About 14,000 persons paid $13 each to watch Jack and Arnie and Lee and 60 guys named Joe play a round of golf the other day in the Professional Golfers Association national championship tournament.
That brings up a question.
Why use money that might be well spent - $13 will buy six six-packs of your favorite beer - for the aggravation of watching a golf tournament? At a football game, you can see every decapitation. Home runs fly out of baseball stadiums before your very eyes. You're close enough to see the varicose veins of basketball players. But golf?
Golf is the only game you pay $13 to see and then can't see a thing. By working your legs off, by being devious enough and obnoxious enough to shove your way in front of the other paying customers, by drawing up a precise plan of where you want to be at every minute, maybe then you can see your hero hit four shots all day.
Someone else's hero may be winning the tournament and when your friends ask if you saw the PGA tournament, you say, "Er, uh, well, I heard the gallery once when he bounced a shot off a seal and through the ice plant and onto the green.It sounded nice."
Because it is impossible to truly see a golf tournament being won, an amateur psychologist (blush) concludes that people pay their $13 only to see - disaster.
Out of shame, the costomer may claim to be on the grounds to witness the majesty of pure golf shots. He may say he's there to be awed, and we ought to believe him, because the pros are awe-inspiring. But as somebody surely said once, a little awe goes a long way.
Give us disaster.
Hackers of the world pay their $13 in hopes that Nicklaus will encounter disaster. They want to see him suffer as they do at Hidden Meadows Valley Pine Oaks C.C. That's why Danny Edwards is so big this week.
Edwards six-putted the 14th green in the first round.
The PGA press officials, on the mistaken notion that the world wants to know only how Jack shot another 64, chases down and brings to an interview room only the makers of miracles.
Give us the six-putters.
"I had a 20-footer for a birdie there," Edwards said.
Then the wonderful began.
The hole at the 14th green that day was cut into the side of a mound. Dave Hill four-putted from 15 feet. Ed Sneed had a three-footer for a birdie - and then a 15-footer for a par.
So Edwards was in for some delightful trouble. "I knew I didn't have any chances to stop it near the hole," he said. "So I tried to make it."
His putt went 35 feet past the hole.
And off the green.
Edwards then putted back, going three feet above the cup.
And then he putted back off the green.
Don't you just love it?
"It took me three more to get the ball in, Edwards said. "I'd never even four-putted on tour before."
A few hours later, he did that, too.
On the first hole, he was 15 feet from the cup.
"When you roll a couple past the hole 35 and 40 feet, like I did on 14, you have a tendency to leave the next few putts short," Edwards said with a chuckle.
His first putt was three feet short. The second was three feet past the hole. The fourth putt was a tap-in.
A lot of absolutely wonderful things happen at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Dale Douglass once took 19 shots trying to get his ball off the beach and back on the golf course. Arnold Palmer once hit a shot so poorly the club named a drink after it: "Arnold on the rocks." Ice plant is an innocent-looking thing that hugs the ground, and clings to golf balls with clutches of iron. Hackers cheered the other day when Lee Trevino whacked a shot out of ice plant and climbed off the rocks shaking his hands as if he'd just swung a club against a steel pipe.
That's what brings the $13 customers out in the dust and wind and heat and chill and rain and mist that makes Pebble Beach an adventure in meteorology. They want to see players who are the very best in the world fail. They want to see these demigods botch up shots that any normal, 14-handicapper could make easily. How many times, after all, does a 14-handicapper six-putt?
As it happens, two 14-handicap players figure Pebble Beach is a piece of cake. On days when he's not out supplying the world with bogeys and double bogeys, Art Spander is a sports writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Ira Miller takes vacations from the links to tap out sports stories for United Press International.
"I could break 94 here," Miller said when sadists gloated over the 94 recorded by a club pro from Hawaii. "I couldn't play in this tournament because I'd have to give too many guys strokes."
"Me too," said Spander modestly.
A third 14-handicapper (blush) thought his colleagues were out of their ever-hacking minds.
"All the money I've got, which is $7.12, says you guys couldn't break 94 at Pebble Beach if you played here every day for the next month," the third chop-slasher said.
They insisted they could, tribute more to the evening's wine than their good sense. Anyway, it moved the third divot-digger to a reverie of what he might do at this golf course if, by some act of divine intervention, he played decently for a change.
The absolute best result would be 97.
And that is without hitting a single shot into the ocean.
That is without hitting a single shot into a sand trap.
That is hitting every single shot flush, on the screws, in the sweet spot.
Should this hacker happen to mis-hit a shot now and then, should he send one winging right or snapping left, should he three-putt ocassionally on greens that Danny Edwards, a tour tournament winner, sixputts - should anything as usual as that happen, this hacker might shoot 137. Coasting.