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

Why Don’t All Tour Pros Follow Mickelson’s Example?

When it started to rain during the Presidents Cup, Phil Mickelson did something he’s done in nasty weather for several years: he switched to rain gloves. In an interview once, he explained why: “they can get wet and my grips can get wet and I’m not constantly trying to stay dry.” Usually, he leaves them on even to putt:

Mickelson-rain-gloves-001

My regular golf buddies and I all use rain gloves, too:

P1090776

They work so well that I don’t understand why so few tour pros have followed Mickelson’s example. Of course, those guys have unlimited access to new gloves, and they have caddies to dry their grips and hold their umbrellas and protect their towels, and even in nice weather they don’t seem to mind fussing around for a couple of minutes before taking a shot. Still, leather turns slimy when it becomes even slightly wet, and a caddie who has to focus on keeping gloves and grips and towels dry doesn’t have time to think about more important matters. The great thing about rain gloves is that, once you’ve put them on, the weather ceases to be an issue, for exactly the reason Mickelson gave. You can just play.

P1090683

The pros probably worry that wearing rain gloves would affect their “feel,” but, if a player as famously feel-oriented as Mickelson can handle them, so can anyone else. Besides, if you have to squeeze your clubs even slightly harder to compensate for the slickness of your grips, you’ve already abandoned feel. I would bet that most pros have never even tried them. During the Presidents Cup broadcast, Johnny Miller said that one reason Mickelson wears them is to keep his hands dry—but no one who had actually played in rain gloves could possibly think that, because they don’t:

P1090803

Rain gloves don’t keep anything dry. What they do is enable you to hang on to your clubs when your hands and grips are soaking wet—even when the two-foot-wide stream at the bottom of the second fairway looks like this:

P1090696

Reader’s Trip Report: Midnight at the Grave of Old Tom Morris

Open-Cohens-Sachses

In July, Adam Sachs and Mark Cohen, readers in Kansas City, celebrated their sons’ bar mitzvahs by taking them to Scotland to watch the British Open and play golf at Cruden Bay, Kingsbarns and Luffness. Here are the boys, both thirteen years old, at the Old Course at St. Andrews—Elliott Cohen on the left, Phinney Sachs on the right:

Open-Elliott-Phinney

And here are Mark and Adam, setting an example:

Open-Cohen-Sachs

They saw Tom Watson, who during his heyday was known in Kansas City as the Fourth Franchise, and the boys learned that the Scots know nothing about making pizza:

Open-pizza

Adam writes:

“Because the Old Course is close to everything in St. Andrews, we couldn’t help running into players, caddies, journalists and golf-industry hangers-on. The boys got John Daly’s autograph, twice. On Tuesday, at Kingsbarns, which is one of the most enjoyable courses I’ve ever played, we were held up by the French pro Victor Dubuisson, who was two groups ahead of us. He ended up missing the cut, so maybe he should have been practicing on the Old Course instead. Tom Lehman’s sons were between us and him, and we all spent a lot of time standing around. On Friday night, I saw Darren Clarke, who also missed the cut. He was leaning against a wall outside a bar, smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer, and when I called to the boys to come back and meet ‘a real Ryder Cup hero’ he chatted with us and signed their golf flags.

IMG_8647

“On Saturday night, we ran into Jim Nantz, who was in St. Andrews as a spectator only (the U.S. broadcast was on ESPN).

Open-Nantz-street

“At midnight, we joined him and a group of his friends for a misty walk to the graves of Old and Young Tom Morris. The cemetery gate was locked, so Phinney and Elliott had to help Nantz, Mark, me, and all the other old guys get over the fence.

Open-Graveyard

Afterward, we went to the bar at the Dunvegan Hotel, around the corner from the 18th green. On the way, Phinney asked Nantz if he would record a voice-mail message for his cell phone. He did:

Nantz told Phinney that Phil Mickelson had asked him to do the same thing, and that Mickelson reciprocated by recording one for him.”

Open-Elliott-Nantz-Phinney

The Cohens and Sachses went back to the cemetery during the daytime, when the gate was unlocked. There was lots of death in the Morris family:

Open-Morris-grave

Among the trip’s many other highlights was golf at Cruden Bay. That’s where Adam took this photo of Phinney and Elliott:

Cruden-Bay-Phinney-Elliott

Cruden Bay is one of my favorite courses, too. I ate dinner in the clubhouse there after a late-afternoon round a few years ago, and I heard the waitress ask someone at the table behind me, “Would you like pineapple with it, or a fried egg?” I didn’t dare turn around to see what “it” was. But, like all four Cohens and Sachses, I love the course!

cruden-bay-green

Golf’s Big Three: Beer, Golf, Beer

beer-mike-jar

I haven’t had a drink more than ten years, but I’m nevertheless one of the world’s leading experts on the effect of alcohol on the golf swing.I’m the originator of the Beer Draw Hypothesis—the difference between a slice and a draw is a certain number of beers—and the author of a lengthy article on the topic which was published in either a distinguished scientific journal (I’m pretty sure) or Golf Digest. I also happen to be a member of the Sunday Morning Group, an all-male golf-club-within-a-golf-club, which contributed to my early research and has made many significant additions to it in the years since I left the field. Among our resident experts are Mike A., in the photo above, and Klinger and Fritz, at this year’s member-guest, in the photo below:

beer-klinger-fritz

Recently, the Sunday Morning Group had an opportunity to review the products of GolfBeer Brewing Company, which was founded by a threesome of well-known tour players: Keegan Bradley, Freddie Jacobson, and Graeme McDowell. Their slogan is “Crafting the Perfect Round.”

golf-beer-cooler

GolfBeer sells three products, tailored to the inborn taste preferences of the founders: a “Scandinavian style” blonde ale called Freddie’s (Jacobson is from Sweden); a “Celtic style” pale ale called G-Mac’s (McDowell is from Northern Ireland); and a “New England style” lager called Keegan Bradley’s (would this be an appropriate place to ask Bradley to abandon his bird-looking-for-a-worm pre-shot routine?).

beer-hacker-reese

After golf on a recent Sunday, the boys tried all three. The verdict: big thumbs-up all around, (although Howard wasn’t fond of Keegan Bradley’s).

beer-howard-bradley

Sad to say, GolfBeer isn’t available in our area yet. We had to import our samples from Florida, where the company is based, and to be on the safe side we had them shipped as “salad dressing.” But we hope to be able to buy it here soon—ideally, in bulk, so that we can load it into our clubhouse kegerators.

beer-fritz

golf-beer-trio

Do You Get Free Relief From a Sinkhole?

Last year, a Champions Tour event made history by becoming the first PGA Tour-sanctioned tournament to be held partly on a par-3 course. his April, the same tournament returned to the same course, called Top of the Rock, and if the timing had been slightly different it might have made history again. Just a month after the tournament (the Bass Pro Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge, won by Billy Andrade and Joe Durant), four sinkholes opened up near the driving range. Nobody was hurt, but the sinkholes were big enough to have held the full field, with plenty of room left for just about the entire Golf Writers Association of America. Sheets of fake white bunker sand and closely-mown artificial turf drooped over the edges of the main opening, like fondant icing on a wedding cake. The drop to the deepest part was forty feet.

toprocksinkhole
Top of the Rock was designed by Jack Nicklaus. It’s in southwestern Missouri, in a gently mountainous region called the Ozarks, and it’s virtually next door to the town of Branson, which is sort of what Disney World would be if you replaced Epcot Center with Dolly Parton. The bedrock underlying the area is mostly limestone, which consists of the solidified, calcium-rich remains of many millions of years’ worth of dead sea creatures. Rainwater becomes mildly acidic as it picks up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When it lands on terrain like that, it seeps through the soil and into fractures in the rock, then gradually enlarges the fractures into fissures and conduits and caves and subterranean streams, creating a Swiss cheese-like landscape of a type known as karst. If the voids become large enough, the ground above them can collapse. In 1981, a sinkhole in Winter Park, Florida, near the center of another golf-and-karst region, swallowed five Porsches, a three-bedroom house, and the deep end of a public swimming pool.
P1000554
Randall Orndorff is a geologist for the United States Geological Survey. Between 1995 and 2005, he spent a lot of his professional time in southern Missouri looking into sinkholes, crawling through caves, and mapping the geology of a formation called the Salem Plateau, which is the rock that’s next to the rock that Top of the Rock is on top of. I spoke with him recently, and he said that a neighbor who saw him using a garden hose to wash cave mud off his clothes once told him, “Thank god my husband’s a lawyer.” He also said that, although natural sinkholes are common in karst areas, human activity can accelerate their development.”
P1000474
The photo above is of a sinkhole in Florida called Big Dismal. I visited it a couple of years ago while researching an article about sinkholes for The New Yorker—which you can read here. I also spent some time with a group of divers whose hobby is exploring sinkholes and underground streams.
P1000495
In 2007, two of them set a world record by making a seven-mile traverse through Florida’s Swiss cheese, from an opening called Turner Sink to Wakulla Springs, a state park about fifteen miles south of downtown Tallahassee. The average depth of the traverse was close to 300 feet—about the same as the wreck of the Lusitania—and the total submerged time was 21 hours. Here two of them are getting ready to make another dive in Turner Sink:
P1000522

Where do golf-course sinkholes come from? “There are a lot of factors,” Orndorff told me. “When you’re on a slope, you have more groundwater draining, and draining more rapidly—almost like flushing a toilet. The pond you see in those pictures of Top of the Rock is man-made, so now you’re changing the hydrodynamics of the area, and collecting water that used to percolate into the ground; you’re also adding weight to the surface. Something we see in suburban development is collapses near the outlets of retention ponds, where erosion is the greatest.”

P1000468

I grew up in Kansas City, about two hundred and twenty miles north of Top of the Rock, and when I was a kid my family visited the Ozarks fairly often. During one trip, I got into trouble for standing behind my father and pulling his hat down over his eyes while he was driving. (This was the era when dads wore fedoras and nobody wore seat belts.) My sister and I would beg him to stop whenever we passed a billboard advertising a cave, as we seemed to do every couple of miles. He always refused, saying the caves were just holes in the ground and could give way at any time. Now, half a century later, I guess I can see his point—although I still think we should have stopped.

meramec-caverns-sign

“Some people are asking why they didn’t close the golf course,” Orndorff said. “But that whole area is prone to sinkholes, and the next one could be miles away.” He also said that, as far as my father’s speluncaphobia was concerned, “You don’t hear of too many caves collapsing and killing tourists. In fact, I don’t know of any.”

P1000520

How to Make a Golfer Choke

UNIVERSITY PLACE, WA - JUNE 21:  Dustin Johnson of the United States watches his missed birdie putt on the 18th green during the final round of the 115th U.S. Open Championship at Chambers Bay on June 21, 2015 in University Place, Washington.  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

(Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

When Dustin Johnson screwed up on the final green at Chambers Bay, avid golfers all over the world wept for him. After all, how many of us, at some point, haven’t three-putted from twelve feet to lose the U.S. Open? My friends and I were especially sympathetic, because we have just about perfected choking. In several of our regular games, we play an add-on feature on the eighteenth hole called All Balls Count—and that does it.

18rayputt

Our eighteenth (which is also our ninth, played from slightly different tees) is theoretically a pushover: a very short par 4, just 250 yards or so, slightly uphill:

P1160309

But it can be diabolical, because there are trees on both sides, and the green is a redan, and there are lob-devouring bunkers both in front and behind, and out-of-bounds is in play from the tee and the fairway and even the bunkers, and when the hole is cut in the front left corner getting close from almost anywhere can be virtually impossible.

P1160304

Note the expression of agony on Howard’s face:

18howardlob

Shots like that become even harder when guys are sitting on the picnic benches above the green, watching:

P1000804

And they become harder still when Hacker (real name) announces on the first tee that, even though we’re playing just one best ball that day, on the eighteenth hole all four scores in every foursome will have to be counted. That can be enough to make even a very good player slice his tee shot into the pine trees on the right, then pound his second shot straight down into the pine straw, then have no choice but to take an unplayable lie (still in the pine straw), then skull his fourth shot into the bunker over the green, and so on.

P1150935

Meanwhile, all three of his teammates—who are feeling even more pressure not to screw up, since they now know that their team score on the hole is virtually guaranteed to be at least four or five over par—are finding their own ways to implode.

18mikepitch

Try it.

P1160280

Reader’s Trip Report: The U.S. Open by Periscope

I met Steve Davis, a reader in California, at Tiger Woods’ World Challenge in 2012. He was easy to spot because he was carrying a homemade periscope, which he was using to see over the heads of people standing in front of him.  Note the beer holder:

stevedavisperiscope2012

Periscopes used to be common at golf tournaments, including the U.S. Open. These two are from 1988:

openperiscope88.jpg

Many spectators at the 1993 Ryder Cup, which I attended (at the Belfry, in England), watched the tournament through periscopes that looked like the boxes that bottles of Johnny Walker scotch come in. (Johnny Walker sponsored the tournament.) The Belfry is a terrible course for spectators, because there are few good vantage points. The periscopes made things better for the people who had them and worse for the people who didn’t. (I saw one guy carrying a paint can, which he stood on until he got too drunk to keep his balance.) Davis’s periscope is a big improvement over those old ones, because the mirrors are separated by dowels rather than solid panels: if you’re standing behind him, you can see through it. He has taken versions of his invention to many tournaments, including this year’s U.S. Open:

stevedavischambers.jpg

Davis works for a copier company, and has “wallpapered” his periscope with color copies of golf mementos. His report from Chambers Bay:
I probably don’t have to tell you how great the U.S. Open was this year. The average person walking the course couldn’t see a lot, though. The fairways were so brown that it was hard to pick up the ball off the tee box. If you were lucky enough to be standing close to a green, you were set—but don’t move and think you’re going to find another spot like that one. My periscope saved my ass, because I could go pretty much anywhere and still see. Here I am on the ninth hole, a par 3:

stevedavischambers2

Davis continues:
I let a lot of other people use it on Saturday and Sunday, and they were amazed at how well they could see from where they were standing—including one girl who was happy because she could watch Jason Day putting on No. 10. The periscope I took to Chambers Bay was an improvement over the one you saw at Sherwood Country Club. I changed the mirror angle, to give it a better field of vision, and I removed the belt strap, because I found that it was just as easy to carry without it, by putting my arm through the poles. I kept the beverage holder, though.
davischambersgate.jpg

How Many Times Could Jordan Spieth Buy and Sell You?

golf-pitch-your-salary

The British golf-stuff website onlinegolf.co.uk—which is similar to TGW, Golfsmith, or Edwin Watts—includes a gadget that lets you compare your earnings with those of the world’s best golfers. You have to convert your salary to British pounds, but once you’ve done that you have access to all sorts of interesting information, including how much you and the world’s best golfers are earning while you fool around at onlinegolf.co.uk.

Have a Cigar! Hey, Have Two!

genestan

There are two approaches to turning yourself into a human billboard: the single-logo, less-is-more approach, typified by Tiger Woods (Nike) and Jordan Spieth (Under Armour), and the how-much-personal-surface-area-do-I-control approach, typified by Jim Furyk and NASCAR. My friends and I fall into the second category, and, even though by now we have virtually covered ourselves with umlauts (thanks to Jägermeister, the official all-weather intoxicant of the Sunday Morning Group), we haven’t finished selling out.

timjager

Recently, we added another major sponsor: Famous Smoke Shop, which sells cigars online, by mail order, and in person (at the company’s headquarters and retail super store, in Easton, Pennsylvania). Famous Smoke is what is known in the business world as a “good fit” with a lot of the guys I play golf with.

mikecigar

Famous Smoke was founded in New York City in 1939 by David and Rose Zaretsky, and it’s owned today by their son Arthur, who, whether he plays golf or not, is now an honorary member of the Sunday Morning Group. The company operates several cigar-oriented websites—not just Famous-Smoke but also CigarAuctioneer (which sells lighters and other accessories) and CigarMonster (which has the coolest golf hats):

monsterhat

When we played at Richter Park two weekends ago, we handed out a bunch of goodies that Famous Smoke had sent us during the courtship phase of our relationship: cigars, hats, shirts, towels, and other stuff. We gave those things to ourselves and also to random strangers, including this guy:

strangercigar

It was like Man Halloween.

manhalloween

Cigars have sort of been in the news recently, because the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba will presumably lead eventually to the normalization of relations between American cigar smokers and Cuban cigars. I asked our new friends at Famous Smoke about that, and learned that Arthur Zaretsky believes that an end to the cigar embargo would be good good for Cubans and for his company (and therefore, by extension, for the Sunday Morning Group), but that, for a variety of mostly legal reasons, he doesn’t believe it will happen soon. Even so, he’s optimistic, long-term; he told a local reporter, “I’ve been waiting 45 years to sell Cuban cigars.”

IMG_7789

Recently, someone told me that when the pros sell out they do it for money, not just for hats and shirts with awesome logos on them. Whoa! Maybe we’ll work on that next.