Did you happen to see Arnold Palmer sink that putt in his playoff with Raymond Floyd to win the Bob Hope Desert Classic a few weeks ago? And did you watch the ceremonies on the 18th green shortly afterward? Then perhaps you remember that while Hope was talking, surrounded by Palmer, Vice-President Agnew and other notables, there was a commotion that the television camera picked up briefly before turning away to focus instead on some golf fans strolling the fairways. Ten seconds later the camera was back on Hope and all was calm. Well, not entirely.
Let Jack Tuthill explain what happened: "I had just returned from the 15th, the first playoff hole," says Tuthill, "when the first thing I knew this guy comes running out of the crowd onto the green, swinging a putter and yelling. I was standing about 20 feet away from the Vice-President, and the guy had to pass me to get to him. I can't recall thinking anything. All I know for sure is I hit him first with my shoulder. I'm not certain I hit him with my hands, but I probably did—a chop in the throat, most likely. He just sort of went limp, and once he was on the ground he didn't fight."
So there you are, another routine day in the life of Jack Tuthill, the PGA's tournament director, a former FBI agent—as you might guess—who serves as traffic cop, Boy Scout leader and father confessor to the Palmers, Nicklauses and Caspers, as well as to the McGees, Brasks and Hoopers. In brief, Tuthill is in charge of everything connected with the pro tour, and he is responsible only to Commissioner Joe Dey in New York.
Protecting Vice-Presidents, comedians and Arnold Palmer is just one of his duties. Another is interpreting golf's sometimes confusing rules. One such case occurred at the Hope tournament when Dave Hill hit his ball into a palm tree. Or did he? Tuthill was at the Bermuda Dunes course when he received a message over his walkie-talkie from an assistant in the press room: a spectator had just telephoned to say that he thought Hill had taken an illegal drop during his round at Indian Wells, another of the four courses used during the far-flung competition. "He was just a man interested in golf who knows the rules pretty well," Tuthill says. "We get observations like that every once in a while, especially on courses with palm trees."
March 15, 1971
Tuthill radioed Jack Stirling, one of his assistants at Indian Wells, and Stirling phoned Hill to learn his version of the incident. Which was this: Hill, playing a Titleist 2, hit his ball into a palm tree, where it stayed. Hill established to his own satisfaction that the ball he saw in the tree was his—although Byron Nelson says if you shake a palm tree on a golf course you're liable to have half a dozen Titleist 2s drop out—so he declared an unplayable lie, took a drop and a one-stroke penalty. Now, if Hill had climbed the tree and positively identified his ball, his decision would have been correct. Otherwise, he should have called it a lost ball, which carries a two-stroke penalty. Alas, Hill finished his round and signed a scorecard that reflected the incorrect one-stroke penalty. Golf's rules can be harsh. When Tuthill learned all the facts, it was his unpleasant duty to tell Dave Hill that he had been disqualified.
More routinely, Tuthill is also in charge of checking the course where a tournament is being played to see that it is well roped and that its hazards have been properly defined, deciding each day where the holes should be cut on the greens, arranging the day's pairings and starting times, seeing that those pairings tee off on time and that play proceeds without too many slowdowns. Slow play is a constant problem on the tour, where 4½ hours is considered the acceptable maximum for a round, and it is within Tuthill's powers to levy a two-stroke penalty on any golfer judged to have played too slowly. It is Tuthill, too, who supervises the money distribution following the final round on Sunday, letting the sponsors of the tournament know who gets money and how much. No player can cash a personal check at a tournament site without Tuthill's initials, or those of one of his nine assistants.
Unofficially, Tuthill is also expected to be a fountain of information: Hey, Jack, what are the dates of Memphis this year? Is Tucson going to be held at that same course? Did they change the 11th hole? If I fail to qualify for the Hope, am I automatically in the satellite tournament? Does any airline fly direct from Monterey to Phoenix? Where's the best place to stay in Jacksonville? There are also a few "Is it true what happened to George last night?" questions, and chances are Tuthill will know the answer to these, too. There is very little that happens on the tour that Jack Tuthill doesn't find out about.
Every morning about an hour before the first pairing tees off, which can be as early as 7 o'clock, Tuthill meets with his staff in whatever facilities the club has provided for him as an office (at the Los Angeles Open this year it was the ladies' locker room). All nine assistants are not present; one is at the site of next week's tournament and one is two weeks ahead. Tuthill takes a pairings sheet and studies it.
"Look out for that 9:08 group," he says. "Geiberger, Schroeder and Payne. There's some slow players there." He moves through the list, pointing out other trouble spots. Then he asks one of his assistants to check all 18 greens. If it is a winter event, the cups will have been placed the evening before, rather than in the morning, for the simple reason that the greens are often frozen in the morning. Vandalism is a major problem. Greens are often scarred. Cups are filled with cement, or stepped on so that the edges are bent. Tee markers are stolen for souvenirs. It is not unusual for a marker to be swiped during a round. At one tournament, when Tuthill learned via walkie-talkie that some tee markers had been stolen, his solution was swift and simple. "Estimate where they were," he said, "then find a couple of empty beer cans and use them."
There are minor details to be taken care of at the meeting. The scorer's table at 18 is still too close to the green. Have it moved back behind the grandstand. And the cups on 15 through 18 should be painted white so they will show up better on television.
This done, Tuthill wanders out across the practice putting green, perhaps pausing to say a few words to a couple of players, then goes over to make sure the field tees off on time. There is a ritual to teeing off that never varies, and Tuthill has become a part of it. Eight minutes or so before they are scheduled to start, the players push through the crowd surrounding the 1st tee, duck under the ropes and walk up to the candy-striped tent that is always there. They gather up some tees, read the messages of the day—"Don't forget to pay your PGA dues" or, "You get a free lift from the drainage ditch at 13"—and are given their official scorecards with their names typed across the top. Inevitably, there is coffee and Danish, but the players rarely accept any. Instead, they wander over and have a few words with Jack Tuthill.
"It's just idle talk," says Tuthill. "Half the time I don't think they even know what they're saying. It's just something to relieve the tension. That's especially true of the leaders on Sunday."
The field goes off without a hitch. Over the walkie-talkie comes a voice from the 10th tee. "Moody wants to know if they can start a few minutes early." Tuthill chuckles. "Orville wants to get away from the Palmer gallery that will be right behind him," he says to the side, and then, over the walkie-talkie, "Tell him no."
When the golfers are all off, Tuthill gets a cart with a TPD—Tournament Players Division—sticker and roams the course. His aides do likewise. They are available for rulings, of course, but mostly they keep a check on play, making sure no pairing falls behind. The mere presence of an official, especially Tuthill, hurries a player along. "Yeah, I know," says Tommy Jacobs, spotting Tuthill. "Hurry it up, hurry it up."
Tuthill will spend the rest of the day driving the cart between the course and his office. He is at the outermost corner of the course at the L.A. Open when a message comes through to call Wade Cagle at Pebble Beach. Urgent. Tuthill comes in, phones and hears that Cagle, his advance man at the Crosby, is having a problem with old Bing himself. Crosby, it seems, is objecting to roping off the three courses. "Did you tell him it was in the contract?" Tuthill asks. It is a delicate matter. "You don't even know if it's Crosby you're dealing with," Tuthill says after hanging up. "It may be one of his guys using the pressure of Crosby's name." Tuthill puts in a call to Joe Dey in New York.
Little pressures that test Tuthill and his staff pop up all the time. Midway through the final round at L.A., it was conceivable that the tournament might end in an eight-way tie. Eventually it boiled down to three players—Bob Lunn, Billy Casper and Art Wall—and then two when Wall three-putted the 18th. Because the tournament was being carried on national television, Tuthill was anxious to start the playoff as soon as possible. By walkie-talkie, as he followed the leaders through the final holes, he ordered two station wagons to be on hand to carry the golfers back out to the 15th tee, where the playoffs would begin. He made sure there were marshals along the last holes and that the greenkeepers had not started to pull pins, on the assumption that the tournament was over.
When Lunn and Casper had finished, they were whisked away to the 15th, Tuthill sitting beside Casper. Television would have loved to start the playoff right then, but Tuthill would not give the go-ahead. Lee Trevino, playing the 17th, was two strokes behind and still had a chance to tie. So everyone waited. Word came in that Trevino had failed to birdie the 17th, but still Tuthill refused to begin the playoff. "He could hole out his second shot at 18," he said. Television squirmed. Finally the news arrived that Trevino could not tie, and the playoff started, with more complications. Spectators overran the course and kids tried to make circus catches of Lunn's and Casper's approach shots.
"The marshaling broke down," Tuthill said later. "The marshalls became spectators themselves. It was about as bad a scene as I've experienced since I've been with the tour."
Tuthill has been on the tour for 10 years. He is 46, and his appearance is just what it should be—honest, aggressive, dependable. He is definitely a nononsense guy. Even his words have a sharp bite to them, coming out of the side of his mouth in a New York accent. Tuthill was raised on Long Island, joined the U.S. Navy in World War II, became a medical corpsman with the Marines and went in with the fourth wave at Iwo Jima. After his discharge he took a crack at professional baseball. He played part of one season for Eau Claire in the Class C Northern League, and his record can be found in the 1948 Baseball Guide: John Tuthill—AB 158, Hits 36, Ave. .228. "I could field pretty good, but I couldn't hit," he says.
So Tuthill finished his education instead, graduating from Cortland Teachers in 1948 and taking his master's in physical education at Ithaca College the following year. For the next two years he worked in the New York State Labor Department, then as an FBI agent and finally as a special agent at Republic Aviation on Long Island. It was this last job that gave him time to play golf—Tuthill's game is as good as that of some of the touring pros—and brought him into contact with a professional golfer named Dick Stranahan. In 1960 Stranahan learned that Ed Carter, who ran the PGA tour, was looking for an assistant. Who could be better than a former FBI agent who shoots sub-par golf? Tuthill got the job, and in 1964 became tournament director himself.
In the years since, Tuthill has seen the tour change from a way for a golfer to make a living into a way to make a fortune. When he joined the PGA staff few tournaments were televised, a $100,000 event was a big deal and the Army was just being mustered. "It seems like it used to be friendlier," Tuthill says. "We even had corn roasts in the summer—guys like Doug Ford, Johnny Pott, Dave Marr and Tommy Jacobs. That crowd."
This year his wife Dorothy is not traveling with him all the time, since their daughter J.C. has reached school age. He will see them when the tour reaches Pensacola, Fla., his home, and they will travel with him this summer, but for the time being he must drive from tournament to tournament and motel to motel alone. He no longer flies. Ever since 1944, when he spent 24 straight hours in a landing craft and got so miserably sick that he ruptured blood vessels in his stomach, he has been prone to airsickness. He is also slightly claustrophobic. So he drives, which is more practical for him anyway since he carries his office around with him.
It is a long work year—265 days on, 100 off—and when he is on the tour he is expected to put in a seven-day week, for there is qualifying for nonexempt players on Monday, practice rounds Tuesday, a pro-am Wednesday and the tournament itself Thursday through Sunday. For this, Tuthill is paid about $35,000 a year, or approximately as much as the 66th man on last year's money-winning list.
On Sunday evening Tuthill is back in his motel room, relaxing over a drink. Ordinarily, he will have answered dozens of questions during the day. Why had Palmer been assessed a two-stroke penalty, a fan wanted to know. Because when Arnie moved a beer can against which his ball had come to rest, the ball had rolled a few inches and Palmer had failed to return it to its original position. What shape are the greens in, Tom Shaw asked. Oh, said Tuthill, some are round and others are square.
Now, in his motel room, he and Ed Griffiths, one of his assistants, talk about the tour and its problems. "Some of the rounds today took more than five hours," Griffiths says. "We're just going to have to nail somebody with a two-stroke penalty. Shake them all up."
Tuthill nods and yawns. Another tournament would start in a couple of days, but before it did he had to drive up to Pebble Beach and have a little talk with Bing Crosby about ropes.