On the Winter Tour with Harry Sprague

A fictional (but not very) young golf pro reports to his backer about his first swing around the circuit
March 31, 1958

Jan 7nt
Dear Mr. Parmenter
I am writing to you from the writing room in the Del Monte Lodge which you can see from the printing on top is in Pebble Beach where we pros are playing the Crosby turnament this week. It is very noisy in here because an awful racket is going on in the bar and if I make any errors in spelling it will be because of the racket and how it effects a persons cordination. Before I left Mass I promised you I would write you a regalar report which is the least I can do since you are my backer and are backing me on the winter tour. So Im going to get this letter off and will treat the racket just like a galery which I did fine in the LA Open or else would I have tied for 14nt place. Thanks for sending your tellergram (spelling?). It was sure good hearing from you Mr Parmenter.

That was a good daybue finishing tied for 14nt. I could have won the whole shoot and match if I had my touch on the greens. I was paired with Dutch Harrison one round and with Walter Burkemo another round and I am not being conceeded when I tell you I outplayed them every hole from tee to green but they got the putts and I couldent buy one for love of money which is what I hear happens on the tour. Meaning that the real golfers cant putt these aradic greens. I blew a couple of easy birdie putts on 14nt and 15nt that was the differents between tieing for 14nt and a tie for 7nt but as you say a person has got to be a pholossifer (spelling?) if hes going to be a golfer and I did hole 2 40 footers so I feel like a pholossifer about those 2 putts.

For a sample I got one of those alpacker sweaters which you push up the sleeves on and makes you look extra rugged and proey.

Some pros had to cancell out of the Crosby so I was invited to play here on the strenght of my showing at LA which I am grateful (spelling?) for and told them so seeing it is my first year on the tour. The pros are very regular guys both the old fellows like Harrison and Littler and the young fellows you never heard of because I never did. However I am strictly unimpressd by their golf. Harrisonsswing is no better than Mrs Proutys but he is almost as old as she is so maybe he was better when he was young. That figures. As I wrote you above the pros are very freindly. Al Besselink for ex-sample let me use one of his sports jackets on a big date I had in LA and it was sure nice of him even though the jacket was kind of small thru the shoulders. I bougth some new clothes here in a habadashry in Pebble so I exspect to do better with the females from now on.

Wait till your boy starts putting
Yours truly
Harry

Jan. 21, 1958
Mr. Walt Parmenter
Parmenter Enterprises Co.
148 So. Main Street
Micawba, Mass.
Dear Mr. Parmenter,
Like you asked me to in your telegram last week, I have got in touch with a public stenographer, so all the words in this letter will be clear which apparently they was not in my handwriting due to the racket coming from the bar at the Del Monte Lodge. Also they will be spelled right. I am sitting in a chair in an office here on the main drag in Palm Springs on the second floor of a building above a store where they sell nothing but moccs and loafers but are still in business apparently. They are playing the Thunderbird Invitational here this week, and I am giving this dictation like I was Adolph Menjou to a lady name of Lorna Thomas who is going to stick in the periods and the other dots and dashes when she types the letter up. She is a nice-looking lady with white hair like Mrs. Prouty which is the best description I can give you underthe present playing conditions, if you catch.

Well, Mr. Parmenter, you have probably been wondering how come your boy wasn't in the money since-your last letter. So have I because I have been hitting it a ton. That is one of those slang expressions all the pros use. When you ask a pro how he played, he answers one or two things. "I was hitting it a ton," he says or he says, "I was playing like a Gang-busters" which also means good. They got a lingo of their own out here, like bankers, and that's all they talk. I'll give you a sample of what I mean. No pro calls a golf course a golf course. That's strictly bush. You call a course a track. Another sample. When you get into a sand trap and someone asks you where your ball is, you don't say, "I'm in the trap." You say, "I'm on the beach." Another good sample for you is if you see a pro or anyone else whose name you don't remember just then, you call him "Old Buddy." You can pick up this lingo pretty quick like I did in acouple of weeks if you have got any brains at all. I don't want to lose my own personality which has always been my trademark at the driving range, like you keep telling me, and I think this is the reason for my popularity with my colleague pros. They think I'm a pretty good lingoist, too, is what I mean.

Like at Thunderbird, where I am not entered this week since only something like the top 40 money-winners get invited and I wasn't on the circuit last year, I played a practice round with Burke, Souchak, and Demaret who are all from Texas except Souchak. I had a nice little 66 and took the boys for a few bucks, so when we finished I said, "Okay, you guys, let's adjourn to the 10th Hole and I'll buy you all a Moxie." They got a great kick out of this because though we call the bar the 10th Hole at the Micawba Country Club—who knows better than you, Mr. Parmenter?—apparently if you have an 18-hole course you change around and call the bar the 19th Hole of which I get the point.

Jimmy Demaret can be a serious fellow sometimes, though. He was out practicing the other afternoon and because I like to help the fellows out like I did Dick Mayer with his putting stroke last week, I told Jimmy, "Jimmy, you are cutting across the ball. That is why you are getting that fade at the end on those irons. Would you like a couple of tips, old buddy?"

"Harry," he says, "I've always played the ball from left to right. I better stick with it and just do the best I can."

I told Jimmy not to think about it and I could fix him up in a jiffy like I did Mr. Callahan last summer who had the same kind of slice. "Harry," Jimmy says to me, "It's a shame Snead and Hogan are not on the tour 'cause they been looking for years for someone to straighten them out on the golf swing." When the tour goes through Texas maybe I will get the time to go up to Fort Worth and check Ben's swing for him which I would be glad to do for an old buddy.

What your boy can't understand is why I'm not scoring out here, Mr. Parmenter. It's got to be the tracks. El Centro where we enlisted men had a little tournament this week is just a desert. Tijuana down in Mexico where we played the week before has fairways with no clover in them at all. Pebble and Cypress where we played before that are trick tracks. If you hit the ball a ton like I was there, you get penalized where a short hitter like Middlecoff can't reach the ocean. I was paired with Cary one round and I outdrove him on every hole including the short ones, but he was putting and I wasn't so he gets a 69 and I get an 80, which is backwards. Cary told me after the round I was trying to hit the ball too hard. Now I don't like to accuse a colleague pro of throwing sour grapes but you probably saw in the papers that right after he played with me in the Crosby, Middlecoff left the tour and went back to his club in Florida which is more than a coincidence, hey?

I expect to break into the money in a big way at Phoenix next week. All your boy needs is a couple of putts. A little more female companionship wouldn't do me any harm neither but we keep moving like gypsies and when we hit the new towns the name pros get all the name women and before a guy can get his bearings we move on again.
Yours truly
Harry Sprague

Feb. 1, 1958
Mr. Walt Parmenter
Parmenter Enterprises Co.
148 So. Main Street
Micawba, Mass.
Dear Mr. Parmenter,
I am dictating this letter from Tucson which is also in Arizona which as far as I can see is just one big sand-trap or beach. There are plenty of public stenographers in this town because lots of people come out here to retire among which is a nice-looking lady name of Rhoda Richards who is taking my dictation. She came out here 20 years ago and she is a real veteran, if you follow my drift.

How come I am here in Tucson when the tournament is still going in Phoenix? Well, I ran into some tough breaks in Phoenix, Mr. Parmenter, and missed the cut by two strokes, meaning that my total for the first two rounds was two shots too high to get me into the low sixty scores and ties who qualify for the last two rounds. I think I am maybe spending too much time helping the other pros instead of working on my own game. A good sample of this is Palm Springs and Phoenix where I gave Ken Venturi some tips on competition psychology and, as you read in the papers, Venturi steps right out after that and wins both tournaments, though his game still needs an awful lot of polishing. Where I had my tough break at Phoenix is that a terrific looking blonde with one of those brown suntans came out to watch me and Ford and Finsterwald finish our second round. I introduced myself very politely and I bet her, just to make some conversation, I would get three birds on the last threeholes. I guess I gambled too much going after those birds 'cause I finish boge, boge, double boge and that killed me. I learned a lesson from this like you learn on the tour which is this: You have got to putt, old buddy, or you're dead.

I drove down here from Phoenix last night to get used to the track where we fellows who have to qualify in a qualifying round even to get into the Tucson Open qualify on Tuesday. I am now traveling with two other young colleague pros, a great little putter from Indiana name of Pete Grissom and a fellow from Seattle name of Albie Vickary who is a hell of a scrambler. They both made the cut at Phoenix so I took off in the car and they will pick up rides and meet me here Sunday night at the Gila Monster Motel. Vickary, Grissom, and myself have formed a syndicate and we will be splitting our prize money up three ways. I don't know if this is such a smart move for me and I would appreciate your idea about it since you are a real pro with finances.

This reminds me, Mr. Parmenter, to bring up something that's been on my mind for some time now, if you don't mind. Pete, Albie, and a lot of the other pros including the old guys tell me that my finances arrangements with you aren't a fair shake. They say that they never heard of any backer making a deal where he pays a pro's expenses on the winter tour and in return the pro works for him and runs his driving range from April to November for no salary. I told them under our arrangement I get to keep two-thirds of what I make on the lessons I give at the range and that I gave many numerous lessons, but they still say you are giving me less money than what I should be paid for it. I explained that you are a big man in Micawba and got a connection with many enterprises, but all they say about this is it figures. So I will be looking forward to hear what you say about this.

Well, Mr. Parmenter, I'm going out to the practice range now seeing that I never did stir up an acquaintanceship with that blonde with the sun-tan, so from now on I'll be playing a more conservative type golf.
Yours truly
Harry Sprague

Feb. 15, 1958
Mr. Walt Parmenter
Parmenter Enterprises Co.
148 So. Main St.
Micawba, Mass.
Dear Mr. Parmenter,
I'm going to make this a short letter because I need to get out on the course and get some practicing in. I am giving the dictation in Houston, Texas, to a nice-looking lady name of Sue Atherton who, she tells me, is a native of Houston, Texas, and was living here when it was no more an acropolis than Micawba, Mass., or whatever is the foreign name for a city with lots of tall buildings and women's clothes stores. As is getting to be my usual, I arrived in this next town on the tour a couple of days before the rest of my colleague pros who made the cut at San Anton' and are still there playing the third round of the Texas Open today. That was where the roof really hit me, Mr. Parmenter. If it wasn't bad enough not making the cut in any tournament for a month now, at San Anton' I didn't even qualify in the qualifying round to get into thetournament. Those Scotchmen are right when they say this is a humble game because I never felt punker in my life.

I don't know if I told you I am taking my whole swing apart which is why I am doing so much practicing on the practice tee. My two old buddies, Albie Vickary and Pete Grissom, been telling me a long time now I don't get my left hand on the club correctly and which is why I am hitting from the top all right side and spraying my shots all over the place. Demaret and some of the other veteran pros like Barber and Boros also have been trying to show me changes I ought to make, like the lining up the shot, but for a while I just thought they were only trying to throw me off my game because this is for real bucks out here. I am convinced now they were aiming to do me a good turn all along, and I'm working on a new grip and a whole different swing and action which nobody perfects overnight even if I am a natural athlete. So I have decided not to go up to Fort Worth. Hogan will just have to work on his own game best he can himself till I get going again.

I never knew there was so much bare country with no trees and just plain dirt in the world as there is in this part of the United States where we cut across on the winter tour. It's like being an enlisted man in the French Foreign Legion. I ran into a knockout babe with a convertible Jaguar car in Tucson when we were both picking up our cleaning and pressing, but my timing must have been off for she said she was catching a plane that night. Also would appreciate it if you would let me know if we can make some new finances arrangements like I wrote you about which you did not say anything about in your last letter.
Yours truly
Harry Sprague

Mar 1nt
Dear Mr Parmenter
I am writing you in New Orleans and you see I am back to using my own hand writing which is because my funds are getting low. My two buddys Grissom and Vickary are making me follow a budjet with no more spending on habadashry and stenos till I start winning again. Funny thing about those stenos. Where ever you go they all have names like movie starlits and you walk up the stairs to the office exspecting you are going to meet a real live doll with a car and every time what do you see in front of you. One of those old aljebur teachers with pins stuck all over her head who is old enufh (spelling?) to a been an air raid warden in the civel war.

Your boy is finaly hitting it again Mr. Parmenter. I dident qualify for the last 36 at Baton Rouge but I was hitting it so good that George Bayer who I was paired with one round was twenty thirty yards behind me off some tees and pressing to get that close. The Hebert brothers Jay and Lionel who call it something like Aibair in french are very regalar guys and came over and told me my actiun (spelling?) looks way improved and to stick with it and before long I will be taking the boys just like Grant took rich men. Which is what a lot of the other pros came over and slapped me on the back and said. They are a real good bunch. I dont want to knock myself but they also were right when they were telling me I wasnt getting my putts to drop because I am a charjer and keep charjing the hole and have got to work for a smoother stroke or tap. Thats exsperiense and you dont get it unless you go out and play aradic golf and learn some thing from your mistakes hey. This is a funny gameturnament golf. Being a big hitter like myself gives you an edge but you also have got to be solid which is why those old pros who are vetran enufg (spelling?) they could open up steno offices keep right on going year after year. The other thing is tempermint which I always had as you know from watching me starring in three sports for Micawba High and winning those driving contests at the range and the Micawba Open.

About those finances arangements Mr Parmenter. I would like to get them fixed up so that I can save some money this year at the range from a salary insted of always being in hock to you for the previus season. In your last letter you say my head is getting too big for my hat and I dont know how well off I am with you backing me with loans. My coleague pros say they can swing me an assistance job for me that will give me a much better deal all the way. I just as soon come back to the range where all the gang knows me but let us talk over a new arangement in your next letter. Okay.

You probly noticed that some of us enlisted men are getting in the money like Albie Vickary did at Baton Rouge with that 68 on the last round so our sindycut had a big party at a nite club and I got up and sang a couple of songs at the mike to show the folks I am a real pro material.
Your Truly
Harry

March 24, 1958
Mr. Walt Parmenter
Parmenter Enterprises Co.
148 So. Main St.
Micawba, Mass.
Dear Mr. Parmenter,
I got your telegram congratulating me on my performance in tieing for eighth (8th) place in the Pensacola Open which I certainly appreciated since it is the first dough I have won since LA. My prize money share came to six hundred dollars ($600) from which I am mailing you a mail order for two hundred ($200) as part payment down on the funds you loaned me as my backer on the winter tour which I am leaving now.

I am dictating this letter in St. Pete not to steno but to an old girl friend of mine from Micawba, Marian Haydock, who you probably remember when she used to live on Depot Street. This is why it is all typed up with every thing dotted and spelled correctly again. To make a long story short, Marian has been down here, which I didn't know, for two years working in the office of a real estate outfit in St. Pete; and I ran into her at the tournament here last week.

As you probably read in the papers, I missed the money here by four (4) shots but all my old "Buddies" now tell me: "Harry, you are looking like a player now" or "You are really moving it, 'man' "; which is my pro colleagues' way of saying I am really moving it.

Marian is looking like a million dollars ($1,000,000). She always had it in that dep't but not so much, like I tell her. We are hitting it off like "Gang Busters," and what a relief it is after all these months to bump into a "babe" who talks my language; which Marian does seeing she was a soph and saw every basketball game the year I broke the high school scoring record by "tossing" in those thirty-three (33) points—thirteen (13) field goals and seven (7) fouls—against Braintree High.

Now if we can discuss the other mutual business of ours, Mr. Parmenter. First off, I have decided not to come back to work for you at the range. Mr. Amos A. Tabor who runs the Otter Lake Resort and Country Club up in the state of northern Michigan signed me up as an ass't pro, for which I thank my old "Buddies" on the tour who introduced me to him after my showing at Pensacola. Otter Lake is a real big resort with twenty-seven (27) holes. It doesn't open until middle of May so I latched onto a job instructing at a driving range here in St. Pete where I will make my headquarters until then. Mr. Tabor is going to have me represent Otter Lake on the tour next winter when the course is closed up with snow and unseizable weather. It is all in the contract on paper, and Vickary, Grissom, and my other colleague pros tell me it is a wonderful deal for me. I am enclosing the mail order for two hundred dollars ($200) and you will receive the rest on a monthly installmentplan Marian says she will work out.

So that's the good news. I'd appreciate it a lot if you would mail me the photo in the shop of me and you standing in front of the old driving range and pointing at the sign on top, so I can hang it in the pro shop at Otter Lake to show people where I got my start before I became a veteran. Marian has a car and if we go up to the Masters for a day or two I will get some photographer to shoot a picture of me with Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen with our arms around each other at the first tea, which would be a nice thing to look up and see for the members at Otter Lake when they are having a birch beer or something at the old 28th Hole.
Yours truly
Harry Sprague
Ass't Pro, Otter Lake C.C.

EIGHT ILLUSTRATIONS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)