Tom Weiskopf quit in the middle of the ninth hole of the Kemper Open pro-am at Congressional Country Club yesterday, walked off the course without apologizing to any of the four amateurs who had paid $8,000 to play with him, then immediately withdrew from the tournament and flew home to Phoenix.
"I'm withdrawing for personal reasons. That's all I'm going to say. I have no other comment. If the president can say 'No comment,' then so can I," said Weiskopf, standing in front of the clubhouse waiting for a Kemper courtesy car to take him back to his motel.
This was the third consecutive tournament in which Weiskopf has made a quick exit for personal reasons. Weiskopf flew to Dallas in May for the Colonial Invitational, then left before the first round without officially entering. Last week at Jack Nicklaus' Memorial Tournament in Muirfield, Ohio, Weiskopf, who is not injured but has played poorly since the Masters, shot an 80 in the first round, then withdrew.
One of Weiskopf's friends on the tour, who asked not to be mentioned by name, said that Weiskopf was going through a particularly difficult personal time, weighing the demands of family, marriage and two young children against the demands of playing the tour at the age of 39.
"When he's at home, he wants to be out here (playing) and when he's on tour, he gets lonely and depressed and wants to go back home," said the friend. "The point is, he has to be able to make up his mind. You don't fly all the way here for no reason, then turn around and fly back. This time, 'personal problems' actually is the right phrase."
Weiskopf's exodus was particularly unexpected because he has had more success in the Kemper Open than in any other tournament during his long and controversial career, during which he has won $2 million. He won the Kemper three times in Charlotte (N.C.) and finished second here last year.
"Something like this cuts at least three ways," said Kemper Open general chairman Bob Miller of Congressional. "On one hand, you have four amateurs who have paid a minimum of $1,800 each (some more) and who have specifically chosen Weiskopf to play with when their names were drawn (by lot). It can't be good to have him walk off the course on them in the middle of a round.
"Second, the sponsor (The Kemper Group) has to be concerned because they have used Weiskopf as one of their major drawing cards in their advertising. 'Personal reasons' is a very unspecific cause for withdrawing.
"Third, and probably most important, this can't be good for the PGA. Deane Beman (PGA commissioner) has to be concerned about his product's credibility."
Dale Antram, an assistant to Beman, said, "He (Weiskopf) would have needed to communicate with the sponsor and with our staff members there. An exempt player can't withdraw without the permission of the sponsor."
According to the four amateurs in Weiskopf's group--David Cohn, Frank Sirch, Phillip Linaugh and Bill Hulse--Weiskopf did not introduce himself to any of them; they, instead, initiated the preround introductions. During the nine holes, he usually walked alone and said nothing to his group.
When he quit, telling his caddy to pick up a ball in the rough after his second shot, Weiskopf just walked toward the clubhouse, ignoring the four men.
"We picked Weiskopf because we thought we might learn something and have an enjoyable time," said Hulse. "We did learn something, I guess. About Weiskopf."
However, one of the players--David Cohn-- said, "I've always admired Weiskopf and liked him. . . I was determined to get something out of it, one way or the other, so, I talked to him a good bit.
"Actually, I felt bad for him. He said that he really missed his family and that he was tired of being on the road 30 weeks a year. He said he was just emotionally and physically drained. All you had to do was look at him to see that," continued Cohn.
In March, Weiskopf, who's currently 33rd on the money list with $65,071 in earnings, skipped his commitment to play in the pro-am at Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Classic. The four amateurs who had specifically signed up because they wanted to play with Weiskopf were, of course, upset. When Weiskopf heard of it, he was so chagrined that, two weeks later before the Tournament Players Championship, he flew from Jacksonville to Orlando and spent a day playing golf with the four men, treating them to dinner.
As Weiskopf stood, waiting for his ride, he was asked why he would not offer an explanation.
"By leaving it this way, you're just creating questions about yourself," someone said.
"I don't care," said Weiskopf, both angry and resigned. "By now, I'm used to it."