Good God, Arnie will be 40 years old in September, Forty, folks. And let's see. Finsty must be 39 now, and Sootch is 41, Rossy's 42, Casper and Venturi are 37, Littler's 38 and everything aches. It's almost a full chorus of where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? Meaning, of course, those young lions, that new guard of only a moment ago in the flashy 1950s. Can doctors perform a four-wood transplant? Or do we beat on, never trusting a wedge shot over 30? Is the new-new guard really here?
We persevere for the time being, of course, but that stout young man spraying giddy blue sand at us from the cover of this magazine—and some others like him—are posing the serious questions. Bob Lunn is the name. Strong, even-tempered, undaunted Bob Lunn, who roared into the establishment of professional tournament golf last year, at 23, with back-to-back victories at Memphis and Atlanta. The others were just as flagrantly surprising. There was sneaky Bob Murphy, aggressive Bob Dickson, quiet Dave Stockton, volatile Tom Weiskopf, little Tony Jacklin, picturesque Ron Cerrudo and, as if the world and El Paso could ever forget, lively, Flea-bitten Lee Trevino.
What do they have in common? Oh, well, they went out last year in their rosy 20s, not too far removed from a campus or a driving range, and won themselves a shag bag full of tournaments and something like nine hundred billion dollars while the establishment posed for shirt ads and drank Binaca on the rocks.
The establishment did not immediately form a welfare line, of course. Bill Casper won himself $205,000, which was more than Ben Hogan made in a lifetime, and Palmer got his $114,000, and Jack Nicklaus, whose maturity and success erase his age, got his usual $155,000, and old Julius Boros had quite a year, and so did the new middle guard, that experienced group that includes the likes of George Archer, Frank Beard, Bert Yancey, George Knudson. That group.
February 17, 1969
Everybody was O.K. financially because pro golf is the unending Brink's robbery of sport. Tanned, blazered sponsors push and shove each other to give away money to guys who, were it not for golf, as Jackie Burke once said, might be wearing a tin hat with a light on it waiting for the elevator to go up. But there glistens the tour, as Arnold Palmer invented it a few years ago on television, and here come these youngsters every year to challenge the best and get rich. Some make it, most don't, but last year, in 1968, more good looking newcomers arrived than at any time since the mid-1950s, when Hogan and Snead and Middlecoff looked over their shoulders and there stood Palmer, Casper, Littler, Venturi, Souchak, Finsterwald—the young lions that most of us relate to.
What happened was that things went along acceptably through last winter, with your Potts, your Dickinsons, your Knudsons and even your Arnie at papier-m√¢ché Palm Springs, doing their thing with only Tom Weiskopf's win at San Diego to disturb the order. Then here came a Tony Jacklin at Jacksonville, then Bob Lunn, then Trevino at the Open, then Stockton at Cleveland and Milwaukee, then Murphy at Philadelphia and the Thunderbird, and finally Bob Dickson at the Haig and Ron Cerrudo at the Cajun. And golf, excitingly, had a whole new cast of players who could win.
Suddenly, there were 14 players, twice as many as ever before, who won $100,000, and Trevino, Weiskopf, Murphy, Lunn and Stockton were five of them. Meanwhile, Jacklin got over $50,000, Dickson over $40,000 and Cerrudo just under $40,000. Combined, they won 13 of last year's 45 official championships.
The tour reached Palm Springs again last week, so what better place could there be to look at golf's new lions? One could observe them amid the Aqua-Net-scented mountains and deodorized cacti of the California desert that gave us The Racquet Club and was now giving us blue and red bunkers. It seemed time for everyone, especially veterans struggling to earn a buck—guys like Venturi, Doug Ford and Jack Fleck—to ask: Who are these young guys who are grabbing all the money? All except what Casper, who won the Bob Hope last week, hasn't grabbed first?
Well, the main people to know are Lunn, Murphy and Dickson—for several reasons. First, we know Trevino. He pumps gas, sacks your groceries and wins the U.S. Open. He also talks and clowns incessantly, gets in the newspapers a lot and is fast becoming a parody of himself—like Howard Cosell. We know Trevino. We know Tom Weiskopf. Hits it out of sight, groovy wife, fights his temper, in the Army now. We know-Stockton a little. He goes to USC, wins the CBS Golf Classic, has a crooked swing but putts like a charmed guru, or, as Jack Nicklaus says, "He makes 10-footers like he's 12 years old, if you know what I mean." We know Stockton. And, according to the establishment, we don't need to know Jacklin and Cerrudo yet because they aren't strong, solid, fierce, positive, intuitive, aggressive and confident—not quite yet—like this Lunn, and this Dickson and this Murphy.
Here are the real immediate threats to the establishment—Lunn, who can almost drive it up with Nicklaus and is astonishingly straight, and Dickson, who has a sound fundamental game and knows he can beat anybody, and Murphy, who is "sneaky long," as Dave Marr says, has a good golf head and competes like a middle linebacker.
All three come from big amateur successes, from winning tournaments that are impossible to win, if a man thinks about it at all. Lunn wins the U.S. Public Links title when he's 18, and to do that you have to beat a grand collection of course thieves who hide behind goofy swings, shoot the lights out and win your home, wife, kids, freezer and saxophone. Murphy wins the U.S. Amateur when he's still in college in Florida and a year later wins the NCAA over all of those Houston assassins. And all Dickson does is go out and in the same year, 1967, win both the U.S. and British amateurs. No one had done it since Lawson Little in 1935.
"You've got to know that guys like this come out here with pretty good experience to start with, and confidence, too," says Casper. "The thing that strikes me about them is they already seem to have learned, or understand, the most important thing about the tour. Patience. You've got to be patient. They play their own game and wait for the putts to fall. That's what you have to do, especially when you start out."
"Think positive," says Nicklaus, "that's a key thing, and so far as I know about these new guys, they do that."
"Play your own game," Palmer says. "Don't go around trying to adjust your swing to a type of course. A few new players come along every year. But if you lined up all of the young ones on the practice tee and looked at whose swing or action you liked, I think most people would probably pick out Dickson and Lunn first. But, of course, a swing doesn't always matter, either."
Nicklaus got a trifle more specific. "Murphy, for example, has a very good golf mind, a maturity. He's deceptively long, he plays his game, a fade, and he's pretty steady. He doesn't make glaring mistakes. Lunn has that enviable combination of length and accuracy. He'll walk up to a narrow par 4, take out the driver and bang it right down there. Dickson is just solid all the way through the bag. Probably a little more so than the others right now."
Bob Lunn more closely resembles Nicklaus than anyone else, if you put a hat on him. He has brown hair—the brown bear, all right?—with creeping sideburns. He's 6'1" and 210, with a sloping midsection, a pulling guard that's one year out of the game. He has a bit of an upright swing, and the trajectory is high. On the average, he'll trail Nicklaus by 10 yards off the tee with the driver. His aplomb is much like Jack's. Unruffled by a bad shot, he has a fine even temperament, and he believes that he started doing well after an initial year of winning only $1,000 because he looked around at what was going on.
"I noticed that all anyone did was drive down the fairway and knock the ball on the green, just like me," he says. "You realize that you have to putt to win, so you wait. Winning is a great tonic. At first you just want to make a living doing the thing you love. But then you're fortunate enough to win, so you think about winning every week."
Lunn is from San Francisco, the son of an ex-motorcycle cop, a guy who never wanted to do anything but play golf, and whose family let him and encouraged him, a guy with a tie-up with a tomato juice company the way Al Geiberger is tied up with peanut butter and Trevino is tied up with Dr. Pepper and Nicklaus and Palmer are tied up with money. He isn't going to wisecrack his way to fame, but his big game might just take him there.
Murphy, 26, has the best chance of becoming a tour character along with being a sound player. He's fat, for one thing, and cherub-faced, and has already started collecting newspaper adjectives like jolly and fun-loving. Winning in the East was a big thing for him. He quickly attracted a group in the galleries that called themselves "Murph's clan." He wore a lot of green for the luck of the Irish and he spoke frankly to the Eastern press, which has a tendency to think everybody with a Southern accent is a character. He said he was a good putter: "I hardly ever miss from four feet." He said he was good with a nine-iron and wedge: "I spent a year at Florida in a trap." And he confessed he couldn't hit long irons. "I hit'em fat. They don't go click, and I'm always short," he said. Murphy the character. He was born in Brooklyn, but he grew up in Florida, he shot pool like Doug Sanders ("Good pool players are good putters," he says), and he played all of the other sports. When he settled on golf, he attacked it, slaved over it, and here he is. If he continues to be a winner, he is in great danger of becoming known as, oh, the tour's Jackie Gleason.
As different as Lunn and Murphy are different is Bob Dickson. He completes the big geographical triangle—California to Florida to Oklahoma. Tall and well built, mannerly, pleasant, talkative, peeking at you through glasses under a dark blond Brutus haircut, Dickson, a collegiate star at Oklahoma State, gets down on his hands and knees and examines the game he plays.
"You know the first thing you have to learn?" he says. "Not to be so strong. As an amateur, you know, you're out there trying to hit 160-yard wedge shots. The thing as a pro is to learn to hit soft shots, like 140-yard six-irons."
Dickson, who is 24, says winning the Haig sort of slipped up on him late in the year after he turned pro in May. He was playing along pretty well, he thought, and suddenly he had won a tournament. "I think the experience of college and amateur golf prepared me real well. I've been competing for a long time. Of course, it's different on the tour. Much, much tougher, naturally. But I can play golf, I know that. You have to learn to play within yourself. You have to learn how to play a greater variety of shots, but that doesn't mean altering your grip or your swing. All I've done is watch and study the temperament of the top players. I go into every round determined to try and hit 16 greens or so, and if the putts drop I'll do well. The aggravating thing for all of us, Casper or anybody, is to play real good and shoot 73. When you learn to live with that, you're a pro."
Bob Dickson has proved he can do that. So has Bob Murphy. So has Bob Lunn. They've proved it early. The community of the pro tour knows them well if the public doesn't. And one of these days, maybe, as sure as Arnie's hip hurts, we may look through a giant spray of red and blue bunker sand and see a new big three of golf.