Congressional Country Club and the Kemper Open people thought of everything.
Everything except bananas.
Bananas for the players on the first and 10th tees.
"We had apples and pears and granola bars," said Dee Esherick, a volunteer on the hospitality committee for the Kemper pro golf tournament that ends today. "But several players asked for bananas. For the potassium, they said."
"I'd be afraid to have many banana peels around," said Jocelyn Poerstel, the hospitality chairman.
Think about Arnold Palmer sliding on a banana peel as he hits a drive off the 10th tee.
Everything else, yes.
Does the touring pro want to see Jimmy Carter's house? The Kemper people set up a White House tour the day before the tournament started. Thirty-three players, wives and children had lunch in the Senate dining room, gawked at the Air and Space Museum and then went to the White House. r
Does the golfer want to leave his children somewhere for safekeeping while he tests his nerve and skill on Congressional's terrifying acres? The Kemper set up a day nursery at Mater Dei School, five minutes away. Does the golfer want to save a nickel? Forty Confressional members opened their homes for fellows who didn't want to stay in still another motel room. Need a ride? The courtesy car is on the way.
As the courtesy car enters the Congressional grounds, rolling past the white brick gatehouse and up a quarter-mile lane under a canopy of stately trees, there suddenly comes into view the massive stucco clubhouse with its distinctive red tile roof. The American flag hangs from a pole on the putting green at the club's front door.
"When you come up that driveway and you deal with the greeting committee -- many of whom worked on the PGA Tournament here in '76 -- you get the idea this Kemper Open is a little bigger event than our ordinary weekly tournament," said Jim Simons, 30, a touring pro eight seasons now.
"The Kemper at Congressional is a torunament that will be a highlight of our tour," said Hale Irwin, a twotime U.S. Open champion. "The crowds have been very receptive to us. Overall, I've had a postive feeling The Washington area can be proud of itself."
On the other hand . . . .
You can take your granola bars, apples and pears.
Give Jerry McGee an honest golf course.
McGee is the defending champion of the Kemper Open.
He has had a memorable week. On Wednesday he played in the pro-am with Gerald Ford. The rest of the time he has been wishing he was safe in that day-care center. Like several other players, McGee has a philosophical disagreement with this Congressional course as it has been prepared for the Kemper.
Which is a gentle way of saying the champ hates what they've done to the greens. The grass on the greens is sparse, the open spaces filled with dirt and sand. Once a putt begins rolling, there's no telling where it will stop -- or even if it will stop.
"What they've done with these hard, fast greens is ridiculous," McGee said. They're so bad that J.C. Snead said, "What greens?" Irwin said he had a particular feeling over a 12-foot putt. "Nauseous," he said. "If we played here every week," said Andy Bean, "I'd be an eight-handicap."
At 7,054 yards with several elevated greens demanding high, floating shots that are beyond the reach of most players, Congressional would be demanding enough if its greens were crushed velvet. When two par-5 holes -- nice, but not great par-5s -- are changed for the tournament into monstrous par-4s, it becomes even more difficult to score well.
Jerry McGee can't figure out why anyone would want to deny the world's best golfers a chance to show their gifts.
"Washington is supposed to be a golf-starved area," he said. "However I say this isn't going to sound right. We are guests here and everyone has been very nice. But we're suppossed to be entertainers and we can't entertain here.
"Why is it that golf is the only sport that is not allowed to advance? If Franco Harris gains 100 yards, they don't move the goal posts back the next week. If Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors are playing a classic match, they don't raise the net to six feet high. They don't put gravel on the infield for the World Series.
"I say Congressional's head groundkeeper on TV the other night. He said, 'I've got the greens right where I want 'em.' And he said it with a snicker. Well, why don't they just make every hole a par-3? Then we'd shoot some realy high scores.
"We just came from the Memorial tournament at Muirfield. Jack Nicklaus' course is a difficult as any in the world. Do you hear us bitching? No. The greens there are fair. They're fast, but they're good.They have grass on them. The greens here this week are not fair, in my opinion."
Seen from the 10th fairway, where it looms atop a hill, the cathedral-awesome Congressional clubhouse is a marker of the tournament's aspirations. It is grand. The place just goes on. It has eight residential apartments and 20 guest rooms on the third floor. It has an eight-lane bowling alley in the basement. Vince Lombardi donated the sauna equipment in the men's locker room. Does a touring pro need a massage? Congressional has a live-in masseuse.
Along with the grandness and with the legitimate griping of the pros, who know better than anyone the working conditions that will show off their talents, the customer who puts up his $16.50 for a one-day ticket to the grounds and clubhouse is given entree to an intriguing, encapsulated world. This is a world of irony, where nothing is what it seems.
What seems easy isn't. A golf tournament at Congressional? Just put down those little Capitol-dome tee markers and let Tom Watson play away? No. The Kemper has 950 volunteers working on a $1.2 million budget.
What seems glamourous isn't. The 156 players here come dressed in shirts the color of a Baskin-Robbins showcase. The players are tanned and lean and, mostly, blond. Beneath this veneer beats the heart of a coal miner. These guys are scuffling. Taking away the $30,000 in 1979.
The act of striking a golf ball, so pleasing to the eye when done well, such an economical use of force, can be so baffling that even the very best of players, even tournament winners, have no idea how to hit the damned ball straight. They use a computer to learn how to putt, and they beg for advice (and then resent it, for it further confuses).
If the pro tour is a circus of ironies, let us begin with raising of the tent -- with the Kemper insurance people who ponied up the $1.2 million it takes to run a $400,000 tournament.
Of the 950 volunteers doing everything from timing the length of rounds to driving courtesy cars to carrying apples to the 10th tee (sorry, no bananas), nearly 700 are Congressional members. The others come from 30 area clubs which flooded Ben Brundred, the tournament director, with offers of assistance.
Without such volunteer helpers, few PGA tournaments could make it. Put a pencil to it. If you pay these 950 volunteers a riduculous $5 an hour, say, and they work six-hour shifts in a 12-hour day for a full seven days, the payroll comes to $199,500.
"The Kemper people have been just great to us," said Poerstel, the hospitality chairman who is afraid Arnie might slip on a banana peel. "When we worked the PGA Tournament in 1976, we had to buy our own uniforms, for instance, and had to buy a daily ticket just to get into the club. My four children worked too, and it cost me $1,000 for the week -- and I never saw a shot."
Kemper furnished the uniforms for the volunteers this year at a cost of perhaps $40 each. Shirts, blouses, skirts and slacks cost more than that, of course, but it helps if your tournament apparel chairman is Dave Mullen, president of Woodward & Lothrop.
"When Dean Beman (the PGA commissioner) came to us and asked if we would put on a regular tour tournament, we said, 'No way,'" said Brundred, who had been chairman of the National PGA tournament in 1976. "We told him we'd take a major every 10 years or so. But then Dean came to us and discussed the community and charity aspects of it. You know, a country club is pretty expendable socially. So anything we could do to fulfill a community obligation, we ought to do. And we could help charity."
The Kemper, while in Charlotte, N.C. for eight years, never contributed more than $25,000 to charity. Congressional and the Kemper people now have guaranteed $100,000 -- with Congressional's half going to Children's Hospital, Heroes, Inc., the Boy Scouts, Salvation Army, the United States Olympic Committee, Cabin John Volunteer Fire Department and the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad.
"We've had 40 requests," Brundred said. "We're going to spread the money around over the years."
Once the big-top tent is up, it is time for the performers to do their tricks. The 156 players come to town by car and plane, caddies following, wives and children at their right hand, maybe 20 PGA staff people setting up the course and dealing with the 300 media people.
Sue Bryant's husband is Brad, 25, on tour for the fourth season, this year's 74th leading money winner with $24,422.
On Thursday, to help out a friend and make a few bucks on her own, Sue Bryant went to work at Congressional.
She checked equipment as the players came to the first tee. She looked in each golf bag. On a preprinted form she noted the brand name of the player's golf balls, his irons, woods, putter, shirt, shoes, pitching wedge and sand wedge.
"Just to be sure the players are using the equipment they're being paid to use," said Mrs. Bryant. "That, and also the survey lets manufacturers know what the demand is for."
If Mrs. Bryant is a coal miner's wife, Maria Floyd is an aristocrat among tour wives. Her husband Raymond is an 18-year veteran with over $1.2 million in earnings and a lifetime pass to all PGA tournaments because he won the 1969 PGA Championship (to say nothing of the '77 Masters).
"It's been a terrific week for us," Mrs. Floyd said.
She alternates her sons on the golf course. Robert, 4, walks 18 one day, and Raymond Jr., 5, walks the next.
"They're into golf the way other kids are into Sesame Street," she said. "Robert, tell the man what you shot the other day."
"No," said the curly-haired, tanned child about half the height of a one-iron.
"He uses cut-off clubs for children," the mother said. "Tell the man, Bobby."
"Sixty-four," Bobby said, before thinking about it and saying, "Sixty-two." Pause, and "Sixty."
The kid is learning fast.
The Floyds are staying here at the home of their closest friends, Mr. and Mrs. Billy Martin. "We're not struggling to take the children with us, the way some of the younger players and wives have to," Mrs. Floyd said. Maybe 20 couples carry infants with them on tour, turning Marriotts into nursuries all over America.
One wife, Jane Betley, goes to extraordinary lengths to help her husband bob, play the tour.
She caddies for him.
Bobby Nichols won the 1964 PGA championship. In 20 seasons on tour, Nichols, 44, won 11 other tournaments and nearly $1 million. This spring Firestone Country Club in Akron let Nichols go as its club pro, saying it couldn't afford his $30,000 salary anymore. Now Nichols is on the tour full time. He has earned $7,250 this year.
What he once took for granted he now is baffled by. He can't swing the golf club. He is shooting 78 as often as 72. At lunch in the grill at Congressional, he looked around the room and said, "I've had a lesson from every guy in here."
Once it was so easy. In '64, a maonth after winning the Pga, he won the Carring World Open by a shot over Arnold Palmer, with Gary Player and Ben Hogan next in line. Now, Bobby Nichols is lost, a man without a swing.
"There's not a guy in this room that hasn't tried to help me," he said."The more you listen, though, the more confused you get. I just can't believe this is happening to me. I never thought I'd come to this. I can't get the club back right. One time I get it here, one time there. I used to shoot 74s but then I'd shoot 71 and get back in the game.
"But 78s and 80s -- now I can't get back in the game."
Jim Simons thinks a computer has made him a better putter. Not only did he pay $1,500 for the gadget -- it's called Teacher Alignment Computer (TAC) -- he invested money in the small company that produces the thing. The company, Sunmark, Inc., is owned by Dave Polz, a former space program engineer who lives in Laurel.
TAC tells the putter if he has the putter blade lined up square to the intended line. The gadget sits on the floor, or on the green, and shines an electric eye on the putter. A system of lights tells how much from square the blade is. Five lights equals one of degree. At eight feet, one degree means you will miss the putt outside the hole.
"Anybody that pays $1,500 for something has gotta believe in it," Simons said. "There's no question it has helped me. The first time I set up in front of it, it blew my mind. I had no idea I was that far from square. If somebody had told me -- instead of a computer telling me -- I'd have never believed it."
Now Jim Simons has a TAC that he uses to practice putting in his motel room.
And Jerry McGee bought one this week to use at his new home in East Palatine, Ohio, where his basement floor was poured with four golf holes in it.