More than 10,000 persons followed Lee Elder and Lee Trevino through sudden death Sunday in Milwaukee.
"Go get 'em, Lee!" and "Come on, Lee!" came the cry through eight extra holes, prompting Trevino to pause at one point and ask his Washington rival. "Who the hell do you think they're yelling for?"
The last cheers were for Elder, who two-putted from 20 feet for a par while Trevino missed from six feet - after having blasted out of a trap - for a bogey. The victory was the third for Elder in 11 years on the PGA Tour.
"It has to be my biggest thrill," Elder said yesterday. "I led . . . or was tied for the lead all the way (of the four day tournament). There was pressure, against one of the best pressure players in the business. Lee is playing so well. He's always right there theese days.
"We both were cautious. Neither of us wanted to make the little mistake that would make all the difference. And, frankly, I thought it was all over for me on the second playoff hole. That's where Lee had a five-foot putt that would have won it. I felt he'd make it.It was straight up. I said to my caddy, 'Well, it looks like we've lost another tough one.' But Lee said later he pulled the putt, and that kept us going."
"You Know," Elder added, "Sudden death is different. You kinda play the man instead of the golf course. You hope to be able to capitalize on the smallest mistake, It can change your thinking. It can make you cautious, or it can make you a little more aggressive than usual in certain situations."
Elder earned $30,000 from the $150,000 offered by the Greater Milwaukee Open, and gained revenge for his playoff defeat by Trevino in the 1972 Hartford Open.
"The money is always nice. It means I'm around $59,000 for the year and I'm anxious to get back over $100,000 again, like I've done twice before," Elder said. "I was down to $79,000 last season. It's always your aim to finish among the top 60 on the tour.
"But it also means I'm automatically eligible for the major tournaments like the Masters and the Open I missed the top 24 in the Masters this year by three shots and the top 16 in the Open by two. I pressed a little in the last round both days, knowing a higher finish would get me back in each tournament next year."
Now Elder can relax a little and enjoy the tour's demanding life. His previous successes were at Pensacola in 1974 and Houston in 1976.
"The competition keeps getting tougher all the time. It's stronger now than it was just a few years ago." Elder remarked. "Nobody can doubt that. When I first started out, there were a handful of top players. Beat them and you won. Now there are so many good young players you can't keep track of all of them. No matter what you shoot somebody comes in lower, it seems.
"That's why Milwaukee meant so much for me. When you haven't won in a couple of years and you know the competition is getting stronger all the time you sometimes begin to doubt you'll ever win again. The thrill of winning, then, is the idea that is so rewarding."
Elder led by two shots Sunday with three holes to play.
"That's when my mind started to wander a little," he said. "I began thinking it was a cakewalk. I started talking to my caddy. Started thinking about playing Augusta and the Tournament of Champions. Things like that."
Whereupon Elder bogeyed the 16th hole, Trevino birdied the 18th and Elder found himself in another memorable playoff.
Playoffs are nothing new to Elder, of course. He gained national recognition as a rookie although losing to Jack Nicklaus in an extended American Classic at Fireston in 1968. A national television audience saw that overtime skirmish, lasting five holes. The Hartford playoff in '72 also was on TV.
Milwaukee's long march was not televised, although it is doubtful any network would have stayed plugged into nearly another half a round of unsche- duled golf. The tour's playoff record, incidentally, saw Cary Middlecoff defeat Lloyd Mangrum on the 11th extra hole in the 1949 Motor City Open in Detroit.
"It would have been an exciting playoff to see in Milwaukee," Elder said. "But there is plenty of televising of the tournaments I'll be in during the next month or so. Usually I don't play more than three tournaments in a row. But I'm going out for five straight after taking off this week (from the Quad City Open in Illinois).
"I'll be playing Philadelphia, Hartford, the PGA at Oakmont, pleasant Valley and Westchester. I've taken some good money out of several of those in past years and the big money is there again during this period."