Roberto De Vicenzo, R. I. P.

The great Argentinian golfer Roberto De Vicenzo, who died this week, at the age of ninety-four, is probably best known for his second-place finish in the 1968 Masters, an outcome that has long been viewed as one of the most heartbreaking in tournament golf. It has also been one of the most grotesquely misunderstood. De Vicenzo that year signed a scorecard for his final round which added up to one stroke more than he had actually shot. (The original error had been made by Tommy Aaron, who kept de Vicenzo’s card and marked him for a four on the seventeenth hole rather than the three he had in fact made. De Vicenzo didn’t notice the mistake at the time or when checking his card before signing it immediately following his round.) The rules of golf dictated unequivocally that the higher score had to stand. That kept De Vicenzo out of a tie for first place with Bob Goalby, who became the winner. “What a stupid I am,” De Vicenzo said. The Masters film that year showed Goalby finding and correcting an error on his own scorecard—a scene that made De Vicenzo’s moment of inattention seem all the more poignant.

To be kept out of a Masters playoff by a clerical error concerning a score that no one disputed has always seemed so regrettable that, half a century later, sportswriters and others still brood about the ruling. A columnist in Golf World suggested in 1997 that Augusta National should have ignored the rules and thereby created a tie, or that Goalby should have refused his green jacket and insisted on a playoff, whether official or not. Others have disparaged the club for not writing a rule of its own. Charles Sifford even suggested that De Vicenzo’s second-place finish might have been the result of prejudice, against a non-American player, by Clifford Roberts, the club’s co-founder and chairman.

The notion that the club should have imposed a rule of its own has a certain emotional appeal but is hard to understand. Roberts and Bobby Jones cherished the club’s independence from golf’s major governing bodies, but both believed in the rule book—as they had demonstrated twenty years before, when they had helped to settle rule differences between the P.G.A. and the U.S.G.A. The Masters rules committee has always been headed by leading officials of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and the U.S.G.A., the two organizations responsible for governing the game. The ruling on De Vicenzo’s score was made not by Roberts or Jones but by the tournament’s chief rules official, Isaac Grainger, who had been the president of the U.S.G.A in 1954 and 1955. Grainger—who was born in 1895 and until his death, in 1999, at the age of a hundred and four, was the oldest living member of Augusta National—told me in 1998 that the De Vicenzo ruling was “the most difficult but also the easiest decision I ever had to make.” He added, “I took the precaution—although I knew the answer—of talking to Bob Jones and Cliff Roberts about it, down in the Jones Cottage. I knew what the answer was, but I wanted to be able to tell Roberto that it wasn’t my answer alone. It was really a very sad thing, because it eliminated the possibility of his winning the Masters in a playoff. But he was quite a gentleman. I remember I had dinner with him, and when we left the dining room and separated, he said to me, ‘I sorry I cause you so much trouble.’ That shows you what a sportsman he was. It was a very sad thing for him. And I remember that, when he finished on the eighteenth hole, his wife was so nervous she took hold of my hand, and she held my hand until he had putted out.”

It is true that television cameras had shown De Vicenzo birdying the seventeenth hole. But De Vicenzo, like every other player in the tournament, was accountable for the accuracy of his own card because only he was in a position to be certain of his true score. He felt stupid about his oversight, but he agreed with the ruling—as did the Argentina Golf Association, which wrote to Roberts to say that it not only supported Grainger’s decision but had made the same ruling itself with other players in tournaments of its own.

The accusation that Roberts was out to get De Vicenzo is even more absurd. The two men were close friends, and, in fact, during Masters week, De Vicenzo and his wife often stayed in the home of Wilda Gwin, who was one of Roberts’s secretaries at the club. De Vicenzo’s birthday fell on Masters Sunday in 1968, and the tournament staff, with Roberts’s assistance, had planned a surprise party for him. Kathryn Murphy, Roberts’s tournament secretary, told me that she had sadly thrown away the birthday cake when it became clear that holding the party was now out of the question.

Roberts always held a dinner for the tournament winner at the end of each Masters, and that night he broke convention by inviting De Vicenzo to attend as well. He worried that the outcome had harmed both men—by depriving De Vicenzo of a shot at the financial bonanza that followed a Masters win and by overshadowing the spectacular charge that Goalby had made in his own final round. Like all Masters winners, Goalby received a silver cigarette case on which had been engraved the signatures of all the players in the field. Roberts quietly had an identical box made for De Vicenzo as a private acknowledgment of his ordeal. Roberts also asked J. Richard Ryan, the attorney who handled the club’s television and movie contracts, to offer his services to both men as an agent—an occupation that had just begun to have an impact among the better players on tour. He especially hoped that Ryan could help De Vicenzo make up for opportunities he had foregone.

All these gestures—none of which were public—were entirely characteristic of Roberts. The somber face he wore on television as he explained the scorecard ruling belied the personal devastation he felt for both men. The tragedy, in his view, was that two exceptional performances had been overshadowed by a single careless mistake. He never doubted the correctness of the ruling, and he never regretted that it had been made. But he quietly worked behind the scenes to make things right for both men.

I Used My Awesome New Laser Rangefinder to Watch a Chipmunk Eating a Mouse

had an issue with the rubber eyepiece on my previous laser rangefinder. But my current rangefinder, a Bushnell Tour X, is great. It’s the same one Rickie Fowler uses:

tourx rickie fowler

It’s accurate and fast, it’s easy to focus, and the eyepiece is firmly attached. I can set the LED display to either black or red—a useful feature as light conditions change:

tourx modes.jpg

It gives my hand a satisfying “jolt” of haptic feedback when it locks onto a flagstick. And the battery life is seemingly measured in years. That fact alone makes it better than any GPS rangefinder, in my opinion. The Tour X comes with a hard zippered case that attaches to a golf bag and works pretty well, between shots, as a rangefinder holster:

P1170796.JPG

The Tour X is little too big to fit easily into my pants pocket—the only negative I can think of. I usually carry it in the compartment in the handle of my push cart, into which it just fits:

P1170632.JPG

The Tour X has a slope-reading feature. When you aim it at a target that’s higher or lower than you are and shoot the yardage, it tells you how much the change in elevation increases or decreases the effective distance. You can’t legally use that feature (or use a rangefinder that has that feature) in events that allow rangefinders. But you can disable it, making the Tour X legal, by changing the face plate. The red one turns the slope feature on; the black one turns it off:

tourx-w-face-plates.png

I’d always thought that measuring slope was kind of dorky, but my friend Ray, whose handicap is 3, told me that it’s actually very helpful. He uses during practice rounds, and says it’s quite accurate:

P1180803.JPG

Just remember to switch face plates before you play in a tournament. Ray forgot to do that before our Professional’s Cup, and he had to disqualify himself.

A Tour X is also useful for looking at stuff that’s too far away to see clearly with just your eyes. I’ve used mine to identify birds and distant golfers whose swings I didn’t recognize, and the other day I used it to get a closer look at a chipmunk that was sitting on a stone wall near our practice green and doing something I’d never seen a chipmunk doing before: eating a mouse:

P1180784.JPG

May Was Hole-in-One Month, Apparently

I was contacted recently by a lawyer who was looking for someone to serve as an expert witness in a lawsuit involving a hole-in-one prize. After last month, I almost qualify.

Eleven friends and I played Ballybunion, in Ireland, in early May. On the third hole, Addison made a hole-in-one from the back tee: 230 yards, downhill but into a stiff wind. My group was just leaving the fourth tee, and we watched his ball roll into the hole. There’s a plaque on the third tee commemorating a hole-in-one that Payne Stewart made from the same spot in 1998, the year before he died, during a buddies trip with Mark O’Meara and Tiger Woods. Here’s Addison:

IMG_0939-001

We returned home a week later, and in an effort to outsmart jet lag I pretty much went straight from the airport to my home course (after stopping by my house, briefly, to reintroduce myself to my wife). There were five of us, and on the seventh hole, which is slightly more than half as long as the third hole at Ballybunion, I made a hole-in-one:

P1180521-001Two weeks after that, Chris, during his first round ever with the Sunday Morning Group, made a hole-in-one on our twelfth hole, which is 185 yards long. Nobody in his group could see that far, so they weren’t sure his ball had really gone in until they got to the green. In the photo below, which was taken by Mike B., he’s retrieving his ball from the cup:
IMG_3717

And in the photo below, which was taken by me, Mike B. is taking the photo above:

P1180700-001

You can’t document these things too thoroughly (I learned from the lawyer who contacted me). Here’s my scorecard:

DLO Hole in one 5-11-2018.jpg

One thing to note: Chris is beaming in his photograph because if you make a hole-in-one during our regular Sunday morning game you receive $500 from the Slush Fund. And Addison is smiling in his photograph because if you make a hole-in-one during an SMG-sanctioned event (meaning one that everyone on the email list was invited to participate in) you receive $250 from the Slush Fund. And I’m sort of frowning in my photograph because that post-Ireland round of mine was a last-minute thing that nobody bothered to invite everyone else to—so my Slush Fund prize was $0.

P1180155-001

Jason Day Tests World’s Greatest Golf-course Feature

This past Monday, Bob G., an honorary member of the Sunday Morning Group, invited Peter A., Hacker (real name), and me to join him for a round at his home course, GlenArbor Golf Club, in Bedford Hills, New York. We arrived before Bob did, and when I went into the locker room to take a whiz I noticed that one of the lockers had been reserved for someone named Jason Day.

Amazingly, that Jason Day turned out to be the real Jason Day, the No. 1 player in the world. Nobody at the club had mentioned anything about it to Bob, but Day was there to take part in an outing conducted by one of his sponsors, RBC, the Royal Bank of Canada.

IMG<em>20160523</em>142532.jpg

The outing consisted of thirty-two youngish banker types, and the format was a shamble—a best-ball competition in which every player in a foursome plays his or her own ball from the foursome’s best tee shot. Day joined each group for one hole. Here he is, hitting a shot on a hole next to a lake:

hackerdayarrow

That’s not Day on the right, standing in the hazard; that’s Hacker, recovering from an unfortunate drive. Day is on the left, under the red arrow. We got a closer look at him when he and the final RBC foursome played the eighteenth, a 414-yard par 4. The second half of that hole plays almost vertically up a steep hill, toward the clubhouse. Day had to hit is tee shot from the way-back tee, but his drive still flew miles beyond the other drives in the group. Naturally, his drive was the one they chose to use. Here he is, playing his second shot. (He hit it to about three feet, and made the putt).

IMG_20160523_140106-001

You have to figure that Day’s appearance was required by a contract he signed before he turned into Superman, but, even so, he seemed to be having a pretty good time. Here he is during lunch, as GlenArbor’s director of golf was announcing things like the winner of the closest-to-the-pin contest:

IMG_20160523_142636

Actually, I would bet that in some ways the outing was more fun for Day than it was for the bankers—who, after all, were under enormous pressure not to shank, flub, chilly-dip, or yip their ball while the best player in the world stood a few feet away, watching:

IMG_20160523_124950

We weren’t part of the outing, so I couldn’t do something I desperately wanted to do: grab a handful of soft-shell crabs from a big chafing dish on the buffet table. But we did get to try an awesome feature that GlenArbor added recently, right next to the terrace where the bankers were having drinks and eating lunch. Every golf club in the world should add one of these, even if they have to build a lake and a steep hill in order to do it:

IMG_20160523_090051

Those are Pro V1s in the range basket. The tee and the floating green haven’t been there for very long, but the director of golf told us that there are 60,000 balls in the lake already, and that a scuba diver will be coming soon to recover them. Here’s Bob, trying his luck:

IMG_20160523_090903

He missed the green, which is roughly the size of a doormat, but he came pretty close. Jason Day tried, too. Naturally, he stiffed it—and, because he had, he said he wasn’t going to push his luck by taking a second shot. He hit so fast that I didn’t manage to get a picture until afterward, as he was heading back to his table:

IMG_20160523_141246

Great player. Great course. Great floating green. Great afternoon.

IMG_20160523_142637

The Trump Files: “Do You Girls Want to be Supermodels When You Grow Up?”

blogs-the-loop-150730-trump-518.jpg

Eleven friends and I just returned from a golf trip to Ireland. Something you have to be ready for when you travel outside the United States is hearing what people in other countries think about whatever the United States has been up to lately—and this year the main thing the United States has been up to is Donald Trump. He’s not easy to talk about with foreigners, because people who haven’t had much exposure to him tend to view him as a standard-issue American greed-driven mega-mogul—Michael Douglas in “Wall Street”—rather than seeing him the way most of his countrymen do, as the only conceivable member of whatever category he actually belongs in.

P1010618-001

I met Trump four years ago, while working on an article about him and his golf courses for Golf Digest. Our first encounter was at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach. (Trump’s courses, like his buildings, are easy to alphabetize.) When I pulled up at the club’s bag drop, a parking attendant, who was dressed in white trousers, a white shirt and a white cap, stepped briskly toward my rental car. I popped my trunk, palmed a five-dollar bill, opened the car door and then—with a possibly audible gasp—realized that the guy I’d taken for an attendant was actually Trump himself, who had come out to the curb to greet me. I (slipped the fiver back into my pocket and) enthusiastically shook his hand.

trumpowen

In the clubhouse, Trump introduced me to various distinguished members and guests, including the the former tennis star John Lloyd; the CEOs of AT&T, NASDAQ, Macy’s and several other corporations; and the head coach of the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick, and his girlfriend, Linda Holliday. Trump seemed genuinely excited to see all these people—and even more excited to see that I was seeing all these people, right there in his own club. False modesty, much less actual modesty, is not among Trump’s vices. “We have the big people here, in terms of membership,” he said. “Everybody who’s anybody in Palm Beach is a member here. So, anyway. . . .” He invited Belichick and Holliday to come for dinner that night at the Mar-a-Lago Club, which he also owns, then told a waitress that he wanted the golf club to pick up their lunch check. He was being genuinely gracious and welcoming, but you could also see how extraordinarily eager he was to be liked, and to be seen being liked.

Raymond Floyd, who was leading an outing of business executives, walked toward our table.

“The great Ray Floyd,” Trump said.

“Hi, Donald. Don’t get up.”

“You look beautiful.”

“I keep fooling them. That’s what I say. I’m following your lead.”

“I love this guy,” Trump said. “This guy—the greatest chipper. He’s going to teach me how to chip someday. Have a good time, Ray.”

Floyd walked away, and Trump said to me: “He’s a member. We have the best members here. Everybody. He’s a wonderful guy, Ray, actually. And one great competitor. He was the oldest guy ever to win the Open. Remember, at Shinnecock? He was the oldest guy ever to win the Open. Great guy.”

Floyd walked by again. Trump asked him, “How old were you when you won the U.S. Open. Forty-six?”

“Forty-six? No, forty-four.”

“Is that the record?”

“No, Irwin surpassed me by a few months.”

“Oh, I didn’t know that. Ah, you’re something, Ray. How’s your wife doing?” (Floyd’s wife, Maria, was being treated for bladder cancer. She died six months later.)

“She’s doing great. She’s cancer-free.”

“Give her my regards,” Trump said. Then, to me: “His wife had a little problem, to put it mildly, but I’m hearing good things.”

“We go every three months,” Floyd said. “We go back in the first of next month.”

“That’s great. She’s a fantastic woman. She kept him under check, which is not easy, OK? I knew him before and after.”

“Changed the lifestyle.”

“She did a good job. Ivanka tells me Christina’s doing good.”

“I think she’s using Ivanka’s baby nurse.”

“Well, Ivanka has good taste, so follow Ivanka. Have a good time, Ray. Enjoy it.”

Floyd went out to join his corporate clients, and Trump, beaming, said, “So, I do it for fun. It’s become a very successful business, because of the level of quality. When other clubs are empty, everybody wants to join here. And by ‘here’ I mean all of my clubs. Every one of them works, and works really well.” We talked quite a bit about his course in Aberdeen, Scotland, which was just about to open. “Look, I get a kick,” he said. “I know Bandon Dunes. The biggest dune there is like one tenth the size of our smallest dune. It’s a toy. And they get such great reviews. Every one of my courses is, like, amazing.”

P1010615

Either you find Trump’s manner repellent or—because his need is so palpable that his fawning seems guileless—you can decide to give him a break and be impressed by whatever it is that he wants you to be impressed by. “Palm Beach is the richest place anywhere on the planet, in terms of, you know, wealth,” he said at one point. “And yet it takes me four minutes to get to my course from Mar-a-Lago. That’s called location. The course was designed by Jim Fazio [Tom’s brother], and it’s considered the best one in Florida, but even if it were terrible it would be a big success, because of where it is.” And so forth.

The easiest thing to do is to nod, even if you aren’t quite sure what you’re nodding about. At one point, Trump pointed to some nice-looking trees on the golf course and said, “Those trees cost $25,000 apiece—but of course I got them for less”—a sort of double-reverse brag, since he wanted me to be impressed by both how expensive the trees were and how little they had cost. Similarly, when we were talking about the golf courses he owns, he said, “I don’t believe in building them now, because I can buy them for 10 cents on the dollar—so why should I build them? Although the prices are going way up. There was an article recently. Because of me, people are starting to say, Wow, what a good investment.” Golf courses are cheap—but because of Trump they’re also expensive. It’s a fine line.

After lunch, in the locker room, Trump introduced me to a man he called “the richest guy in Germany.” To be a member of one of his clubs, you have to have a high tolerance for that sort of thing: other people’s wealth is one of his main topics, when his main topic isn’t his own wealth. And, apparently, there are quite a few people who do have a high tolerance for it. (The face of “the richest guy in Germany” lit up when Trump called him that; a woman he introduced to me, on the driving range, as “a very rich lady” didn’t seem bothered at all.)

P1010616

We ran into the crooner Vic Damone, who was getting ready to play golf. Trump knew that Damone’s wife had had a stroke not long before, and, by way of conversation, he said that he would gladly “be a character witness” for Damone in any legal action her children might take to prevent him from receiving any of her estate—his version of brotherly compassion. I told Damone that I was sorry about his wife’s illness. He seemed shaken, but said that she was a little better. He said that he had been staying up with her at night and sleeping in the afternoon, and that recently he had begun playing a little golf late in the day, as a break. Trump told me later that Damone and his wife had met at Mar-a-Lago, where she was staying and he was singing—and added (for the second time) that she was worth $900 million.

P1010622

That night, Trump put me up at Mar-a-Lago, in a room called the Adam Suite, whose next resident, the woman at the front desk told me, was going to be Bill Clinton. An hour or so after I checked in, the phone rang—and it was Trump, calling to make sure I was still having a good time. (The night before, he’d called my home, in Connecticut, to make sure I was really coming down. I was already in Florida, so he chatted with my wife, and invited her to come, too.)

P1010623

We met for dinner at 8. It was seafood-buffet night at Mar-a-Lago, and Trump ate roughly a lobster and a half’s worth of shelled lobster claws and split lobster tails, then went back and for big plate of sweet-and-sour shrimp on rice. As we were standing near the buffet line, one of the Nederlanders, of the Nederlander Organization, greeted Trump warmly, and said something like, “Donald, you’ve done a great job, and you’ve done it all by yourself, independent of your father’s accomplishments”—something so on-the-mark, in terms of Trump’s clear yearning for affirmation and reassurance, that I thought Trump might be embarrassed. But he beamed. And back at the table, speaking of Nederlander, he told me, “Off the record, he says my golf course is the best one in Florida.” (By “off the record” Trump means roughly the opposite of what other people mean by it. At lunch, he had told me about some trees he had gotten in trouble for cutting down, on a golf course he owns near Washington, D.C. “You probably heard about that,” he said. “It’s the only place on the Potomac River without trees. Off the record, I took down the trees and made the front page of the Washington Post four days in a row.”)

While we were having dessert, two giggly little girls from New Jersey, whose parents were part of a group from Trump’s golf club in Bedminster—“one of the richest places in the country”—came over to our table and asked Trump to dance. He said that he would dance with them in Bedminster. Then he asked them if they wanted to be supermodels when they grew up. (They said yes). Then he asked them to kiss him. (And they did.)

P1010624

18 Good Things About Golf: No. 16

IMG_20160502_162612

16. Golf is a literate game. Reading about golf provides plentiful opportunities for genial self-deception. The flaws in your swing recede as you imagine the clashes of titans. As always, your enjoyment is heightened by the certainty that, if you had come to the final nine with a lead that big, you wouldn’t have let victory slip through your fingers, unlike Palmer or Spieth. Then a remark of Hogan’s reminds you of a grip change your pro recommended last year—a grip change that felt peculiar the one time you tried it but that might be your ticket (you now see clearly) to the Senior Tour. Then a description of the sixteenth at Cypress Point transports you to the part of your mind where your children are grown, your spouse is merciful, and you have all the money in the world.

On the page, golf is a game you could almost get the hang of. As you read, your slice becomes a gentle draw, and your best shots swell in your memory until they have pushed aside every lip-out, chili dip, pop-up, and shank. Sometimes when I’ve been reading about golf, a feeling starts to build that’s like a smoker’s yearning for a cigarette. It’s a physical longing, which, as often as not, leads to anxious glances at the clock. Could I get to the driving range and back before the plumber arrives? Will my editor really care if that article is another day late? Isn’t there maybe just enough daylight left for nine holes, if I don’t bother to change my shoes?

Best of all, reading about golf is less susceptible than golf itself to the depredations of age. When the yips have stolen our putting stroke, when we can no longer lift our driver, when even a cart seems like too much effort, we will still have golf’s huge and continually growing library to keep us in the game, even if we have to hire a caddie to read it to us.

Taylor on Golf-001.jpg

The Man Who Invented the Yardage Book

Deane Beman won the U.S. Amateur twice and the British Amateur once, and between 1969 and 1973 he won four times on the PGA Tour.

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 13: Golf: US Amateur Open, Closeup of Deane Beman victorious with trophy at Wakonda Club, Des Moines, IA 9/13/1963 (Photo by Lee Balterman/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) (SetNumber: X17644)

Beman and the trophy for the 1963 U.S. Amateur. Photo by Lee Balterman/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

He became the tour’s commissioner in 1974, and he built the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass—where the Players Championship, the fifth major, will be held next month, and which you can read about in my column in the current issue of Golf Digest—and he is largely responsible for transforming the tour into a robust modern enterprise. He was also the first player to methodically measure and record key yardages on the golf courses he played, beginning in 1954, when he was still a junior:

IMG_1372

Beman’s homemade yardage guide for the 1954 U. S. Jaycee Junior Tournament, which was held on the golf course of the University of New Mexico.

“I’d pace off the golf course during a practice round, and make notes on a scorecard,” he told me recently. “It was quite unsophisticated, but pretty effective. Doing that was a little more difficult back then, because golf courses had single-row irrigation, so there weren’t as many sprinkler heads as you have today. I used trees and bunkers and things like that. A championship course usually had bunkering in the landing areas, and I could use either the front or the back of a bunker as my mark to the front of the green. And then I’d measure the green.”

Beman's front-nine notes from the 1958 U. S. Open, at Southern Hills. The circled numbers are green depths.

Beman’s front-nine notes from the 1958 U. S. Open, at Southern Hills. The circled numbers are green depths.

“I played a lot of golf with Jack Nicklaus when we were amateurs, and he would laugh when I pulled out my card,” Beman continued. “But then he got married to the idea. The first time Jack copied what I did was at Pebble Beach, for the 1961 U. S. Amateur.” Nicklaus himself said later, “I was playing a practice round with Deane in 1961 and he said, ‘Why don’t you try it one time, just walk off the golf course?'” He did, and blew away Dudley Wysong in the final. “After that,” Beman continued, “I don’t think Jack ever played a round without having the ability to really, really know the length of any shot he was facing.”

Beman's notes from Colonial, in 1960.

Beman’s notes from Colonial, in 1960.

“Now, I will say this,” Beman went on. “I was not a popular guy with caddies, because I required them to go walk the golf course before every round, and pace off every pin position. I had my yardages to the front of the green, and I knew how deep the green was, so I would give my caddie a pad on which I had marked the dimensions. I wanted to know how deep the pin was that day, and he would pace that off. Nobody had any pin sheets in those days—but I did.”

Beman's notes for the 1959 Masters.

Beman’s notes for the 1959 Masters.

Nowadays, tour players and their caddies carry extraordinarily sophisticated yardage books, which contain not just distances but also topographical details, and even lousy golfers can determine the length of just about any shot within a few feet, if they own a laser rangefinder. But players at all levels were skeptical at first, and Beman’s idea didn’t really catch on until the 1970s. Arnold Palmer, among many others, though it was dumb. Ha!

Beman's notes for Pinehurst No. 2.

Beman’s notes for Pinehurst No. 2.

“My notes became much more sophisticated once I turned professional,” Beman said. He saved those scorecards, too — but the ones in the photos above show how it all began.

IMG_1379

Report From the Phoenix Open: Coping With a Ten-Drink Limit

beeronpatio

Chic, CJ, Jaws, and Brian—all members or honorary members of the Sunday Morning Group—somehow persuaded the Department of Homeland Security to let them spend four days in Scottsdale without supervision, then paid for the trip by withdrawing money from their wives’ 401ks. Or so I assume. Here are Jaws, CJ, and Chic at the men’s member-guest either last summer or the summer before:

P1140155

In Scottsdale, they’ve been dividing their time between the Waste Management Phoenix Open and Grayhawk Country Club, a few miles away. Before they left, I swore in Chic as this blog’s official representative in the grandstands on the sixteenth hole. Getting reports from him hasn’t been easy, but here’s one:

“Apparently with the skybox tix u have a 10 drink limit but if u tip the girl enough she doesn’t keep count. So my 10 drinks only counted as 2 in her book.”

All things considered, his photos are remarkably unblurry:

Chic Phoenix 1

Back to Chic:

“The bleachers seem to be the place to be. Which was below us not below us just fiscally below us. They had guys dressed in Masters caddies outfits. Bubba thru a lot of stuff to the fans. Saturday is green out day. Everyone to wear green and support the waste management cause. Golf now then golf in the am. Then tourney rest of day.”

Chic Phoenix 2

That was yesterday. When they got to the Grayhawk, Chic discovered that he had an old Uncle Frank ball in his bag. Uncle Frank was a beloved SMG member, who died from lung cancer seven or eight years ago. After the cancer had spread to his brain, he was given a marathon radiation treatment, during which his head had to be immobilized in a halo brace, a birdcage-like contraption that was anchored to his shoulders and his skull. When the session ended, 18 hours after it began, he asked the nurses to take him to the children’s oncology ward before removing the brace. A couple of days before, at home, he had made a basketball backboard out of Styrofoam, and now he asked the nurses to attach it to the back of his head. He let the children in the ward shoot free throws with a Nerf ball, three shots for a dollars. “Hey,” he told me later, “I made twenty-three bucks.” Here’s how he dressed for our first-and-almost-last clubhouse sleepover, in 2002:

boa 2

When Uncle Frank died, we had his name printed on lots of golf balls, and divided them up among ourselves. The idea was to lose the balls in interesting places, so that his name would keep popping up for years, as a kind of memorial. I myself have lost them on great courses in three different countries. Back to Chic:

“I thought trying to lose the frank ball in Arizona might be a nice send off. Well the ball lasted 6 holes. I tried to lose it but it hung in there. 1 pic from its adventure:”

Chic Phoenix 3

Incidentally, the thing that Brian is the most famous for, at home, is knowing how to use a beer can to open a beer bottle:

Masters Countdown: An Augusta National Member Who Carried Even More Cash Than Phil Mickelson

tengrand

Dave Shedloski, with help from a squadron of Golf Digest staffers, recently asked a number of tour pros how much cash they carry. The winner was Phil Mickelson, whose wallet, at that moment, contained $8,100. That’s a lot. But one of the founding members of Augusta National routinely carried more. Way more.

W. Alton “Pete” Jones was the CEO of the oil company that’s known today CITGO. He was a close friend of Clifford Roberts, Bobby Jones, and Dwight Eisenhower (who joined the club in 1948), and he was known for his generosity. He insisted on picking up almost any restaurant or bar check that he had anything to do with, and he financed or helped to finance many improvements at the club.

W. Alton "Pete" Jones

W. Alton “Pete” Jones

Yet he had a number of miserly eccentricities. The first duty of his caddie was to search the grass for usable tees, because he hated to buy new ones. He haggled over handicap strokes—attempting, in Roberts’s words, “to ensure his being a winner on the golf course, no matter how small the stakes.” And he always traveled with heavy hand-cranked metal sharpener, which he used to extend the life of his razor blades. He was determined to get at least 25 shaves from each blade, and he would cheerfully spend 10 or 15 minutes honing an edge on one that was about to expire.

eisenhower2

Jones died in a commercial plane crash in 1962, on his way to California for a fishing trip with Eisenhower. (That’s Jones amidships in the photo above, and Eisenhower in the bow.) Also killed in that crash was the mother of Paul McCartney’s future wife Linda Eastman. The accident was fictionalized in the second episode of the second season of Mad Men.

Flight 1planecrash

When Jones’s body was identified, he was found to have been carrying roughly $60,000, in cash and traveler’s checks. Some people speculated that he must have been up to no good, and that perhaps he had been on his way to reward Eisenhower for favors to the oil industry. But no one has ever seriously suggested that Eisenhower took bribes, and Jones always carried huge sums—including $10,000 bills, which the government printed until 1946.

Roberts had often urged Jones to leave more of his treasure at home, but Jones, like several early Augusta members—including Roberts—had grown up in poverty, and he liked full pockets. And Roberts had a currency-related eccentricity of his own: he carried only brand-new bills, arranged in his wallet by denomination, and he always made sure to have enough small ones so that no one would be able to give him old bills in change.

The person I know personally who carries the most cash is Rocco Landesman. I wrote a profile of him in The New Yorker in 1994. At the time, he was mainly a theater producer; he later served as the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. We got to talking about money—actually, about betting on horses—and he said, “You should never carry less than $10,000 in cash at any time.”

Rocco Landesman

Rocco Landesman

When I laughed, he said, “No, it’s true.” He reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out a bundle of bills held together with a rubber band. “You’ve got to have cash,” he said, “because you never know where you’re going to be. You know, you might meet someone and decide you want to spend the rest of your life in Argentina.” He handed me the money. “I’ve got more over here.” He reached into another pocket, and pulled out another bundle.

I hefted both bundles, and fanned the bills with my thumbs, like playing cards. They were all 100s, and there were perhaps a 150 of them. It was the most $100 bills I had ever held in one hand at one time.

“Walking around with anything less than $10,000 is completely unacceptable,” Landesman went on. “It’s a necessity of life. It gives you freedom. The most important thing in life is a sense of possibility, and you simply can’t have it with less than $10,000 in your pocket.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tracking Golf History With Google’s Amazing Time Machine

I first used Google Earth in 2004, before it was Google Earth. At the time, it was a subscription service called Keyhole Earth Viewer, and I used it while working on an article for the New Yorker about golf courses in New York City. Then Google bought Keyhole. It renamed Earth Viewer, and improved it, and made it free, and has continued to improve it. One of its coolest features is Historical Imagery, which lets you travel back in time by cycling through earlier images of whatever you’re looking at. For example, here’s what Augusta National looked like last February, from a little over 7,000 feet up:
ANGC 2014-2-27

And here’s what it looked like from the same altitude in November 2002, when the enormous tournament parking lot, to the left of the golf course in the picture above, was still a residential neighborhood (before the club bought all the houses and tore them down):

ANGC 2002-11-30

And here’s what it looked like in February 1993, two months before Bernhard Langer won for the second time, by four strokes over Chip Beck — who, you will recall, laid up on No. 15:

ANGC 1993-2-13

You can drill down, to study specific changes to the course. For example, here’s what the practice area looked like last year:

ANGC Range 2014-2-27

And here’s what it looked in 2009, when the club was building it:

ANGC Range 2009-6-24

And here’s what it looked like in 2002, when it was the (original) tournament parking lot:

ANGC Range 2002-11-30

Historical Imagery is a terrific time waster if you’ve got work or chores to do. Here’s the seventeenth fairway in 2013, when the Eisenhower Tree (which I’ve helpfully labeled) was alive and well:

ANGC Ike 2013-1-21

And here’s what it looked like last year, when the Eisenhower Tree was dead and gone. (The bunkers in the upper-right-hand corner are next to the green on No. 7.)

ANGC Ike 2014-2-27

Why do anything else when you’ve got a toy like this to play with? To learn how Historical Imagery works, go here.

ANGC 2007-6-24