Lee Elder of Washington, D.C. fired six-under-par 66 at Cypress Point today to move within one stroke of the lead in the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am golf tournament with a second round total of 135.
Much of Elder's success was over-shadowed by another well-known Washington golfer who was spending his first day of retirement. Gerald R. Ford toured the Monterey Country Club's Shore course escorted by a gallery of 5,000 and a playing partner who balks at the thought of retirement, Arnold Palmer.
Victor Recalado held a one-stroke lead among the pros after the second round with five-under-par 67 at Pebble Beach and a 134 total. Bunched with Elder in second place were Tony Jacklin and Tom Watson.
Former President Ford played like any normal 18-handicap golfer who hadn't picked up a club in two months.
In the team scoring-system at the Crosby, amateurs don't always play out every hole. Those following Ford calculated his score for 18 holes as somewhere between 97 and 99.
"It involves a different type of conditioning than skiing," said Ford. Considering the fact that Ford had to endure the brutal Washington winter, the rigors of relocating and the jet lag involved in his hurried departure from Washington after the inauguration of his successor, the round was remarkable.
The crowds were warm and receptive and uncommonly well-mannered. The only signs of dissension came when Secret Service agents blocked the spectators view of the action.
The most common comment was "Welcome to California, Mr. President." Ford has said he will purchase a home in Palm Springs.
Ford plays golf in a manner consistent with his athletic background. When he is at the top of his game he hits the ball long, although occasionally not in exactly the right direction. His chipping and putting need work, but improvement in those areas comes only with practice, for which he now has time. In short, the former Michigan football center plays like a former football player who doesn't get to tee it up as often as he would like.
Ford notched a lone par. That came on the par-four 17th. He hit his drive into the light rough on the right side and followed with an eight iron to approximately 25 feet to the right of the hole. He two putted from there.
Palmer birdied the final hole for a round of 70. That gave him a 36-hole total of 145, one over par. As a team they were in at two-under 142 which means they will move than likely miss the 54-hole cut Saturday, barring a major turnaround. Palmer had to play alone Thursday.
"He is going to be a lot better player," Palmer said of his partner. "When he gets more time to work on his timing and his short game, he can probably get his handicap down to single figures."
Elder has six birdies and no bogeys over the tight Cypress Point course under fair and calm weather conditions.
"I felt my putting was the key," said Elder, althought he missed six putts of 15 feet or less.
Elder pulled a muscle in his back three days ago and needed hospital treatment before playing in the first round, when he shot 69 at Pebble Beach.
"If I continue to play this way," said Elder, "I'm going to keep my sore back. Seriously, it doesn't hurt that much."
George Burns, former golf team captain at the University of Maryland, had 68 at Cypress Point to tie with Jack Nicklaus at 138. Nicklaus, making his 1977 debut, had his second straight, 69, at Monterey Peninsula.