Some are there to pick up tips to improve their games, some walk the course agonizing as their husbands try to make the rent, others are content to simply star-gaze as they follow the fortunes and misfortunes of the players in the Kemper Open at Congressional. Several Washington Post staff writers spent yesterday in the Kemper gallery. Their reports follow.
You could tell by the size of his gallery that there was only one real star at Congressional Country Club yesterday.
Jack Nicklaus. It was his first appearance at the Kemper Open in the three years the event has been held at Congressional. Nicklaus teed off at 8:40 yesterday, and by 9, at the 14th hole, they were standing nine-deep.
"The crowd is tremendously larger and more excited than I've seen on any previous Thursday here," said Marie Wexler, from Great Falls, who followed Nicklaus for much of the morning. "I normally just sit at the sixth and wait to see everybody come through. But I just had to follow Jack. He said he's going to cut his schedule back after this year, so this may be the last time I get to see him. He's a real star."
Nicklaus was even par after the first nine holes, but took his gallery through various emotions during two hours.
When his 18-foot birdie-putt attempt on the 14th appeared to be a perfect shot, the crowd swelled and cries of "Gorgeous putt, Jack" rose. But when the ball lipped out, the sigh from the letdown was almost as loud.
When Nicklaus' drive on the 17th landed 15 feet from the cup, someone shouted, "Just like the good ol' days, Jack." But there was disappointment again when he missed his third straight birdie putt. Nicklaus put his hands on his hips, and stared at the green.
Then at 18, what everybody had been waiting impatiently for finally happened. Nicklaus' second shot fell 15 feet from the pin, and he sank the subsequent birdie putt to pull even. The ovation was jarring. "That made up for the previous putting," Wexler said, finally fulfilled.