Hard by his course in Fayetteville, Clayton has started a chain of restaurants and of 45-foot-high slides. The restaurants are called "Wow-Wow." The slides are called "Slide-Slide." Clayton also owns a travel agency. It is not called "Travel-Travel" or "Go-Go." Clayton drives a root beer-colored Cadillac convertible which has "I play Putt-Putt" stickers front and back and a license plate that reads "Wow-Wow." His Putt-Putt organization has its own chaplain, Baxter Walker, formerly of Grace Baptist Church in Fayetteville, who writes a column called "The Game of Life" in the monthly house organ.
The game of Putt-Putt is indeed one of skill and finesse acquired over a long period of time and practice. PPA members—who play their tour only in the summer and are otherwise bankers, clerks, teachers, students, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers—use the same clubs and balls, and most of the same stances and strokes, as regular touring golf pros. Holes are standardized on every Putt-Putt course around the country and are given names like "Water Hole," "Sidehill" and "Drop-Off." Most of the holes require the putter to angle his shots off wooden, orange-painted bumpboards to avoid obstacles such as pipes, bricks, water and wrought-iron letters that spell "Putt-Putt" and "PPA." Because of this aspect of the game, Putt-Putt resembles billiards or pool as much as it does golf.
Putt-Putt is not without relations to the PGA. Freddie Haas of New Orleans, who was once a leading money-winner on the PGA tour, played in a couple of Putt-Putt tournaments a few years ago. Bobby Mitchell, a PGA tour regular, is a former city champion of Putt-Putt in Danville, Va. Moreover, last December in Pompano Beach, Fla. five members of the PGA—Dave Hill, Randy Glover, Lou Graham, Don Massengale and Rex Baxter—faced five PPA members in a putting match, half on Putt-Putt and half on a regular green. The Putt-Putt people claim they lost on grass but won on the carpets. The PGA claims victory on both.
"We made a mistake. We showed them how to putt the carpets and where to angle the spots," says Vance (The Lance) Randall, the only man to win the PPA National Championship in two different seasons. "And on the real green we were out there hitting 90-foot putts. That's not puttin', that's huntin'. We want the PGA again."
Randall, a girls' basketball coach in Rossville, Ga., says there is a big difference between PPA and PGA play. "The pressure in Putt-Putt is unbelievable on every shot," he says. "If I could swing away once in a while, or go out on a fairway and mix up the routine, it wouldn't be so bad. But I can't. It's all puttin'. At least the PGA boys get to walk."
In its pursuit of recognition, the PPA has abandoned itself, by financial necessity, to the whim of the television camera. Each year for the past eight, Clayton has staged a Parade of Champions TV series of seven pretaped matches that are shown on more than 70 stations around the country. This year he elected to make the last rounds of the World Championship serve as his TV show.
In a trailer on the eve of the final matches, Clayton explained the procedure to the eight remaining contestants:
"Now you men know the system," he began. "If the TV technicians do not catch the action or if a match goes over our allotted 21 minutes, we have to play the match over. You understand that if you're nine up after nine holes and the TV men say the tape hasn't gone right, we have to rub it out and start again. You are only paid for what the tape catches. You will sign a statement to that effect, that you agree to this. And please, men, if you do win a match tomorrow and we have to run it over and then you lose, please, men, don't say anything about it or complain about it. That's just the rub of the green."
Clayton went on: "Now on TV, I'm going to do commentary to sway the public to one man's side. This does not mean I am for anyone or against anyone. Please remember this. Last year I had people all over America pulling for a man because he wanted to build an extra room onto his house for a new baby. We're doing sports reporting here, but we're also doing a selling job, and this is the best way I know how. God bless you all, men, and remember one more thing.
"Remember the image of this great organization is at stake. Try to smile at all times, even when you lose. Champions always smile."