Let's welcome a real live new star to professional golf, gang—even though he dresses in the lime greens and canary yellows of a Hawaiian tourist, wears the plantation hat of an old South Seas movie hero and seems to take particular delight in beating Arnold Palmer. Let's greet Tommy Shaw, who has now won two of the five PGA tournaments of 1971, even though his contemporaries swear he can't play that well and charge that he fibs about his age because, as one said, "He wants to be known as the bright young blond thing on the tour."
Well, whether Tom Shaw can play the way some people want him to didn't matter much again last week in Honolulu, where all he did was add the luxuriant Hawaiian Open championship to the Bing Crosby National Pro-Amateur he had won three weeks earlier. The evidence is growing that if you put Shaw in any exotic place on the face of the Earth, he will putt his way to the nearest bag of prize money, laughing all the while. Truly he has labeled himself as the kind of fresh personality the tour could surely use.
When it was all over Sunday, out there in the Pacific where the trade winds blow and the mai tais pour, Shaw already had made so much money in the new season that he could afford to go about doing that other thing he does so well, which is miss the cut. That's the deal with Shaw apparently: he wins big and then disappears to spend it. Tommy first turned up a winner in 1969 at Doral; in the weeks that followed his tour mates began to holler "Freak!" as Shaw proceeded to miss the cut at most of his next tournaments before winning again at the Avco Classic. Whereupon the pros hollered "Freak!" again—prompted perhaps by the fact that in both wins he had gotten so far ahead that he could afford fat 40s on the last nine holes. Last year he never finished better than fifth and managed to attract attention only because he was among the first players to let his hair grow, and because he began affecting the dizzily colored trousers that have become his trademark.
But this is a new year for Shaw, and when he hung in grimly to stave off Arnold Palmer at the Crosby in January, the pros had a reason to say, well, maybe Tommy has learned to play after all. Alas, he promptly did that old thing again—missing the cut at Phoenix and San Diego. Everyone should have known he was ready to win in Hawaii.
February 15, 1971
"I can't explain any of it," Shaw smiled. "I seem to get a feeling that I'm going to win, and I win. I do have a lot of confidence in my putting and I just get jazzed up and go when a couple of good ones drop."
Shaw wasn't the only pro jazzed up in the otherwise somnolent surroundings at the Waialae Country Club. The 1971 Hawaiian Open came at a time of year for the golfers that was, well, more intense than usual. In three weeks these same pros will be 5,000 miles away, in Florida, fighting it out for the PGA Championship, and this year Hawaii was a dandy tune-up instead of the tour's most relaxing stopover. There was some of that, of course. The Hawaiian Open is traditionally the tournament with more diversions per hole than any other. As the old joke goes, it's the place they cut the field after the second round—heh, heh—to the low 80 and mai tais.
Most of the competitors this year stayed down in the Waikiki area, where they could spend their money quicker in a city that has developed L.A.-sized traffic jams and has fought its way up to No. 1 in the race to see which town can have the highest cost of living. Instead of watching surfers or hula dancers or guys twirling flaming sticks over your dinner plate, now you can sit in Honolulu and watch a new high-rise hotel or apartment house go up between meals.
The golfers spent their idle hours strolling through the International Market Place and bumping into each other, going to a variety of the more economical restaurants—all of which seemed to be named Chuck's Steak House—visiting Pearl Harbor, bypassing a number of parties given by the underwriter of the tournament, United Air Lines, and anxiously awaiting Raymond Floyd's Saturday night debut as a singer and guitarist at Chuck's Cellar, a Waikiki bistro. As for Floyd's performance, it can be said that no one in Nashville need have any fear of the competition. On the other hand, for a pro golfer, he wasn't that bad.
Told that Floyd was opening Saturday night at 10:30, John Brodie, the 49er quarterback and an exceptional amateur who came within a stroke of making the cut, said, "Raymond's been opening at 10:30 all his life. It's just that this time he has a guitar."
Floyd, a bit of a swinger, took that as a high compliment, but admitted he had been nervous at his debut. "This will sure make those three-footers easier to face."
The best, if not the funniest, spot of all was the hotel about which the Waialae Country Club course curves. The Kahala Hilton is a magnificent structure away from the frenzy and noise of Waikiki, hard by old Diamond Head, where—aside from the red-hot golf going on just below the guests' balconies—there were spontaneous luaus and drumbeats that started up at the drop of a new arrival from Des Moines. And one could always discover a taller, fruitier, milkier drink for a dollar more than the last one. Hidden in the blazing foliage of the layout was, of all things, a Japanese cottage, and if you peeked closely through the palms and bougainvillea there was a sign that explained that this was the Y. Kawabata cottage, a place where the Nobel Prize-winning author from Japan had lived and worked. And one couldn't help thinking that even Kawabata must have been startled to find that on the hotel menu a hukilau wasn't a fish feast at all, but smoked salmon and creamed cheese on pumpernickel.
Meanwhile, the timing of the tournament—one of the half-dozen richest of the year at $200,000—was wonderful for United. A week before it began, the airline announced publicly that it had lost some $46 million last year. Fortunately for pro golf, however, United chose to lay off 394 pilots and 100 hostesses, instead of the 150 guys who were entered at Waialae.
This momentarily baffled Lee Trevino, that any airline could lose money. "Man, it cost so much to bring my family over here," said Lee, "I'm gonna have to finish second just to make expenses."
Trevino, who had won the Hawaiian Open before, then went out and did his part to see that the galleries were increased over other years. He appeared on television and radio and at a banquet, encouraging the folks to come on out. "We got all the great stars out there at Waialae," he said to his audience. "Me...Palmer, Nicklaus," he laughed, proving once again what a refreshing throwback he is to the old days, to the era when such as Jimmy Demaret would make endless public appearances, hustling up crowds.
By contrast, there were those hordes of other competitors who spend their time complaining about the tee at the 5th hole being lengthened, as if they all didn't have to play the same hole and weren't actually in paradise with a chance to win $40,000 for four days' work.
By Saturday evening the city had really got excited about the event. Arnold Palmer had finally surged into a tie for the lead, motivated, no doubt, by the fact that Alan Shepard had hit a couple of six-irons on the moon and folks had been asking Arnold for his appraisal of the lunar swing.
They didn't have to ask Arnold about Shaw's putting. It was superb. On Friday Tommy stood calmly underneath his plantation hat and rolled in three putts that practically stretched to Kauai, measuring 60, 50 and 50 feet. Palmer got to watch the act on Saturday, when he was paired with Shaw, who not only holed two more 20-footers and a couple of 12-footers but had the impudence to tell Arnold, "I'd have probably made every one of the birdie putts you missed."
Shaw went out on Sunday for the final round just in front of Palmer and DeWitt Weaver, a long-hitting ex-football player from Lubbock, Texas, and immediately did what would naturally put Arnold in a splendid frame of mind. With Palmer watching down the fairway behind him, Shaw, in his lime and canary, canned a six-footer on the first hole for a birdie.
And it should probably be noted that Shaw doesn't swing as badly as a lot of the pros would have you believe. He outdrove Palmer on a number of the holes where they were paired together, and the irons that he hit on the tough closing holes Sunday simply devoured flags and gave him the good birdie opportunities that locked up the championship for him at 16 and 17 and beat runner-up Miller Barber by one stroke.
Shaw is a colorful cat, not just in his dress but in the long strides that exude enthusiasm, the waves and smiles he turns on the gallery and the way he fidgets over a putt, changing his stance and almost giving the ball a rap on the move. He's followed by one of the cutest wives on the tour, a girl who would prefer to walk inside the ropes with Tommy if only the PGA would allow it.
"I guess they don't like for the wives to be able to see," Joy Shaw said Sunday, wearing a broad-brimmed hat of her own and grinning triumphantly up at television.
Shaw claims to be 28 years old, but he has some pals both on the tour and back in Milwaukie, Ore., who say he's closer to 32. Well, he looks about 17 and can probably afford—especially with another $40,000 in prize money—to chuckle over remarks about his being the bright young blond thing on the tour.
Right now, of course, he is.