Lazy Post About CBS Announcers and Eighth Grade Math

Sparco Lightweight Compass

We learned today, during the Travelers Championship broadcast, that Bryson DeChambeau uses a compass (see above) when he studies the green-slope diagrams in his yardage book. The CBS announcers, more than once, called it a protractor (see below). Calling all math teachers!

Image result for protractor

Masters Countdown: Why So Few Commercials?

Augusta National’s proposed 1966 broadcast contract with CBS required both that the tournament be shown in color and that commercials be limited to two minutes per half hour. CBS executives were appalled by the advertising provisions, which they viewed as naïve. But Clifford Roberts, the club’s chairman, believed that commercials were not only less intrusive but more effective if they were used sparingly. (Roberts also felt that sixty-second commercials, the standard at the time, were too long—a view that advertisers and television networks later came to believe themselves.)

Roberts wasn’t opposed to advertising. Indeed, the club and not CBS had been the source of all the broadcast’s sponsors during the decade the tournament had been on the air. Augusta National’s earliest television contracts had called for CBS to pay the club a fee of $10,000 if it carried the broadcast on a “sustaining” basis—that is, without a commercial sponsor—and $40,000 if an acceptable advertiser could be found. CBS had failed to find a sponsor for either 1956 or 1957—a fact that may seem astonishing to a modern viewer but was not necessarily unusual at the time—so the first two broadcasts were commercial-free.

In 1958, the club stepped in and provided a sponsor of its own: American Express, which remained with the broadcast until 1962. Travelers became a sponsor in 1959. Cluett, Peabody & Co., the manufacturer of Arrow shirts, replaced American Express in 1962, and was in turn replaced by Cadillac in 1969. (Not coincidentally, American Express, Travelers, Cluett-Peabody, and General Motors—as well as Young & Rubicam, the advertising agency that represented the early sponsors—were all run by club members.) Roberts had first suggested Cadillac as a sponsor in 1958, but CBS had rejected the idea. “Television is a mass medium,” a network executive responded dismissively, “and Cadillacs are not merchandised to the masses—even though it appears that way in some parts of the country.”

Roberts felt that the best commercials were ones that fit in with the tournament as seamlessly as possible. He especially like ones that had golf themes, if not Masters themes, and he encouraged advertisers to take advantage of the club as a shooting location. The Arrow commercials were shot on the course itself shortly before the tournament began. One—a laughably sexist tableau featuring two attractive young models wearing Arrow’s “Mr. Golf” and “Miss Golf” shirts, which cost five dollars and were made of a cotton-and-Dacron blend called Decton—was filmed on the practice putting green; another featured two couples enjoying a friendly match at Amen Corner. In 1964, one Arrow commercial showed a Decton-clad young man enjoying a beverage behind the clubhouse and then hitting a ball with a Masters logo on it.

Despite CBS’s objections, the club refused to back down on the commercial issue. Roberts knew that the Miss America Pageant had won a similar concession, and he made it clear that he was prepared to change networks in order to get what he wanted, as the pageant had. CBS had to give in. The restriction became a part of the signed agreement, and a similar one has been a part of every one of the club’s television contracts since that time. The minimal number of commercials during a Masters broadcast is even more striking today than it was then. In the early sixties, the standard allocation for advertisements in a two-and-a-half hour program was eighteen minutes. Today, programs sometimes cram nearly that much advertising into a single hour.

Although the terms of the proposed contract were tough, Roberts’s aim was not to harm or humiliate CBS but rather to guarantee that the Masters would receive the sort of television treatment he felt it deserved. Most of the key provisions actually worked to the ultimate benefit of the network. With fewer commercials to work into the broadcast, the program’s directors had a broader canvas on which to work and were in far less danger of cutting away from important action—a major peril in the days before instant replays. Even the insistence on color probably helped CBS, by forcing the network to take a necessary step somewhat earlier than it would have done on its own.

Masters Countdown: How Augusta National Persuaded CBS to Broadcast the Tournament in Color

The first live nationwide broadcast of a golf tournament took place in 1954, when NBC provided limited coverage of the U. S. Open, at Baltusrol, beginning at the seventeenth green. NBC owned the broadcast rights to the Masters as well, and Clifford Roberts, who was Augusta National’s co-founder and chairman, wanted his tournament to be carried on television, too.

NBC, however, was not interested. The network’s (understandable) feeling may have been that one major money-losing golf program was enough. Still, Roberts persisted, and early in 1956, under pressure from the club, Tom S. Gallery, who was the director of sports at NBC, wrote to Roberts to say that NBC was declining to exercise the renewal option in its current contract. That meant, Gallery wrote, that Augusta National was “free to make such arrangements as it sees fit with respect to the radio and television rights to the 1956 Tournament.”  The club hastily made a new agreement, with CBS, and the first Masters television broadcast took place less than a month later. Golf fans in most of the country were able to watch live as Jack Burke beat Ken Venturi by a single stroke.

CBS has carried the tournament ever since, although Augusta National renegotiates the every year. The closest Roberts ever came to moving the tournament to a different network occurred in the early sixties, and it involved the issue of broadcasting in color. Augusta National wanted the Masters to be shown in color, and CBS did not want to make the change. The club had begun pushing for color in the early sixties without success, and in a letter in 1964 Roberts called color the club’s “most difficult problem” with the network. Jones suggested, the same year, that the club might be able to circumvent CBS by showing the tournament on closed-circuit television in movie theaters, as was sometimes done with boxing matches. Roberts looked into the idea, but eventually rejected it. “I cannot visualize golf fans buying a five dollar ticket in order to spend an afternoon in a theater to watch the Masters Tournament or any other tournament,” he wrote to Jones. “They do it in connection with a world championship fight, about which there is always great excitement, but I question if golf fans will ever get excited to that extent about a golf tournament.”

In resisting color, CBS argued (among other things) that the number of cameras it used on the course would have to be cut back, and that the number of holes shown on the broadcast would therefore have to be reduced. As the club discovered, that claim was disingenuous. While it was true that CBS could handle only a limited number of color cameras with the two remote broadcast units that it used at that time, the problem could be solved by adding a third unit, a change that would have a cost but would be relatively easy. The club also felt that CBS had overstated the probable expense of switching to color.

That CBS put up a fight over color was in many ways surprising, because CBS, in 1939, had developed the world’s first color-television system. That system was based on a camera in which a wheel containing red, blue, and green filters was spun at high speed before the lens. In 1950, the Federal Communications Commission, after lengthy hearings, chose CBS’s system as the national color-television standard. In doing so, it rejected a competing system that had been developed by RCA, which owned NBC. The RCA system—which used three separate tubes—had the advantage of producing images that looked good on black-and-white sets, while CBS’s system did not. But the FCC believed that the RCA system was unreliable, and CBS carried the day.

The victory was short-lived. CBS made a few attempts to broadcast in color, but its system didn’t catch on. Then RCA found ways to improve and simplify its own system. Late in 1953, the FCC reversed itself and approved the new RCA standard, and real color broadcasting began. NBC moved aggressively, investing in new equipment and marketing itself as the color network. (Hence the origin of the network’s peacock logo). It had an extra incentive to do so, since the rise of color programming increased demand for color TV sets manufactured by the network’s corporate parent, RCA. Still, the transition was slow. The number of color sets in use in the United States did not reach a million until 1962.

CBS, which had been stung by its early foray into color, held back. The network’s hesitancy did not immediately appear short-sighted, because for a time color seemed as though it might not catch on at all. By the early sixties, however, the club believed that CBS was lagging. The program’s sponsors encouraged Roberts to push for color, and one of them warned him that the broadcast would come to be viewed as “second rate” if the change were not made soon. In January of 1964, William Kerr, who was the chairman of Augusta National’s television committee, wrote to William MacPhail, who was the director of sports at CBS, “I am deeply concerned that if we continue to stand still on this score it will be detrimental to the best interests of the Tournament, the sponsors, and CBS.” Since 1960, the club had commissioned a movie of each tournament, mainly because Roberts wanted to create a permanent visual record of the Masters. (CBS had been offered the opportunity to produce the films for the club but had turned it down.) In 1964, he asked the director of the films to send copies to CBS, to show the network “what this place looks like in color during the Tournament.”

At around the same time, CBS was coming under similar pressure from another major event on its schedule, the Miss America Pageant. The pageant’s owners wanted a color broadcast, and they asked CBS, which had carried the program for years, to submit a proposal. CBS’s cost estimate was so high that pageant officials decided the network was trying to make the pageant’s sponsors bear most of the cost of upgrading the entire CBS system. Largely as a result, they moved the program to NBC—a great blow to CBS, since the pageant broadcast had become the top-rated special program in history, with ratings nearly as high as those of the two episodes of the Ed Sullivan Show on which the Beatles appeared in 1964.

Unhappiness over the color issue led Augusta National to demand a renegotiation of its contract with CBS. The club’s side of the bargaining was handled by a young New York attorney named J. Richard Ryan, who had represented the Miss America Pageant in its own fight with the network. Not surprisingly, the contract that resulted from those negotiations required CBS to show the tournament in color. Even more important, ultimately, was a provision that limited CBS to just two minutes of commercials per half hour and prohibited “chain breaks,” which were brief commercials sold by local stations. More about all that in another post.

Master’s Countdown: The Crow’s Nest

Augusta National’s clubhouse exists today only because when the club began, in 1931, Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones didn’t have enough money to tear it down and replace it with something nice. The building is smaller than it looks; much of its apparent bulk comes from its porches, which are nine and a half feet deep and run all the way around. In 1931, it contained fourteen rooms, but most of them were cramped and dark, and there was no kitchen, no electricity, and no plumbing. The ground floor had been described by its builder, in 1857, as a basement, and the entire building had been unoccupied since 1918. Roberts and Jones hired a local architect to draw plans for a huge, fancy replacement—and they would have built it if at that point they hadn’t owed money to just about everyone for just about everything, including toilet paper.

The club’s financial situation improved as the nation’s did, and toward the end of the Great Depression a group of members donated fifty thousand dollars toward a major renovation of the building. This was a great stroke of luck. Roberts wrote later that, if the project had not been undertaken before the war, “there is no telling when it might ever have been accomplished.” He also estimated that if the renovation had been postponed it would have cost at least four times as much.

The final step in the project was the conversion of the building’s attic into minimal sleeping quarters for a handful of members. This dormitory, which came to be called the Crow’s Nest, was the first overnight lodgings on the grounds. Before it was completed, members and guests from elsewhere usually stayed in one of the hotels downtown. The dormitory was finished at around the time the club reopened following the war.

The Crow’s Nest is still sometimes used by members and guests, although the steepness of the staircase limits its popularity among those with unreliable knees.  During the Masters, it’s offered to any of the tournament’s amateur competitors who wish to stay there, and at night they are inevitably drawn downstairs to thumb through the books in the library, study the photographs on the walls, stand for a while in the champions’ locker room, and worry about teeing off the next morning in front of the multitude gathered around the first tee. Players who slept in the Crow’s Nest as amateurs and went on to win the tournament as professionals include Ben Crenshaw, Jack Nicklaus, Mark O’Meara, Craig Stadler, Tiger Woods, and Phil Mickelson.

I’ve stayed in the Crow’s Nest, too. When I was working on my book The Making of the Masters, in the late nineteen-nineties, I slept in quite a few places at the club, among them Roberts’s old “suite,” a couple of the cabins, and the rooms known then as the Bachelor Quarters. The Crow’s Nest was my favorite by far. Bed, bathroom, card table, TV, comfortable chair, bar at the bottom of the stairs—what more do you need?

Renovation of the Crow’s Nest was followed by a far more ambitious project to add beds. The quality and availability of local hotel rooms had become unpredictable, and Roberts believed that the club needed to become more self-sufficient. In 1945, Edward J. Barber, a member who owned a steamship line in New York, surprised Roberts by offering to lend the club a hundred thousand dollars on favorable terms and to leave the club enough money in his will to cancel the debt. (Upon his death, in 1953, he actually bequeathed twice as much.) Barber explained that his years as a golfer were running out, and he wanted the club’s facilities to improve while he was still around to enjoy them.

Frank Discussion of Testicles During LPGA Tour Broadcast

Among the advertisers on the Golf Channel broadcast of the current LPGA Tour event is the Duluth Trading Company, which is promoting its Ballroom Jeans. Those aren’t jeans that are nice enough to waltz in; they’re jeans that have extra room for your balls. A women’s sports event may seem like an odd place to advertise a product intended for overweight middle-aged men—but keep in mind that the main viewing audience for LPGA Tour events is overweight middle-aged men.

The Clubhouse at Royal Birkdale

The clubhouse at Royal Birkdale Golf Club, where the Open is being held this week, was designed to look like an ocean liner cruising through a sea of fescue. Here’s the original conception, in a watercolor sketch that was submitted to the club in the early 1930s by the Liverpool architect George Tonge. (The painting is on display in the clubhouse):

The club has monkeyed with the building since it was built, by removing a number of the original Art Deco details and adding boxlike extensions, but the basic idea is intact. The building’s design influenced other architecture in the region, including this house, which is just up the road from the club:

And this one, which is across the road from the house in the photo above:

The Birkdale clubhouse also very directly influenced the design, by Alfred Ernest Shennan, of the clubhouse at Childwall Golf Club, in Liverpool, twenty-five miles to the south. The Childwall clubhouse, which was built in 1938, actually retains some features that were later removed from the Birkdale clubhouse, including its nautical-looking decks and railings:

One possible addition for both buildings: a few lifeboats suspended from the roof? A closer look at the Childwall clubhouse:

One nice thing about the Birkdale clubhouse is that you can see it from distant parts of the course, and can therefore use it to orient yourself as you wander through the dunes. A tiny bit of it is visible in this photo (of Ray), from a great trip that the Sunday Morning Group took to Lancashire in 2010:

Is This the Best Overseas Golf Itinerary?

I have an article in the summer issue of Links called “England’s Golf Coast.” It’s about a remarkable thirty-mile stretch of linksland that runs along the Lancashire coast between Liverpool and St. Annes, in northwestern England. The Golf Coast includes three of the ten courses on the active Open Championship Rota—Royal Liverpool, Royal Birkdale (where this year’s Open will be held), and Royal Lytham and St. Annes—but you could skip all three and still have an unforgettable trip. I’ve visited the area several times, most recently in 2013, and my friends have been talking about going back ever since our first trip there as a group, three years before that. The courses are so closely spaced that you can park yourself and your luggage in one place—no need for a coach and driver. In 2010, nine of us stayed mostly in three three-bedroom apartments in this building, in Southport:

The cost worked out to less than fifty dollars per man per night. The longest drive we had to golf was about an hour, and many of the courses we played were just a few minutes away. Here’s Barney in the living room of one of our apartments:

Below are photos of courses and people I mention in my Links article, taken during various trips over the years. First, St. Annes Old Links, which is next door to Royal Lytham and includes ground that was once part of its routing. Here are two members I played with. We wore rainsuits not because we expected rain but because the wind was blowing hard enough to shred ordinary golf clothing:

This is me in 2010 at West Lancashire Golf Club, known locally as West Lancs. It opened in 1873 and was the first Golf Coast course built north of the River Mersey. As is true of many courses in the area, you can travel to it by train from central Liverpool:A great guide to golf courses on the Lancashire coast is Links Along the Line, by Harry Foster, a retired teacher and a social historian. He rode along when I played Hesketh Golf Club, where he was a member for many years. (He died in 2014.)Hesketh isn’t my favorite course, but a couple of its oldest holes, on the second nine, are among my favorite holes. This view is back toward the clubhouse (the red-roofed white building near the center):

Hesketh has both a fascinating history (ask about the Hitler Tree) and a cool address:

In 2013, Foster and his wife joined me for dinner in the dining room at Formby Golf Club, one of my favorite courses anywhere. I actually spent several nights in the Formby clubhouse, in this room:

The Formby course encircles a separate golf club, Formby Ladies. Don’t skip it, as I did until 2013, to my permanent regret. Among the women I played with was Anne Bromley, on the right in the photo below. Her father was once the head professional at Royal County Down:

Formby Ladies isn’t long, but if you aren’t careful it will eat you up. The club has an excellent history, which you can study over lunch in the clubhouse (known to members as the Monkey House):At a nature preserve down the road from Formby, I met a retired Merseyside policeman and his wife, who own a coffee concession. He invited me to join him and his son, an aspiring professional, for a round at Southport & Ainsdale, which hosted the Ryder Cup in 1933 and 1937 and the British Amateur in 2005.The first hole at S&A is a par 3, and it’s a corker:Right next door to S&A, on the other side of the railroad tracks, is Hillside:

And right next door to Hillside is Royal Birkdale, whose clubhouse was designed to look a little like an ocean liner:

Birkdale is one of my favorite Open courses. I played it with a young member who had a lot less trouble with it than I did. In fact, he shot pretty close to even par:

In both 2010 and 2013, I spent one night in the Dormy House at Royal Lytham and St. Annes—part of a stay-and-play package that’s one of the greatest bargains in links golf. The view from my bedroom was across the practice green (and through mist) toward the clubhouse and the eighteenth hole:Here’s what the wind at Lytham—which wasn’t blowing when I took the photo below—has done to the trees. Many years ago, I wrote an article for Golf Digest whose opening line was “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.” The copy editor, who had apparently never heard of Bob Dylan, changed “weatherman” to “weather report.” I was mortified, but it turned out that none of the magazine’s readers had heard of Bob Dylan either. Anyway, leave your umbrella at home:You should play Royal Liverpool, of course, but don’t overlook Wallasey, just a few miles away:Wallasey was the home club of Dr. Frank Stableford, who in 1932 invented the round-rescuing scoring system that’s named for him. Here are the eighteenth green and the clubhouse:And, of course, if you somehow get tired of playing golf you can take any of a number of interesting side trips:

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.

The End of Sand

I have an article in this week’s New Yorker about sand—and there’s some actual golf in it. Here’s an excerpt, about a round I played in Dubai:

One day, I played golf with an Australian who worked for a major real-estate developer. The course, like Dubai itself, had been built on empty desert, and I commented that creating fairways and greens in such a forbidding environment must be difficult. “No,” the Australian said. “Deserts are easy, because you can shape the sand into anything you like.” The difficult parts, paradoxically, are the areas that are supposed to be sand: deserts make lousy sand traps. The wind-blown grains are so rounded that golf balls sink into them, so the sand in the bunkers on Dubai’s many golf courses is imported. Jumeirah Golf Estates—on the outskirts of the city, next to the desert—has two courses, Fire and Earth, both designed by Greg Norman. The sand in the bunkers on the Earth course is white (the most prized color for golf sand) and was bought from a producer in North Carolina. The sand on the Fire course is reddish brown—more like the desert across the road. Norman’s company bought it from Hutcheson, which mined it at its quarry in Ontario, sifted it to make it firmer than volleyball sand, kiln-dried it, dyed it, and loaded it onto a ship.

Bonus golf-related sand trivia (not in the article):The white sand in the bunkers at last year’s U.S. Open, at Oakmont, and Ryder Cup, at Hazeltine, came from a single quarry, in Ohio. It’s a trademarked brand called Tour Grade Signature Blend, from Fairmount Santrol, a Michigan company that also produces sand for molds used in metal-casting.

The photographs above and below are of an Army Corps of Engineers beach-nourishment project on the Jersey Shore—which I also wrote about. The metal boxes in the photo below are for unexploded munitions, which the Army dumped off the coast after the Second World War and the dredges sometimes slurp up.