Each February and March when winter winds, rain and cold cast their blight on U.S. tournament links, some 50 chilled golf professionals pack their gear and lug their golf bags south to the Caribbean. Warmed by the southern sun and caressed by the trade winds that dart restlessly off the Caribbean Sea, they swing through a five-week, 4,000-mile tournament tour covering Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Panama and Jamaica. On these and the following pages are impressions of the tour, recorded in notes by Writer Gwilym Brown and sketches by Artist
Maracaibo is a hot, flat, sprawling Venezuelan oil town on the shores of a lake bearing the same name. The lake's surface bristles with oil derricks; its water is unappetizingly seasoned with oil. Artist Schmidt depicts one of the tiny houses that sparkle cheerfully at the edge of the water like chunks of sherbet in strawberry, lime or lemon flavors. The Maracaibo golf course is 10 miles from the edge of town, a green oasis in a desert of cactus, sand and red clay, so thirsty that artesian wells must feed it 1.5 million gallons of water every day to keep it alive.
Caracas was the tour's third stop. Here an inquisitive little boy peers down at the Valle Arriba Club from the window of one of the homes next to the course. For the players, the cool Caraque√±o climate brings blessed relief after the desert heat of Maracaibo. Golfers on a practice green (below right) discuss the art of putting on the Caribbean's tough Bermuda grass, while a competitor (above right) faces the reality of a long putt in tournament play. There are out-of-bounds on all but one hole, providing a narrow, treacherous playground. The golf course is notched into the mountains that loop Caracas, and the city's buildings can be seen beyond the green, gleaming crisp and white in the clear air.
Panama is a colorful city lying next to the Canal Zone. The Caribbean tour—jointly sponsored by the PGA and Seagram distilleries—traditionally visits Panama City at carnival time. The Spanish ranch-style clubhouse and course, which command a view of the jungle to the north, the ancient ruins of Old Panama and of the Pacific Ocean where it bends into the Bay of Panama, now vibrate with the gay babble of the spectators and the fiesta spirit. Even the strapping Panamanian police, poised, arms akimbo, by a palm-flanked fairway, do not sober the gaiety but lend a special interest of their own. Despite its nearness to U.S. territory, Panama is a tropical city with a tourist-free foreign atmosphere exotically redolent of shrimp boats and bananas.