Two things make the PGA Seniors' Teacher Trophy tournament unique. One is that it is a championship limited to professional golfers who are 50 or older. The second is that it is the only golf tournament left in this country where you can hear deep Scottish accents on all sides. In the old days, when every golf course worth its bunkers had an imported Scotsman as club professional, the bur-r-r-rs around the greens were as thick as gorse and you didn't rate as a top golfer unless you were named Willie. Now all the Willies play baseball, and most of the old Scotsmen have either gone to the great pro shop in the sky or retired to Florida, where they come out of the orange groves once a year to play a little gowf with their friends, talk Scotch and drink same.
When the PGA Seniors' began in 1937 it was really a revival meeting of the Bobby Burns Society, but now the Hutchisons, McLeods, Watsons, Crichtons and the rest are pretty well confined to reminiscing and competing for the prizes put up in the special divisions for the older of the older golfers. The trophies and the bulk of the cash go to the young pups in their 50s. They—the kids who have been competing in the Seniors' for only a few years—play first-rate golf, and the reason is simply that they are first-rate competitive golfers who happen to have aged a bit. Anyone who followed golf in the '30s and '40s is bound to get a little jolt—half shock at the passage of time and half delight at the recognition of the familiar—when he discovers that not only are Gene Sarazen and Paul Runyan seniors (each is a two-time winner of the Seniors' title), but so are Jimmy Demaret, Tony Manero, Herman Barron, Dick Metz, Horton Smith, Henry Ransom, Duke Gibson, Toney Penna, Vic Ghezzi, Jimmy Thomson, Jim Turnesa, Tom Creavy and a fairwayful of others, including Ben Hogan and Sam Snead, both of whom were eligible this year but neither of whom entered. Hogan wrote that he was not in good physical condition and couldn't play, and Snead said he would be busy, possibly opening a new branch of the U.S. Mint. A tournament official said, "I don't think Sam wants to admit that he's old enough to be a senior."
For that matter, Demaret didn't show either this year, though he had filed an entry. "I don't know where he is," said Tom Crimmins, the tournament director, but then word came that Jimmy and Sam were playing with the younger set at Palm Springs. Crimmins shook his head. "They'd win more money here," he said. Crimmins probably was right. Demaret and Snead finished nowhere at Palm Springs.
In the 10 years that Teacher's Scotch has been sponsoring the Seniors' tournament with the PGA the purse has steadily risen, until this year it totaled $30,000, with $2,500 to the winner. In addition, the winner gets a trip to Great Britain to play the holder of the British seniors' title for what is known as the world seniors' championship. On top of that, he gets a fine fee for appearing in Teacher's advertisements during the year. Paul Runyan, who won both the U.S. and world seniors' titles in 1961 and 1962, said that, all in all, they are his biggest purses in a career that includes two PGA championship victories. What's the matter with you, Sam?
The size and playing quality of the Seniors' field has grown as steadily as the purses—these may be old professionals, but they are still professionals. This year the starting field numbered close to 400 and included some very good golfers, among them a semilegend of a man named John Barnum. Barnum, 51, is a huge, amiable hulk (6 feet 4, 230 pounds) with a friendly face and a deep voice that he keeps tuned low. He did not turn professional until he was 36 years old. Last year he led the first round of the PGA Championship—the regular one, not the Seniors'—with a 66, and in November he became the first senior golfer ever to win a major tournament on the professional golf tour when his 270 won the Cajun Classic. Barnum was the glamour man at Port St. Lucie, Fla. last week even before he turned in his first-round score of 66. He hits a golf ball so far that he stands out among the seniors, and he is so big and genial in appearance—he looks like your next-door neighbor, the one the kids take to because he's good at fixing broken bats and old bicycles and doesn't ask them how they're doing in school—that everyone likes him.
Barnum started out 66-68 for 134, which Arnold Palmer wouldn't have thrown back, and Herman Barron, who walks around a golf course with the springy bounce of a rubber ball, did the same with two 67s. Errie Ball, a trim little English-born pro whose great-uncle John won the British Open in 1890 and was eight times British Amateur champion, followed a 71 with an eight-under-par 64 for a 135, but Errie blew to 73 on Saturday. Barnum had a 69 on Saturday, and so did Barron, to maintain the tie at 203, a stroke ahead of Henry Ransom, the gentlemanly Texan who coaches golf at Texas A&M. On Sunday it was Barron, peppy and distinguished as ever—Teacher's ad agency should be pleased—who was able to produce yet another good round. His three-under-par 69 gave him a 272 and a record low score for the Seniors'. He beat Barnum by two strokes and Ransom by seven. All in all, seven old pros were under par for the four rounds, a tribute to the skills of middle age—and never mind those who say the young pros would tear Port St. Lucie apart.
What Barron and the others really showed last week is that the PGA Seniors' tournament has moved out of the atmosphere of an annual convention of oldtimers and into the spectrum of major golf competition. The quality of play is close to that seen on the regular tour. Moreover, this is a friendly tournament, with the informal camaraderie of a club championship. Ronald Teacher, the Scotsman who heads the Teacher company, acknowledged that the tournament was excellent publicity for his product, but he added, "We'd sponsor it even if it wasn't. You meet so many nice people."