In rooms 107, 108, 109, and in several other apartments of the Seal Rock Inn in San Francisco, conditions were on the cramped side a fortnight ago. One look at its glassy fa√ßade and redwood trimming would tell you that the Seal Rock is another of the thousands of modern, aseptic motels that are as frequent as empty beer cans along the highways of the South and West, and it is in just such places that the professional golfers and their families like to bed down when their tour hits town. Because the Seal Rock is only a skip and a jump from Harding Park, where the $50,000 Lucky International Open was being contested for four days, its first-floor patio suddenly took on the look of a nursery school playground.
Along the professional golfing trail, which winds its way across the country several times during the course of the year, some 30 to 40 itinerant families with children ranging anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 years try to scratch a living with Daddy's golf clubs. "We figure," says blonde, 24-year-old Susan Marr, whose husband David won $18,408.81 in 36 weeks of touring last year, "that if we can get by on $200 to $250 we've had a good week. That means paying for doctors, entrance fees, caddies, rooms, meals, gas, laundry—everything. David says if you can't live as well as you do at home, you shouldn't be out here."
Living near the Marrs during the Lucky were the Johnny Potts and the Paul Harneys. Down the road a stretch at the Pacifica Motel were the Tommy Jacobses, the Mason Rudolphs, the Don Whitts, the Bert Weavers, the Huston LaClairs and the Gay Brewers. These and other couples with small children like the Don Fairfields, the Gary Players and the Howie Johnsons often make a point of booking into the same motel, not just for the mutual companionship but also for the convenience of being close to others with the same problems.
Like bedouins and gypsies and the folk of other traveling civilizations, the touring golfers have customs, habits—even an argot—that set them apart from the people through whose communities they pass in their endless trek. "I needed a permanent last week," Maryrose Pott was saying the other day, "so I traded Iris Fairfield a walk for a beauty parlor." What she meant was that she looked after little Jeff Fairfield so that Iris Fairfield could follow her husband around the golf course, and in exchange Iris looked after little Jay Pott (John Pott Jr.) while Maryrose was at the hairdresser.
February 12, 1962
Unlike more permanent American communities, there are virtually no socioeconomic strata in the world of the touring pros. Gary Player, who won nearly $70,000 last year, lived on just about the same level as Tommy Jacobs, who won less than $13,000. The only noticeable difference was that the Players always had to hire a second motel room because they had an English nanny traveling with them to look after their two babies.
Even though Arnold Palmer is the reigning tycoon of the tour these days, with an income 30 times more than that of the average pro, he lives like all the other young marrieds when his wife, Winnie, is along. Winnie can't travel full time anymore, however. Like the Lionel Heberts, the Doug Fords, the Art Walls, the Gene Littlers and many more of the veterans, the Palmers have a child of school age. The mothers all must stay home except during school vacations.
"I'll never forget the first time I saw Winnie Palmer," Maryrose Pott was reminiscing recently. "She was pregnant and feeding a child in a motel restaurant, and I wondered whether that's what my life was going to be like. That's the way it turned out, of course, and I love it. I don't think any of us would be really happy just being ordinary housewives. I guess the guys think of that before they ask us to marry them."
How they met
Alongside the saga of Dave and Susan Marr, the weekly TV travails of Dobie Gillis and his beatnik pal Maynard are as uneventful as an afternoon nap. Back in 1958, when they first met, Dave was a young teaching pro at the Rockaway Hunting Club just outside New York City and Susan was working at NBC as secretary to Pat Harrington Jr., the television comic who was then appearing occasionally on The Jack Paar Show. Harrington frequently played golf with Marr and decided that the two young people should meet, although Susan didn't know a tee from a Broadway subway. But that's the way it is with most golfers' wives; among them, only Joan Ragan, Vivienne Player and Ann Stranahan have ever given par a serious tussle.
After nearly two years of courting around New York, Dave left Susan to join the tour in California. Susan by then was an associate producer, and she followed Dave west to work in a Victor Borge spectacular. Two years ago this week they were married in Palm Springs, where the tour was making a station stop. "There wasn't much time," Susan recalls, "so I had to propose to David before they moved on."
When the tour reached Portland, Ore. that fall, Susan was six months pregnant. It looked as if she would be able to have the baby at home in New York during the off season at the end of the year. "Usually," according to Maryrose Pott, "a wife goes home about six weeks before she is going to have the baby, and she can come back about six weeks after it's born. And I can tell you, those three months away from our husbands are the grimmest we ever have to spend."
In Susan's case, however, the baby decided to be born prematurely right there in Portland. "David got hold of a doctor through his amateur partner in the pro-am they were playing on the day before the Portland Open started," Susan recalls. "We had to leave the baby in an incubator in Portland for two more months, so there wasn't anything for me to do but rejoin David. Every two or three days we would phone the hospital to find out if Elizabeth was all right, and finally we were able to go back and get her when she could leave the incubator."
Throughout the 1961 tour the Marrs were three and began to live more closely with the other young couples who traveled with their children. "It's not as bad as you might think," Susan says. "We always try to stop at a place where we can get a room with a kitchenette or a little cooking unit, and although it costs $2 more you can save a lot more than that just cooking your own breakfast."
"I'll say you can," put in Maryrose Pott. "Just this morning it cost $4 for breakfast for John, me and little Jay."
"We always carry the baby's food in a basket with us in the car," Susan went on. "And then we carry things like bacon and eggs and bread and flour and a few cooking utensils. During the day while David is out playing, I can get the week's laundry done at a laundromat, and I bring an iron with me everywhere. The motel almost always furnishes an ironing board. The money I can save on things like laundry nearly makes up for the extra cost of having me and the children on the tour. We're not deductible, you know."
Late last year, while the Marrs were staying in an apartment they now maintain in New Rochelle, Susan had her second child, David Marr III (David Marr Sr., who was a golf professional in Dave's home town of Houston, died in 1948). In order to cart Baby David around the circuit in their station wagon, the Marrs borrowed the convertible pram that the Gary Players used for the same purpose last year. On the highway the crib can be lifted off" the pram's folding undercarriage and placed on the flat bed of the wagon. Little Elizabeth, now 16 months old, rides in a small chair that attaches to the front seat between her mother and father.
Following the prevailing custom, the Marrs normally depart for the next stop on the tour as soon as Dave has finished his final round of the current tournament. Although it may mean sitting in the car for several hours with the children until Dave is ready to go, Susan has to check the children and the pram and the luggage and the groceries and the toys out of most motels by Sunday noon in order to avoid paying an extra day's rent. Then, if the next tournament isn't too far away, they may arrive by bedtime.
"Most of the men like to take a day off from golf on Monday," Susan says. "Sometimes we have to spend part of Monday on the road, but if we don't we try to get some of our business done that day, like sending our accounts to the man who handles our money and makes out our tax returns."
At the motel the wives always have their hands full. The children must be fed, the marketing done in a strange city, the golfers' slacks kept clean and pressed (for there isn't a more meticulously turned out group of men this side of Savile Row) and the hair put up in curlers in case everyone suddenly decides to go out on the town that night. But mainly it is a job of looking after restless young children. Maryrose Pott has a particular problem. Her son Jay "has had it in for little girls lately," as she puts it. "Only last week he took a swipe at the little Harney girl." But as long as Jay can prowl around the motel courtyard on his tiny tricycle he seems perfectly contented.
The baby-sitting problem
If a wife wants to "walk" with her husband and can't arrange with another wife to watch her children that day, she hires a baby sitter. "Most places are very good about baby sitters," Susan Marr reports. "They have a list of sitters who are always available, and they stand behind them. You hardly ever have any trouble that way.
"Conni Venturi, Joan Sanders, Shirley Casper and Winnie Palmer walk more than the rest of us," Susan went on. "But, then, they can afford baby sitters a little better than most of us. And don't forget, when your husband earns as much as theirs do, you're not so nervous every time he makes a shot."
When the husbands arrive home after a round of tournament play, most wives can tell at a glance how well they've done. "They don't talk golf too much," says Maryrose Pott. "Maybe for about 15 minutes they'll tell you what happened, but they don't replay the round for you. They don't talk nearly as much about their golf as amateurs do. Of course, if they've had a really bad round, they may not want to talk at all."
"Except for Mason Rudolph," put in Susan Marr. "He'll come in the room and say, 'I shot an 81 today' and laugh his head off."
After dinner, which more often than not is cooked in the motel room, either television or bridge is the staple entertainment. "The children don't seem to mind the noise a bit," says Susan Marr. "In fact, I think they get so used to us they sleep better on the road than at home."
"We're so close to our husbands," adds Maryrose Pott, "living with them day after day and week after week in motel rooms, that we're really lost when we're away from them. Vivienne Player really dies when she's away from Gary."
"There must be something to this life," Susan Marr says. "Look how our bachelor group gets smaller and smaller. Tony Lema and Jim Ferree are about the only ones left."
Sally Jacobs, Tommy's wife, summed it up with a note of defiance in her voice. "I'm proud of being a professional's wife," she said. "I like the life, and I'm proud of my husband. I wouldn't have it any other way."