In the official PGA 1978 tour guide there is the notation, "Golf Honors Its Own." On that pride-taking theme, the listing shows that Julius Boros was voted into the pro Hall of Fame four years ago.
Boros' credits were impressive enough: winner of two U.S. Opens and, to prove his durability, the PGA title at age 48. Twice the leading money winner on the pro tour, and twice voted PGA Golfer of the Year.
Golf proudly honors its own? Hogwash and drivel. They ought to recover that boast and bury it in shame. They've just dishonored both Boros and themselves. They've just dumped Julius Boros and told him, in effect, to go back to rookie school with the other tour rabbits and learn how to play the game.
The Tournament Policy Board has lifted his lifetime exemption from qualifying in the events despite the understanding Boros and other champs were always given would be their right when they won a PGA or an Open title. Boros is merely a symbol of what the policy board has done. Similarly banished from the honored exempt ranks are more than a dozen other aging PGA and U.S. Open winners, and they're suing right now in a Texas court.
For those who haven't won a PGA or Open in the last 10 years, no more theluxury of walking into a tournament and saying you've come to play, like they used to. Unless they can show $667 average in winnings per tournament, get back there with the young, strong, hungry rookies on Monday and try to win a qualifying place, even if your name is Julius Boros or Sam Snead. And if you fail three times tin the qualifying, forget it for the rest of the year. This doesn't apply to the rookies, who are permitted to qualify every week.
Besides Boros and Snead, former champions like Jackie Burke and Ken Venturi and Bob Rosburg and the Hebert brothers got the bad news and have joined the lawsuit, along with sympathizer immortal Gene Sarazen, who also thinks it's a dirty shame.
These old boys, who helped build the tour into the $10 million pot that it is, got the brutal news about themselves in an ugly way. They read it in the PGA Tour Newsletter in November. The policy board was showing a lot of class there.
Such as Boros and Snead and some of the others aren't completely shut out because as gallery attractions they can easily command one of the eight sponsor invitations available in each tournament. But Boros says that's demaning, to go begging for a sponsor invitation after always being led to believe he had automatic exemption for winning a PGA or Open title.
Like Snead and his sweet swing Boros is a special attraction. A huge, kindly bear of a man who delights galleries with his no-fuss, no-muss, walk-up-and-hit-the-ball style of play. As the fastest draw on the tour, he spawned a great cult of admirera weary of Jack Nicklaus' dawdling and the slavish copy-cats Nicklaus inspired. Boros was a reminder that there is a simpler way to play the game.
One of the more bitter pros who, like Boros, has lost his lifetime exemptions, is Jackie Burke. The 55-year-old burke, a former PGA champ, is now one of the most affluent pros with his ownership, with partner Jimmy Demaret, of the famed Champions Course in Houston.
Burke is now saying the things from which gentle Julius refrained. "It's a dirty business that they did," said Burke, who was voted into the pro Hall of Fame in 1975. "I don't want to paly on the tour, but I want my rights. I don't need their money, but I feel for the old guys who still want to participate." Like Boros, who says he only wants to play when the tour comes to his Florida neighborhood, Burke says he has a hankering to play only in one or two of the Texas tour events "just to enjoy the feel of being out there and perhaps reminding some of my Texas friends I used to play the game pretty well."
"When I won the PGA, they gave me three things, (1) a check for $6,000, (2) a nice trophy and (3) what everybody was told was a lifetime exemption. I told Deane Beman (pro tour commissioner) I'd give them back the check and teh trophy willingly but I want that lifetime exemption they said was mine."
The policy committee voted to end the exemptions for guys who had not won a PGA or Open in 10 years because they said too many doddering old-timers who no longer could keep up were cluttering up the entry list and crowding ambitious younger golfers out of places.
"Nonsense," Burke said. "That only happens in a few tournaments, and if it comes to an uneven number because some exemptee decide to play, they usually add an extra place to make it an even field, so some rookie gets a break."
Houston attorney Jack McConn is pressing the suit against the PGA and the policy board. He is Burke's brother-in-law. He says he has not yet found any formal, written documents that exempted champions from qualifying for life. "But there are enough scraps of writing in different sources that confirm the life exemptions. Of course, they can change the rules, and that's what they did."
Even Boros hinted softly that Beman influenced the vote that led to the stripping of lifetime exemptions rights that "Beman was behind it, I'm sure. He's always trying to restructure things to earn that $165,000 salary they pay him, and to keep his big staff busy, somehow."
Burke recalled that Beman last summer tired, and failed, to get a new seven-year contract from the tour pros "plus a raise to $250,000, I think. He had delusions that he deserved to be up there with the other big shot commissioners, Pete Rozelle and Bowie Kuhn. But Beman is presiding over only a small-change $10 million business. Any one of Rozelles 26 teams does that much gross."
Another old pro tossed this one at Beman: "When Beman himself was trying to make it on the pro tour, after winning the U.S. Amateur, he was getting plenty of help from his old getting plenty of help from his old amateur pal, Jack Nicklaus. Beman didn't have to qualify much. He was getting one of those sponsor invitations regularly, with th great Nicklaus in his corner. I can tell you that the other young pros were bitter about that and ready to revolt at that kind of favoritism.
An attempt has been made to gain Beman's views on these reports. A person-to-person telephone call to his Bethesda, Md., office has not been answered.