It was at Pebbie Beach during the PGA Championship that some people on the 19th drinking hole were talking about how terrific it must to be a touring pro and make $200,000 to $300,000 a year.
Nobody, of course, ever looks at the bottom line - the young assistant pros who find themselves a sponsor and decide to follow the sun.
The PGA tour keeps a computerized record of every golfer who goes after the money. The Washington area has seven representatives on tour, counting Lee Elder and George Burns, who lives in Florida. Burns is considered "local" because he was co-captain of the University of Maryland golf team five years ago and still calls his old coach, Frank Cronin, for advice and counsel.
Elder, a tour veteran, no longer struggles to make his living on the tour. But for others, it is a different story.
The area pros on tour, in addition to Elder and Burns, include Chris Pigott, Chevy Chase; Rick Meissner, who worked at East Potomac and Rock Creek; Mark Alwin, Columbia Country Club, and Mel Rifman, Chestnut Ridge.
One who tried the tour for 2 1/2 years and went back to being a club pro at the Naval Academy is Larry Ringer, who made the cut in the PGA Championship and would have been exempt for the Westchester Classic. But he chose to return to his job.
How are they done? Let's start with Pigott. He has tried to qualify for 11 tournaments, failed in seven, missed the cut in three and tied for 42d at Oklahoma City - for which he received no money. However, he did win $135 in a mini-tournament.
"It's a tough life," said Pigott, "I belong to the rabbits. That is the group that has to show up every Monday morning to qualify while the pros who have it made can pick up a check for an exhibition or a clinic. And then, when I do qualify, the field is formidable. But I'm not afraid of the tour.
It takes a while and I feel I have the game to make it."
Like most of the young pros who decide to try the tour, Pigott has a modest sponsorship. He'll stay on the tour until his money runs out, although that may not be too long.
Meissner has attempted to qualify for 12 tournaments and hasn't made a penny. He did not qualify in eight events, he was cut once, disqualified once and withdrew once. He finished 80th at Tallahasse, out of the money, money.
Rifman, a fine player in the Middle Atlantic section, also has tried to qualify for 12 events. He failed to make the field in 10 missed the cut in one and received no money for finishing 72d at Oklahoma City.
Alwin, in his first year on the tour, has done much better. He has attempted to play in 24 tournaments, did not qualify 10 times, was cut in eight, finished out of the money once and received money five times. He has earned $2,409.12 and has a stroke average of 73.7, which isn't bad, but isn't good either.
On the other hand, Burns, who joined the tour in the fall of 1975, earned $6,344 for the few months he played that year. He made $85,732 in 1976 and, thus far, including a purse of $2,700 in the recent PGA, he has earned $85,707 this year.
"It isn't easy," Burns said. "These guys (on the tour) can play. I like competition and I think playing with so many fine golfers has sharpened my game and given me a new incentive."
Mary Alice Canney, wife of Dick Canney, head pro at Chantilly, has combined home life with the tour ( the Canney's have four children). As Mary Alice Sawyer, an amateur, she went to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Women's Amateur at Darien, Conn., in 1970. She also was a runner-up for the national junior title and won numerous tournaments, including the Maryland and Virginia state women's championships.
"I play from six to nine tournaments a year, when the children are in school," she said. "The first year I tried the tour I didn't make anything. I played the four for four years - not consecutively. I made expenses a couple of times but that was it.
"It cost me $250 a week to go on the tour and that included $100 for the caddie - the bare minimum. I know it costs the men more because they have to take their families along.
"The women used to have it easier because they really weren't that many top players around. But that's changed, too. The men's tour has so many super players its discouraging for any young pro breaking in. Many times the unknown women on the tour like me make toast and such in their room to save expenses and avoid the hassle of trying to get breakfast every morning.
"On the tour, everything is geared to golf. At home, golf is merely another part of life and must be fitted in with my husband and the children."
Ringer was on the tour for 2 1/2 years and made $11,000. "A combination of tthing forced me to quit the tour," the Annapolis pro said. "For one thing, I developed a bad back, which seems to be an occupational hazard with the pros now.
"I think you've got to give these guys on the tour a couple of years to establish themselves. I enjoyed the tour but it was very expensive. But then, if I hadn't tried the tour, I would have regretted it all my life. But it cost me $46,000 to make $11,000. I won $500 at the PGA, but that cost me $1,500 in expenses."
Unlike many other sports, a golfer who makes $85,000 from purses doesn't have nearly that much in take-home pay, although many expense items are tax deductible. Unlike the baseball or football or basketball player, the pro golfer gets no meals, no transportation and no hotel accommodations on "the company." He doesn't get any insurance or retirement benefits, either.
The rule of thumb is that it costs the tour pro $35,000 a year at current prices to stay on the circuit.
Larry Wise had a good job at Congressional Country Club but the desire to go out and try the tour was too much for him. He tried it for a couple of years and made less than $2,000. So he retired to go into the more lucrative and secure business and selling clothes to golf shops.