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

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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Masters Countdown: Augusta National’s Worst Golfer Ever?

Here’s what Augusta National’s first green looked like during the first Masters, when the hole was still the tenth. That bunker was really more of a waste area. It was later removed, and a different bunker was added closer to the green:
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During the club’s early years, a small creek ran across the first fairway, at the bottom of the hill, less than a hundred yards from the tee. The carry over the ditch was so short that few players noticed, but a member named Clarence J. Schoo drove into it so often that it came to be known as Schooie’s Gulch. Schoo was the founder and president of a boxboard manufacturing company in Springfield, Massachusetts. The company doesn’t exist anymore, but Schoo’s name is preserved in the Schoo Science Center at Springfield College, of which he and his wife were benefactors.

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At Augusta National one day, Schoo topped yet another drive into Schooie’s Gulch, and told Clifford Roberts, the club’s co-founder and chairman, “I wish you’d fill in that damn ditch.” Roberts did, during the summer of 1951—and sent the bill to Schoo. Or so the story goes. In truth, the ditch had always been a maintenance problem. Roberts also wanted to replace the club’s old Masters press tent, which really was a tent, with a Quonset hut. The new building was going to go to the right of the first fairway, near where the big scoreboard is today, and the ditch was in the way. The photo below shows the inside of the Quonset hut in the early 1950s. The sportswriters’ laptops look strange, but their beer cans and cigarettes are recognizable:

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Schoo did pay for part of the alteration, but he did so gladly, and he almost certainly wasn’t surprised when he opened his bill. He and Roberts were close friends, He was also one of the most popular members, and he later served as one of the club’s vice presidents. Here’s a note that another popular member, former President Eisenhower, sent him after Schoo had missed Eisenhower’s birthday party:

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Schoo was such a poor golfer that when he one day made a natural birdie Roberts decided that he should be paid the same cash pot that ordinarily went to a golfer who made a hole-in-one, on the theory that Schooie was never going to come closer. Another time, while Schoo was playing the seventh hole in a foursome that also included Roberts and Eisenhower,he hit a drive that traveled just a few yards, into a clump of pampas grass to the left of the tee. He said, “Well, in all the years I’ve been playing here, that’s the first time I’ve done that.” That summer, the grounds crew cut back the pampas grass and found many balls with his name imprinted on them. On another occasion, Schoo said with exasperation that he must be the worst golfer in the club. His caddie, who had been around long enough to hear stories but not long enough to recognize faces, said, “No, sir. The worst golfer in this club is Mr. Schoo.”

Moe Norman Slept Here (Richard Nixon Did Not)

The Canadian golf legend Moe Norman had a wide stance, a short takeaway, a lumberjack motion, and a finish that made him look like he was dangling from a rope, yet many knowledgeable players, Tiger Woods among them, have ranked him with Ben Hogan as one of the greatest ball strikers of all time.

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Norman also almost certainly suffered from autism. He worked in a rubber-boot factory early in his career, and, although he won more than 50 amateur and professional titles in Canada, he felt like an outcast when he played in tour events in the United States (including the Masters, twice). His finances were precarious until the final decade of his life, when Wally Uihlein, of Titleist, learned of his distress and gave him the kind of retirement he deserved.

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Norman spent his winters in Florida, and, until Uihlein stepped up, supported himself mainly by hustling and giving exhibitions. At one point, the pro at Mayfair Country Club, a muny in Sanford, let him stay, rent-free, in an apartment on the second floor of the clubhouse. I visited Mayfair last winter. The stairs to that apartment had been removed in a renovation, so in order to show me the place Mike Kenovich, the superintendent at the time, had to find a ladder.

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Then he and I and Jean-Pierre Ely, the general manager, climbed to the roof, while Bernie Haas—who competed with Norman in several tournaments in Florida in the 1960s and was inducted into the Northern Ohio PGA Hall of Fame in 1995—steadied the ladder by keeping a foot on the bottom rung. That’s Haas in the red hat in the photo above, and Kenovich starting to climb. And those are Ely’s feet disappearing up above. Here’s Haas in the club’s Oak House Restaurant, later, with one of his golf scrapbooks:

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Haas was an assistant pro at Burning Tree, in Washington, D.C., in the late 1950s. One of his students there was Vice President Richard Nixon. Nixon’s boss played so much golf that Nixon figured he’d better learn, too, and because he had no friends he would invite Haas to play with him. “He wasn’t a very good golfer,” Haas said, respectfully. Nixon once told Clifford Roberts that he wouldn’t mind being a member of Augusta National, and Roberts, who didn’t like him any better than Eisenhower did, said, “I didn’t know you were that interested in golf.” And that was the end of that.
Anyway, here’s what’s left of the apartment where Norman stayed:
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The walls were crumbling, but I could picture Norman, whom I spent some time with in the mid-1990s, standing at a window and waiting for the sun to come up so that he could tee off again.
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Mayfair has a long, interesting history. I’ll have more about that—and about Moe Norman—soon.

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