A TRIUMPH FOR TWO SWINGERS

In a Hawaiian setting that offered palm trees, luxury hotels, Pacific surf and even hula lessons, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer played powerful golf to win the Canada Cup for the U.S.
December 14, 1964

The Canada Cup was first put up in 1953 for "the furtherance of good fellowship and better understanding among the nations of the world through the medium of international golf competition," and—unlike a lot of similarly motivated sporting events—it has not yet been the occasion of any serious breach of the international peace. The 12th renewal of the cup matches was played last week at the Royal Kaanapali Golf Course on the island of Maui, and it was no exception to this happy rule. The languorous climate of the Hawaiian Islands seemed to materially lull the combative spirit, and any truculence that remained was quashed by Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, whose team victory for the U.S. was both completely expected and utterly overwhelming. Thus, save for a total of 20 hours or so of competition under the tropic sun, the 68 golfers representing 34 countries or states or islands or commonwealths or whatever might well have been so many cases of hypertension assigned to a rest cure.

Ostensibly, all this golfing talent traveled to Hawaii for the laudable and high-minded purpose of capturing a couple of huge trophies for their fatherlands—the gold-plated Canada Cup for the winning team and the equally impressive silver International Trophy for the low individual score. But these players are professionals (except for the Austrians, a country that apparently has no golf pros), so there was some lucre on the line as well. Nicklaus and Palmer, as team winners, split $2,000 between them, with lesser money for second, third and fourth places. The winning individual (Nicklaus again, with a fine 72-69-65-70) took home $1,000, and so on down the ranks. Such sums may look like subway tokens to Arnie and Jack, but to the foreign pro any prize money can bring considerable Christmas cheer.

Aside from such crass emoluments, a trip to this year's Canada Cup provided the golfers with the kind of working holiday that only millionaires and expense-account society can afford nowadays. From as far away as the Middle East and the lower reaches of South America, they were delivered free of charge to a tropical island as improbable as Bali H'ai. They were put up in one of the two gorgeously posh hotels on its western shore—the Royal Lahaina and the Sheraton-Maui, which share the Royal Kaanapali Golf Course as a backyard. On arrival, every player was given $500 walking-around money that was almost impossible to get rid of except by shooting craps.

In exchange for all this the visiting golfers had to listen to only about an hour's worth of speeches at a Meet the Players dinner and assay four rounds of golf on a Robert Trent Jones course that is long on scenery and yardage. The rest of the time was their own, and they spent it in ways that reflected both their personalities and their nationalities.

The British, who were split into teams representing England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, sat on the front porch of the cottage they shared at the Royal Lahaina in the immemorial way of all Britons who find themselves in the tropics. While the earnest and industrious Swedes and Swiss and Japanese and Chinese practiced tirelessly, the British lounged on their veranda and watched, rising only in time to get to the first tee for their matches.

The Italians and the Spaniards and the South Americans wandered dreamily around the lobby and poolside of the Sheraton-Maui admiring the Capri pants. "We were a little worried about having the tournament in such an out-of-the-way place as Maui," observed one Canada Cup official, eying the expressions of some of the darkly handsome, young Latin-type golfers, "because we felt there wouldn't be quite enough for some of the fellows to do in the evening. But they seem to be getting along just fine. I still don't quite understand where all the girls came from."

Most of the seasoned veterans of the U.S. tournament circuit—Palmer and Nicklaus, Bruce Devlin and Bruce Crampton of Australia and Bob Charles of New Zealand—brought their wives but, then, they are all golf-rich enough to afford such a luxury. While the wives sat and watched from the lanais of the cottages, Palmer and Nicklaus whiled away the off hours putting against one another and such friends as Gary Player on the practice green alongside the beach. It was jarring to see them stroking their putts while wearing bathing trunks instead of their personally monogrammed golfing togs, just as it had been unnerving to watch the beefy Nicklaus play a practice round in Bermuda shorts. Since shorts are not permitted on the PGA tour, Nicklaus felt he should ask Tournament Director Fred Corcoran if It was all right to wear them at the Canada Cup. "I looked at him, and my first impulse was to tell him they weren't allowed," said Corcoran. "But, after all, everybody wears shorts in Hawaii."

At night the touring pros and their wives stayed pretty much together, talking shop as if this were Memphis or Phoenix or Akron. They tended to skip the planned dinners and festivities, preferring to seek out some of the island's surprisingly good restaurants. On Friday—passing up a chance to join the hot pig circuit at a $10 luau—Palmer and Nicklaus went to the Tahitian Room of the Kaanapali Hotel, an establishment so new that the front door is not even finished yet. There they were hauled up on the stage and given lessons in the hula by a pair of lithe Hawaiian misses with exceptional backswings. "They call it music," said a perplexed Palmer later. "Well, it is not music I could ever dance to."

But, despite the lackadaisical setting, the early-morning dips in the ocean and the late-afternoon drinks with the sun setting gloriously on the horizon, both Nicklaus and Palmer were as charged up on the golf course as if this were the U.S. Open. There is something about the chemistry of this pair that revs the engines of both. Whether it is putting in bathing trunks or playing for the good old Stars and Stripes, these two irrepressible competitors stimulate one another just by the challenge of the other's presence. One senses it particularly in the friendly needling that goes on between them, such as Nicklaus' frequent gibes at Palmer's putting. After Arnold had set a new course record with a seven-under-par 65 during the pro-am tournament on the day before the matches started, someone asked Nicklaus if Palmer had been putting well. "No, not particularly," Jack replied, giving Arnold a quick glance. "He missed one of eight feet and another of 12 feet. No, his putting was off."

Actually, Palmer's putting showed flashes of being better than it had been in several years, and this on greens that were giving many of the golfers trouble. Formed of a grass called Seaside bent that has been developed to withstand the erosion of salt air and mist, the greens were particularly susceptible to spike marks and extremely bumpy after a few foursomes had walked over them. This did not seem to bother Palmer at all—at least it didn't for a while. "The reason I like these greens," he said, "is because you can read them so clearly. They have a lot of dips in them but the grain is always consistent, so you know just how the ball is going to behave."

The fact that there were any greens at all at Royal Kaanapali was in itself something of an achievement. Less than two months before the matches were scheduled to begin, Tournament Director Corcoran and Sidney L. James, the chairman of the Canada Cup matches, visited the course to give it a final tour of inspection. To their horror they discovered that most of the greens were completely unplayable and two of the fairways were out of service. They learned there had recently been a change in green-keepers, and the new one may have been using too much of Maui's brackish irrigation water on the greens. A call was put through to Trent Jones in New York, and he hurried out with an agronomist, Dr. O. J. Noer, a man widely known for his work with grass. Dr. Noer prescribed some emergency medication, and by late November Royal Kaanapali was again playable, although there had been serious thought of moving the matches to another Hawaiian course.

On Thursday morning Palmer and Nicklaus began to show how playable the 7,200-yard Royal Kaanapali course really was as they set out to make a luau of the opposition. Driving better than he has at any time since the Masters in April and putting with complete confidence. Palmer turned in rounds of 66, 67, 67 to put himself 16 strokes under par by Sunday. At one point he was so ebullient that the sound of an Hawaiian combo floating across the fairways set him to undulating in what the locals described as a Tahitian hula. Nicklaus started slower and said he felt logy, but there was nothing indolent about his 65 on Saturday. It tied Palmer's three-day-old record and put Nicklaus 10 under par for three rounds. As the last round started on Sunday morning the team competition was simply a formality—the U.S. was 26 under par, nine strokes better than the South African team of Gary Player and Denis Hutchinson. In the individual competition, Player—hitting the ball excellently after a two-month layoff—was in second place, three strokes behind Palmer. The U.S. and South Africa were paired together, and a South Sea Island division of Arnie's Army was born. Virtually the entire gallery of more than 7,000 trailed this foursome, causing Nicklaus to observe, "How did they all get here? Swim?"

If they did, they got wet to see some strange golf. Play was slow right from the beginning—it took six hours to finish the round—and this seemed to take its toll of Palmer's good spirits, to say nothing of his performance. While Nicklaus was displaying some of his best golf, birdieing three of the first five holes and outdriving Palmer and Player by as much as 50 yards, Arnold lost his control over the ball and finally his concentration. By the end of nine holes, Palmer's big lead was down to a single stroke over Jack and Gary. The remainder of the match produced some of the most erratic golf these champions have ever played. At one point Nicklaus got three strokes ahead, but then drove into the water at the 15th and three-putted the 16th. Finally, only some almost ludicrous flailings by Arnold—who finished with a 78 to Jack's 70—and Player enabled Nicklaus to win the individual trophy for the second year in a row. Palmer was two strokes back at 278, and Player tied for third at 279 with chubby Ted Makalena, a powerful if somewhat inconsistent local pro who naturally carried the good wishes of the natives. In spite of the finish, the big trophy, the Canada Cup itself, was safely in U.S. hands. Palmer and Nicklaus, posting a total score of 554, broke the tournament's team record, gave the United States its fifth straight Canada Cup win, and left second-place Argentina 11 strokes behind.

Even with its bizarre ending, Hawaii's first major sporting event was a solid success. The air was warm, the skies were clear and the trade winds that normally blast across Royal Kaanapali happily refused to blow, as if by supreme decree of the demigod Maui himself. In such a setting, tournament golf can be one of the most idyllic professions known to man—second, perhaps, to loafing. It would take a real curmudgeon to find anything to carp at under the circumstances, but one of the 23 newsmen brought to Maui on the cuff by the Canada Cup committee from as far away as Europe and Japan filled that specification. A correspondent from London, he complained to Fred Corcoran that Maui was a poor location for an international golf tournament. "This place," he grumbled, nursing his planter's punch, "is only for millionaires."

TWO PHOTOSSPOTTED IN A RESTAURANT CROWD, JACK AND ARNIE WERE INVEIGLED ONSTAGE FOR A FAST AND FUNNY FLING AT THE HULA PHOTOTHE SETTING MAY BE TROPICALLY EXOTIC, BUT THE INTENSE REACTION IS OH SO FAMILIAR AS PALMER DRIVES A LONG TEE SHOT

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)