They came down to the end, like wolves at each others' throats again, and everybody just knew that old Julie would be right there. When the big money is out on the table Julius Boros is always right there. Last week, in Harrison, N.Y., a pleasant little community of, oh, maybe 5,000 trillionaires, Julius Boros, his sore back aching and three of his seven children at his side, lobbed one out of the sand and then ran in a 12-foot putt to nudge Jack Nicklaus, Dan Sikes and Bob Murphy by one shot and win $50,000 and the richest golf tournament alive, the Westchester Classic.
Boros' victory was not achieved amid classic conditions. The latest flare-up between the PGA and the touring pros broke out even before the tournament started. And all week one rumor and then another would float up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Jack Tuthill, the tournament director in the field, would be fired on the spot. The players who didn't sign a promise to stay in the PGA would be arrested, handcuffed and carried off the first tee. Things like that. The rumors originated at the PGA headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., worked their way north through Washington and finally into Harrison, where everybody said to hell with it and let's just go out and win some money.
Up until Boros' dramatic finish, the tournament had belonged to Murphy, a red-haired rookie who was aiming for his first victory since leaving the amateur ranks last August. Murphy's the guy who looks like Nicklaus, the galleries always say at the start of a tournament. Just like him. That face. Rolls and rolls of tummy. Walks dumpy. Hits it a mile. That's him over there. See? Looks just like Jack. Then Murphy pulls out a cigar, jams it in his mouth and goes bogey, bogey, bogey to finish 40th. He doesn't look like Jack anymore.
In Harrison, however, Murphy abandoned his cigar and began to play like Jack as well as look like him. His 64 in the opening round led Dan Sikes by one shot, and he increased his lead a stroke each day until, playing magnificent golf under the most extreme pressures imaginable—$50,000 worth of pressure—he finally faltered. On the par-5 72nd hole he chose to play his second shot short just before Boros struck his birdie putt. Murphy chipped close, but his putt for the tie missed. Even so Bob Murphy really looked exactly like Jack Nicklaus: they were tied for second place.
Boros defeated what was probably the finest field that has graced a PGA tournament all year long. Certainly the talent at Westchester was more plentiful, through and through, than that at some of the more celebrated, though less lucrative, events: the Masters, which is basically an invitational affair and sometimes chooses name and station over golfing ability to balance its field; the Open, which anybody with a hot day of qualifying rounds can get into; or the PGA, where club pros from all over annually seem to have nothing more than a hot dog, beer, and miss-the-cut reunion. Indeed, only a few foreign players (including Gary Player) among all the professional golfers you have heard of were not at Westchester. The reason, in cold, hard fact, was cold, hard cash.
It is altogether proper, however that the richest tournament of them all is held at graceful, stately, loaded old Westchester. Founded in the early '20s, at a time when World War I had created a spate of new affluence and spectacularly rich men, Westchester was advanced shamelessly by New York society patrons as a magnificent playground of the wealthy. Original members could boast of more than 600 acres of lush grounds with a polo field, riding stables, clay and grass tennis courts and three golf courses ringed with a bridle path. Westchester had a beach club and casino nearby, "the largest privately owned swimming pool in the world" and, in the center of all of this, a towering eight-story hotel of brick and white stucco and castle-on-the-Rhine elegance; from its 400 rooms visiting maharajahs could gaze out on the boats sailing on Long Island Sound.
Bill Tilden played tennis there and Johnny Weissmuller swam there and Babe Ruth drank there and the Guests and the Whitneys poloed there and all the Wall Street guys would step into the brokerage office inside the clubhouse after a quick 18 and decide whether they should buy or sell or go out and hit a few off the practice tee. It was a time of Pierce-Arrows and "Bojangles" Robinson and terrapin races at the ball and Makin' Whoopee. And it was a time of a 21-year-old cocksure Gene Sarazen defeating British Open winner Walter Hagen for the "world's championship" at Westchester and winning the largest purse in the history of golf, $3,000.
Perhaps, then, Eastern Airlines and the other "grand patrons" of the Westchester Classic, who started their tournament last year with a $250,000 purse and a $50,000 first prize, possessed a fine sense of history as well as of funds.
When the Thunderbird was taken away from Westchester in 1965, after the New Jersey Ford dealers high-handed the New York dealers and drove the Thunderbird right back to Montclair, where it had started, Bill Jennings, the chairman of the tournament and the president of the New York Rangers hockey club, found himself without a golf event. Quickly he gathered forces and, with the help of Eastern and several wealthy banks, liquor companies and publications, came up with enough money two years later to present another golf event, this one the "richest in the world." (It was also, not too incidentally, richer by far than the Thunderbird.) Despite rain that washed away the second round on three consecutive days, the first Westchester Classic raised $293,000 for charity. The tournament now is the PGA's showcase money event and a symbol of how the economics of golf have staggered the imagination even of the game's most ardent followers.
Only a few reminders are necessary to understand how much golf money has changed and increased over the years.
•In 1934, when money lists were first compiled, Paul Runyan led the tour with $6,767 for the year, a figure lower than that won by the first 10 men at Westchester for the week.
•In 1958 Arnold Palmer's leading money total for the year was $42,607. With a quarter of this season still to go, 29 players have already surpassed Arnie's figure. Jack Nicklaus, in fact, won more than that in the first two weeks of August. In 1967 Nicklaus won $100,000 in a 13-day span at Westchester and the World Series of Golf.
•Sam Snead, seldom finishing in contention, has earned more already this year ($38,456) than in any of the three years he led the PGA money list.
•Two weeks ago an unknown Negro named Lee Elder thrilled a national TV audience with a dramatic extra-hole challenge to Nicklaus and won Akron's second place money of $12,187, almost $2,000 more than a man named Ben Hogan earned in 1940 when he led the pros.
As a result of all of this, the PGA tour, which in 1958 had just passed the million mark in total purses, is today—10 years later—a $5.6 million enterprise and still rising. "Ceiling?" says Dave Marr. "Everytime I think we've hit the ceiling we go right on through. In 1960 when Indianapolis had a $50,000 purse, every man who ever swung a club was there. They came out of the woodwork. Now Indianapolis offers a hundred thousand and nobody will show up."
It is difficult to single out one factor as the major catalyst in this phenomenal money explosion, but television is a good place to start.
Obviously the unique aspects of the sport itself generated the growth of interest in golf. It is the one game that a man over 35 can play well up into his declining years with some measure of skill. This factor automatically bestowed upon the game a captive constituency just waiting to be indulged. With the arrival on the scene of the superstars (Palmer and Nicklaus gave the term "super" a definition it never had under such men as Hogan and Snead), golf began to reach and appeal to an entirely new group of people. Those who had not yet discovered the game suddenly became fans. Then they began playing. And they became superfans.
This increasing popularity led, in turn, to the television boom and enticed all kinds of new commercial interests into the tournament picture.
The first golf tournament to be televised live, in no living color, with no videotape and no instant slow-motion, split-screen, stop-action replay, was the U.S. Open in 1949. But it was a telecast four years later that probably revealed to the audience at home the full personal drama, pathos and excitement that only a man-to-man golf match can generate. While announcer Jimmy Demaret held a microphone on the 18th green to congratulate Chandler Harper on his apparent victory in the World Championship of Golf at Tam O'Shanter, Lew Worsham flew in his spectacular wedge shot from out of the clover, 120 yards away, to beat Harper by a stroke.
"Goddam, it's in the hole!" Jimmy Demaret exclaimed to America, and televised golf was here to stay.
For 10 years after that the PGA and television had a fuzzy connection in which neither party was entirely satisfied. Nor was either side cognizant of the enormously rich possibilities of a full-scale working merger. In the beginning tournaments such as the Masters, the Open and the Crosby were purchased and sold under individual contracts; later many of the regular PGA events were handled in the same manner. During this time the sponsors of the tournaments owned all of the television rights, and the players became increasingly concerned with where this TV money was going. They felt that, with no bargaining powers, the sponsors were being whipsawed by television and, further, that when the sponsors did get the money nobody from the PGA side really knew how much of it was there.
It was not until 1964 that this situation was changed. Through their television representative, Martin Carmichael, a New York lawyer, the players finally obtained the TV rights to many of their own PGA events and sold them in a package deal. Now they knew how much money TV was shelling out and, of far greater importance, they knew exactly where it was going.
"Our first package was for seven tournaments and $75,000," says Carmichael. "But in 1965, a year later, the dam broke and, for twice the number of events, we went up to $700,000. The money has been moving steadily upward ever since."
For the 1967 and 1968 seasons Carmichael negotiated for the PGA the first major sports TV contract worked out simultaneously and individually with two different networks (ABC and Sports Network, Inc.). It provided for live telecasts of 15 tour events a year, about the same number as is included in the recently signed agreement for the 1969 and 1970 seasons. That two-year contract calls for approximately twice the figure per year negotiated in the PGA's original "big money" deal of 1965.
"We have tried to advance on the theory of selling fewer tournaments for more money," says Carmichael. "The PGA is constantly concerned with putting too much golf on television. But if the networks keep paying for it and advertisers still want to buy the time, I guess we're not overexposing ourselves yet."
(In the midst of the PGA's internecine struggle last week Carmichael went ahead and quietly closed part of the new TV contract involving a four-tournament package of Doral, Greensboro, New Orleans and Atlanta. It is fairly certain that no matter what the eventual outcome of the players' revolt, both players and sponsors will honor their television commitments.)
In recent years more and more tournaments are being supported, if not entirely taken over, by such giant business sponsors as Ford, Buick, Eastern, Kaiser and Kemper Life Assurance. As this trend continues, as the demand for more and richer golf tournaments exceeds the number of weeks in which to play them, the PGA is faced with a dilemma: either replace the older but cheaper events with new, more lucrative tournaments or turn down the new offers in order to stand fast with old friends. However, for all the sponsors the question is, in effect: What can you do for me now? And the solution ultimately will depend on who comes up with the most money.
"We have two responsibilities, one to the players and one to the sponsors," says Frank Beard, a member of the players' tournament committee. "But we've got to think our primary obligation is to the players. How can we tell our guys that we've turned down maybe a million more dollars next year in order to retain all of our old sponsors? Tournament golf is a sponsor's sideline; it's a player's livelihood. All we've received over the last few months is criticism about being money-grabbing, power-hungry, poor little rich boys, and we're tired of it. Most of us would like to see this whole problem out in the marketplace."
In the light of the many new offers of tournaments received by the PGA, a letter from the tournament committee was sent out in May informing all sponsors of tournaments held during the summer months that their events were up for review (SI, June 3). The wording of the letter (and its use of specific figures) was unfortunate, because it has been misinterpreted as a demand by the PGA that all sponsors come up with a $200,00 purse or else.
"We aren't trying to dump anybody indiscriminately," says Jack Nicklaus, another member of the committee. "We have just explained our situation and we have told everyone that, after this review, we will call in the sponsors of our weakest tournaments—and these are not necessarily the cheapest ones—and try to agree upon some improvements. The figures we talk about are mostly intangibles. Contrary to what a lot of people believe, a good golf tournament is made up of more than just money."
For the future, however, it is money that does all of the important talking. Next March the National Airlines Open at the Miami Country Club will become the third $200,000-plus purse on the tour, joining the Westchester Classic and the Milwaukee Open, and there is much talk of a $300,000 tournament—backed by Wall Street money and to be held at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton—that would appear as early as the fall of 1969.
Just last week the Greater Greensboro Open announced it was raising its purse to $160,000, with Allied Chemical picking up the tab for the first-place check of $32,000. In 10 years Greensboro has increased its purse by $145,000 and its first-place money by $30,000. At that rate, the GGO of 1979 will pay $1,696,000 and first place will be worth $512,000.
As long as the PGA tour remains exempt from overexposure and is handled properly, efficiently and in a businesslike manner, there is no reason why it can't grow even larger than it is, no matter who eventually does the handling.
It is only when the pros overreach themselves and accept, rather than turn down, such a circus offer as was made recently (to play 72 holes at night under the lights in Las Vegas) that they will be in danger. Jackie Gleason himself reportedly is considering a $500,000 golf tournament in Miami Beach. Not much. Just twice Westchester. Just The Great One putting on The Greatest One, presumably 144 holes to be played underwater in the swimming pool of the Fontainebleau Hotel while Claude Kirk hands out scorecards, John Wayne gives inspirational readings and 8,000 leftover "Rocky" campaign balloons float to the surface.
UP, UP AND AWAY GO THE GOLFERS' EARNINGS, WITH NO END IN SIGHT
1968 (through August 18)