ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND, JULY 17 -- As the holder of the British Open title, Mark Calcavecchia has added several numerals to his bank account, slapped an expensive watch on his wrist and stuck some silk wallpaper in his new house. But there is just so much cleaning up he will stand for, and nobody can pry the worn sneakers off his feet or remove the slouch from his posture.
There is a part of Calcavecchia that still wants to wear a beer cap and talk like a welder, vestiges of that guy who stayed in motel dives for five years while he bounced on and off the golf tour from 1981 to 1985 before establishing himself.
Calcavecchia's British Open playoff victory at Royal Troon last year, for his first major championship, represented an incongruous marriage between the oldest and courtliest trophy and one of the sport's younger and rougher-necked loudmouths. A year as a major champion has added luster to his name, but no pretensions.
"It hasn't changed me," he said. "It's changed a little bit of my life, but it hasn't changed me inside, or the way I dress on an airplane. I mean, I wore my sneakers and my jeans and my shirt; I'm not going to put on a jacket and a tie just to fly over here. What it's done is bumped me up in the world of golf, and that's where I'm looking to go."
A 30-year-old from West Palm Beach, Calcavecchia is cheerfully vulgar and immensely wealthy. The title lifted his fee for appearances into six figures and gave him a fistful of lucrative new contracts. Accordingly, he has not hesitated to spend freely, recently buying a $2 million house in Phoenix. The only things he hasn't acquired since the British Open of 1989 are a lofty new personality or another victory, with six frustrating second places this season.
Calcavecchia was leaning out of his hotel window today at St. Andrews -- where he will attempt to defend his title beginning on Thursday -- when one of those loudmouth impulses struck him. As he watched a well-groomed cadre of Ben Crenshaw, Paul Azinger and Payne Stewart practicing on a green beneath him, what Calcavecchia wanted to do was take his silver claret British Open trophy and hold it out the window and bellow down, "Hey, is this what you boys are after?"
He stopped himself just in time. "It was a bad thought," he said. It was part of the same streak that caused him to appear at St. Andrews this morning, casually late and jet-lagged. The par-72 Old Course is said to require knowledge to score well, and Calcavecchia has shot exactly eight rounds on it in his life, but that does not matter to a player who thinks he could get around in even par with a baseball bat.
He is just mildly impressed by the place, saying, "I sort of chuckled to myself and said, 'Hey, this is neat.' " His stature as defending champion doesn't imbue him with gentlemanliness all of a sudden, either, or make him any more interested in the exalted ancient lore of the game, which he can take or leave.
"It doesn't really interest me who did what way back then, like who won in 1888, whatever his name is; it's on the trophy but I can't remember it," he said.
What he is really into, at 6 feet and 200 pounds, is hitting those "murdered" drives and "real juicers" onto the greens. His '89 title at Troon, coming from behind to win a playoff over Greg Norman and Wayne Grady, merely legitimized his status as a major player.
He also is a popular, watchable one, routinely among the longest and most aggressive hitters on tour, averaging 272 yards off the tee and leading the American PGA Tour in birdies.
His driver leaps out of his bag seemingly of its own accord, and against his better judgment.
"It's more a reflex deal, how I'm feeling, how I'm swinging," he said. The trouble it gets him into is countered by a surprising deftness and range with his other clubs. He is a trick shot artist who can stand in a bunker facing away from the green and spin the ball over his head onto the green.
With the prestige of a major championship added to his natural charisma, he became a prime candidate for every kind of endorsement.
He immediately received an offer of $125,000 to play an event in Japan. He signed a $400,000 deal to use eight Tommy Armour clubs for three years, plus a short-term visor-and-watch agreement with the toney Ebel. Recently he received $100,000 guarantees to show up at the Irish and Dutch open tournaments.
The steady flow of money into his bank account has not ceased to amaze him. He told his wife, Sheryl, who caddies part time for him when she is not attending to their infant daughter, "Who are we to say no?"
But it also has given him some uncomfortable moments, as when he flew to the Irish Open knowing he wasn't playing well, just hoping to make the cut and not incur the wrath of organizers. He finished second.
"I wouldn't pay me that kind of money," he said. "I guess other people value my appearance more than I do. The fact that people pay me all this money just to show up and play golf is still a little beyond me."
The financial compensation -- he also is third in Tour earnings with $717,754 -- has only in part made up for a vaguely unsatisfying year competitively. His six runner-up finishes have come in all manner of circumstances.
At the Doral Open he bogeyed the 18th hole and lost to Greg Norman in a playoff. At the Honda Classic he three-putted the 16th hole and lost to John Huston by two strokes. He lost the Players to Jodie Mudd by a stroke.
His most frustrating moment came at the Hartford Open when "I flat blew it," he said. He lost a two-stroke lead with two holes to go, double-bogeying the 17th by hitting his approach shot into a lake.
It was compounded by some nagging physical problems, like a broken little toe on his left foot, which he suffered by tripping in his new Jacuzzi. He had to wear an open-toed shoe for a few weeks, then he partly dislocated his shoulder.
Finally, he is well again. So he arrived at St. Andrews with the conclusion that he is rich, healthy and largely happy -- with one reservation.
"I'd give back every cent to win it again," he said.