money five straight weeks between Phoenix and Pensacola and making the cut only once, the sensation of the tour has been Arnold Palmer winning those four tournaments: the Desert Classical, the Texas Open, Baton Rouge and then Pensacola. I don't want to cut in on the act, and I know you'll keep this neutral between the two of us, but the turning point for Arnold this winter was the round we were paired together over Bermuda Dunes in the Desert Classical. Arnie, you know, hits the drive out of sight being a strong fellow with muscles like sinews, and when we played together he kept walking up to his ball after we drove and waiting for me to play it, not realizing I was out past him on the drive 10, 15 yards even when I caught it on the heel. What I am leading up to is that this is the best thing in the world that could have happened to Arnold. Suddenly he realizes he is not really a long hitter, he stops trying to hit the cover off the ball, he begins to put the emphatic on accuracy, and just like that he becomes a matured shotmaker and starts winning. Same thing five years ago, I hear. George Bayer joined the tour and Mike Souchak, no longer being the longest hitter, begins paying attention to his swing in general; just like that, Mike becomes a real golfer. I am thinking of maybe doing a story for the Reader's Digest called "How I Straightened Out My Buddy, Arnold Palmer" by Harry L. Sprague, if they cough up enough.
The real reason Arnold Palmer is playing up a storm these past couple of weeks is he is not coming off the ball—meaning he is staying right down over it and hitting right through it without moving his left side out of the way too fast or moving the right side in too fast. Like I was telling Stan Leonard, this is a lot better than just releasing it, because if you come off the ball, what are you releasing? Nothing! This is the big thing all the boys are putting the emphatic on this winter: not coming off the ball. Lately I have been having my hands filled commuting between the practice tee checking their faults for the fellows and commuting to the practice green where I have been smoothing out the touches of some of the young kids like Dave Ragan and Mason Rudolph and Doug Sanders who I personally feel are promising material. Like I told the press here, they are good for the game of golf, which is an expression you always rope in when you can't think of no other reasons. Then I have been commuting back to the practice tee and helping the promising veterans how to avoid coming off the ball. For a sample, I was checking this for Dow Finsterwald and Freddy Hawkins, but here's a funny thing: Dow who has been a left-to-right player wants to hit the ball now from right-to-left and Freddy who is more of a natural right-to-left player keeps experimenting with left-to-right, which is very confusing when you are checking both of them to see if they are not coming off the ball. All of this is probably miles over your head, Mr. Tabor, seeing as how you are lucky if you get the ball in the air at all, but I thought I'd tell you this since there are no flies on you when it comes to talking up a real storm even if you can't play up one. Am I right?
Yours from the