Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman were in town yesterday to announce plans for a new area Senior PGA Tour tournament, but most folks at the news conference were still talking about Jack Nicklaus' Masters victory Sunday at age 46.
Palmer, who missed the cut at the Masters, said he sent a telegram to Nicklaus yesterday. "I congratulated him and asked him if he had any message for a 56-year-old," Palmer said.
Three of golf's foremost ambassadors gathered at the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City to announce the inaugural $600,000 Chrysler Cup, planned for Sept. 4-7 at the new Tournament Players Club at Avenel stadium course in Potomac. Palmer likened the "United States versus the World" team concept to a Ryder Cup for senior golfers.
Palmer, one of golf's most popular players, will be playing captain for the eight-man U.S. team, which will include Washington's Lee Elder, Don January, Gene Littler, Miller Barber, Billy Casper and two others to be named later.
Player, who will team with Palmer in the Legends tournament later this month in Texas, will captain the "World" foreign-born team of international stars such as Peter Thomson (five-time British Open winner), Roberto De Vicenzo, Bruce Crampton, Harold Henning, Neil Coles, Al Balding and another to be named.
The Chrysler Cup, which will play in Washington only once before moving to other sites, will be televised by ABC. It will be the first real competitive test for Avenel, which will become permanent home of the regular PGA Tour's Kemper Open next year.
"I think it's a very exciting format," Palmer said of the four-day event to consist of foursome best-ball, followed by individual match play duels, individual medal play matches and an 18-hole medal play finish. Each member of the winning team will receive $50,000, each loser $25,000.
"All the people in Washington will thoroughly enjoy it," Palmer said. "Anyone who thinks the U.S. team will walk away with this, that is not the case . . . The guys are extremely good strikers of the golf ball."
Beman said grading and seeding at Avenel is completed and Director of Golf Jim Seeley said approximately 400 members will be able to play the course starting June 1.
"We think there will be no better golf facility in the world," Beman said. "It's built for spectators and is a fine test of golf [par 71]. With creeks going through it, it is a breathtaking piece of property."
The Kemper will be played for the last time at Congressional, May 26-June 1, before taking a permanent home at nearby Avenel.
The PGA Tour has been busy building several TPC stadium golf courses, distinguished by mounds and grandstands enabling spectators to look down on the action.
Player said the senior tour is "getting bigger and bigger. By next year this tour will be playing for $8 million. The camaraderie is far greater than the regular tour, and there are so many household names."
Player said he has won 132 golf tournaments, including nine "majors" and three Masters. "I also finished second in the Masters three times, which only my dog knows about."