Golfers of goodwill and unintentioned trick shots traveled 20, 30, 40 and 50 hours to reach Buenos Aires last week so they could see America's Lee Trevino crowned "Idiot of the Year," discover the real steak sandwich, learn that durable old Roberto De Vicenzo plays as well in his home town, as he does everywhere else, witness the emergence of a new star from Australia named David Graham, and satisfy themselves that Hitler could not have been alive in Argentina for very long because he would have been killed in a traffic accident.
The reason a lot of golfers were in Buenos Aires was the 18th renewal of that championship called the World Cup—excuse me, the Copa del Mundo—which hides itself in some part of the solar system every autumn for the express purpose of spreading friendship to all men through such tools as the Libya slice, the Rumanian shank and the Austrian blue darter.
As a tournament, the Copa del Mundo is never going to crowd its way into the Big Four any more than the Azalea Open is, but it is always going to be a lot more worthwhile than a number of events on the U.S. tour because it does bring folks together—two-man teams from 43 nations last week, in fact—and it stands as one of those increasingly rare things in life: a sports event where the money is irrelevant.
The tournament—the only one outside Rumania with a Rumanian in it and the only one where a Dane can make a hole in one—has been pampered, petted and expertly run by Fred Corcoran all these years (and financed by such members of U.S. business as American Express, Time Inc., Pan Am, NCR and ITT) and it has been staged in such exotic places as Singapore, Rome, Madrid, Paris and Tokyo. But it had never been as successful as it was in Buenos Aires last week in terms of spectator turnout (30,000 for four days), or so beautifully handled as it was by the Argentine Golf Association on the elegant Jockey Club premises. And scarcely, if ever, had the Copa del Mundo produced such startlingly good golf.
November 23, 1970
Between them, Bruce Devlin and David Graham played 32 shots under par, for a final combined score of 544, which would be good enough to win a couple of Kempers or Tucsons up north. As far as the money is concerned, the winning Australians took home $2,000 as a team, and De Vicenzo $1,000 for the low individual score. So much for the IRS.
As always, there was a great deal of fun involved in the proceedings, and Buenos Aires was a good place for that. First of all, it is a huge city of 8.4 million steak eaters and demolition derby drivers. It teems with sidewalk cafes, parks, ponds, monuments, ornate structures with balconies, dungeon-type discoth√®ques, and shops to please one and all, particularly chic ladies, all booted and midied.
The city was alive with fun and frolic at all hours, enhanced by a labor strike in the middle of the week that freed everyone. Swarms of young ladies who could pass for Abbe Lane's baby sister were everywhere to escort Copa del Mundo participants into clubs where stags weren't permitted.
The golfers learned certain tricks, they thought. Not to sit too long in the clubs or they would use up their $600 honorariums. Not to buy the alligator bags because the bottom would fall out, and not to buy the suede coats because, as one said, "If you get it rained on, dogs'll chase you down the street." And not to trust the courtesy-car drivers. Three crashed the first day, and everybody stopped counting after that.
Copa del Mundo parties were thrown almost hourly, one of them in a villa only slightly larger than the palace at Versailles. And quieter hours could be spent looking at the jacaranda trees and at the shrapnel scars on some of the government buildings or at the balcony on the Pink House peering down on the Plaza de Mayo where Perón used to address his shouting supporters.
For one and all, however, most of the week's fun was provided by Lee Trevino, the Copa del Mundo defending champion, who was teamed this time with Dave Stockton. In a curious effort to win the partnership prize for the U.S. again, Lee drank his share of beer and spoke his share of Texas Spanish—so much, in fact, that Stockton announced, "Our team has a language barrier."
Trevino kidded his cute wife Claudia by whooping at all of the Argentinian girls and shouting, "If I ever come back here, honey, you're out."
"You're impossible," Claudia said.
Stockton agreed. Dave personally awarded Trevino the "Idiot of the Year" title for leaving his best golf clubs at home, the clubs with which he had just finished third in the Alcan in Ireland, second in the World Match Play at Went-worth, second in the Kaiser (losing to Ken Still in a playoff) and second in the Dunlop International in Australia.
"I picked up some clubs in Australia and thought I'd try 'em out," Trevino said. "I can't hit 'em a lick."
Stockton said, "On top of that, you gave Devlin the putter he's using."
Trevino laughed and hollered all the way across the tearoom of the Alvear Palace Hotel. "You're right, I'm crazy. I blew my clubs and then gave Devlin that putter he's holing everything with. I'm winning it for Australia."
This was at the three-quarter mark, after Devlin had shot 66-69-66 and David Graham, a wiry, 24-year-old newcomer, had shot 65-67-65, all which gave Australia a record 19-stroke lead on the field. They were 34 under par, which was several fairways better than even Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus had done at their best as a U.S. team in the past. Graham looked so good on Saturday, when he shot 65 (with a ball out of bounds), that Tony Jacklin said, "He made me feel like a 24-handicapper."
Graham was playing with a special incentive. Only a couple of weeks earlier he had failed by a single stroke to qualify for the U.S. tour in the PGA school, which meant that it would be back to the Far East and British tours again, or the French Open he had won, with only occasional glimpses of those globs of American cash.
"David is quite a player," said Devlin one day. "He has confidence and a sound game and he's going to make it. Playing well here will help him a lot."
A friendly, nattily dressed young fellow, Graham reminded some of an early-day Gary Player, particularly when he paced around and took a cut at the ball. Fiercely competitive, like Player, he took an aggressive swing onto the Jockey Club course. He drove long for a small guy, like Jacklin, and putted like God.
The course, at 6,700 yards and par 72, and decorated with flags and a shopping bazaar, wasn't all that tough, because you could reach the par-5s in two, but the greens had narrow entrances with big mounds around them, and they putted bumpily and erratically for most.
"You play defense on these greens," Trevino said. "You got no gimmes, even on a one-footer. Don't seem to bother Devlin and Graham, though. Maybe they're punch-drunk from 55 hours in the air and don't know what they're on."
The Australians did come the longest distance. To reach Buenos Aires, they had a simple little journey from Sydney to Fiji to Honolulu to Los Angeles to Mexico City to Bogotà to Lima to B.A. "If that isn't goodwill, I don't know what is," smiled Devlin.
One of the interesting things about Graham was that he not only traveled all of that distance without showing any physical signs of it, he hardly missed a dance in the African Room below the Alvear Palace once he arrived. And yet here he was, beating most of the name players in the field, fellows like Trevino and Stockton, Jacklin, Al Balding, Harold Henning, Takaaki Kono, even his partner Devlin, and battling Roberto De Vicenzo to the last on Roberto's home ground for the individual title.
"Listen," Trevino told Graham one afternoon, "you might go into those discoth√®ques at 24, but if you stay long enough you'll come out 47."
"I can't sleep, mate," said Graham.
No one could, knowing each day they faced a 45-minute ride through Buenos Aires traffic to the Jockey Club, a ride that would make the wildest Indy driver take up chess. But no one got killed. That perhaps was the biggest news of all at the Copa del Mundo.