Ever since he turned professional three seasons back, Francis (Bo) Wininger—he pronounces it Y-ninger—has played consistently good golf but it was not until the recent Baton Rouge Open that he at length managed to win a major circuit tournament. In Bo's case, this final busting through will probably have only a minimal effect on his general outlook. Now 32, happily married to a girl he met when they were both attending Oklahoma A&M and extracurricularly employed as a salesman for an automobile agency in Oklahoma City, Wininger is an exceptionally sturdy young man with a streak of genuine independence who learned how to take care of himself long ago, a grown-up athlete who keeps a firm martingale on his considerable temperament and knows how to ride the breaks, both good and bad, without getting unduly histrionic about them.
THE MOBILE INCIDENT
Stability and a sense of proportion in an athlete are the foe of what today is called color, as any admirer of Tommy Henrich or Stan Musial will corroborate. Wininger, fortunately, has one arrant idiosyncrasy: he drives an automobile as if he were a shady European prince who no longer gets his kicks from chamois hunting and chemin de fer. There are, as a result, quite a number of stories involving Wininger and intertournament transport, but the one his colleagues on the tour enjoy the most is the "Mobile incident." This took place two winters ago on the Sunday evening after the finish of the Baton Rouge Open when the pro pack was mushing east to the St. Pete Open, the next stop on their calendar.
At about 10 o'clock that evening as he was bearing down on Mobile, Bo, who was driving by himself, spotted Freddy Wampler, Art Doering and Bill Ogden cruising along in their cars at a speed that an automotive expert might describe as two-and-a-half-times-the-mph-favored-by-Horton-Smith-in-a-madcap-mood, or 75 mph. Bo shot out with a suitable flourish and passed them. A moment or so later, checking his rear-view mirror, he caught a glimpse of a car pressing to overtake him, quickly identified it as Doering's, and slamming his foot down another notch, managed to protect his lead for several miles whereupon he discerned rather tardily that the man in the pursuing vehicle wasn't Doering at all but, naturally, an officer of the law. Bo pulled over to the side of the road, and when the other three golfers in due course stopped to see if there was anything they could do for their buddy, the cop booked all four for speeding. He led them slowly back to the combination court-and-jail in a one-intersection town none of them remembered driving through.
The judge arrived a half hour later in great ill-humor. He was an old dirt farmer, and the idea of being pulled out of bed in the middle of the night hardly appealed to him. He eyed the four golfers balefully. The fine, he declared, would be $20 apiece.
Since he had been the driving force in the whole affair, Wininger assumed the role of spokesman for the defendants. "Your honor," he began, "that's an awful lot of money for fellows like us to pay. All four of us standing here before you are touring professional golfers. I don't know if you've met any pros before, but I can tell you that it's just about the hardest way in the world for a man to make a living. Each week you move from tournament to tournament trying to win sufficient funds to keep body and soul together. Now, the four of us here, we're having bad seasons. None of us are putting a lick. We're on our way to St. Pete hoping, judge, praying that we'll get that old feel back and win enough money there to afford, say, a bowl of chili at night and a motel roof over our heads. You see, if you fine us $20 apiece..." Bo kept on in that vein, and it was visible that the old judge was gradually softening. He finally waved his hand and announced that he would take the hardship of a golfer's life into account and cut the fine down to a total of $17.50 for the four.
Bo thanked him several times.
"Yes, thanks a lot," Doering put in as he pulled a bill out of his wallet. "Judge, you happen to have change for a hundred?"
...So, all things considered, since Bo was probably traveling the same route to St. Pete last week, perhaps it was a very good thing that Baton Rouge was where he first won first place and first money.