Hi there, all you guys on the PGA tour with a putter in one hand, the keys to a courtesy car in the other, a practice bag between your knees and a Big Mac in your mouth. How's the dry-cleaning service over by the bowling alley in the shopping center next to the high-rise apartments built around the ice rink? Right there where you turn left on Route 542 at the pancake house on your way to the second round of the $200,000 Equity Funding Classic at Preston Heaven Golf, Tennis, Dancing & Condominium Sales Country Club, where Bob Barbarossa clings to a one-stroke lead over Forrest Fezler and Artie McNickle? How's it going? I was just sitting here reflecting on things like the Campeonato Internacional Abierto de Golf de Espa√±a—that translates into the Spanish Open, Arnold—and dwelling on the wine and the sidewalk cafés and the Mediterranean and the whole European golf circuit and, listen, I was wondering if any of your double-knits had come unraveled?
Excuse me a minute. Yes, Anselmo. More wine. It goes well with the jagged coast and the old lighthouse and the hills around Cabo de Palos. The golf is beyond the hills, no? Today they play the golf and tonight they eat the lamb. Is it not true, Anselmo? An Englishman says we must have "sips and dins with the Elegantini." Quite fun, he says. What of the Elegantini, Anselmo? Is Piero really a count? Was Valentín really a matador? Is Constantine still a king? Who is Coco? Go well, my friend. Go fast and true while I look out at the sea. And don't forget the wine.
This letter could be a problem, seeing as how I tend to daydream. If you get lost now and then, write me in care of Fred Corcoran or Howard Clark, American Express Pro-Ams, somewhere in a TWA holding pattern over Rome or Madrid, and footnotes will be forwarded. It is primarily their fault that I have kept turning up in all these funny places during the past year or so, and why I shall probably be coming back, having been hooked.
"There's no golf in Europe," I told Corcoran and Clark at first. "Europe is for wars, novelists and perfume."
September 30, 1973
I reminded them that golf is played in Akron, Pensacola, Laurel Valley and Tallahassee. Biarritz was for Napoleon, and Crans-sur-Sierre was for skiers. La Manga was a thing on a tree or a vine, largely eaten by the natives, and Rome was a lot of ruins with pasta machines in the basement.
"Don't give me any of this French Open, Swiss Open, Spanish Open, or Campionato Internazionale Open d'Italia stuff," I said. Which I think is the Italian Open in Berlitz.
They only smiled and gave me preferential starting times in the Pro-Ams.
At first it was work. Do you think for a moment that it is easy to tell a Gallardo and a Garrido of Spain from a Garaialde of France? A Barrios of Spain from a Barras of Switzerland? A Bernardini from a Grappasonni in Italy? A Dorrestein of Holland from a Kugelm√ºller of Germany? Do you think it is easy to talk to a European golf federation president?
A European golf federation president wears a dark suit and tie. Usually his family manufactures something that everybody in the country needs. In the glass and concrete opulence of the La Manga clubhouse he came up from my blind side.
"Allow me to say that I am Juan Antonio Andreu," he said.
"How do you do?"
"I am the president of the Spanish Golf Federation," he said.
"How do you do?"
"You have come a very long distance for the golf."
"You have come before to Spain?"
"Yes, but not for the golf."
"You have not come for the golf?"
"Yes. Definitely for the golf. But also to look around."
"We are happy everybody has come to Spain for the golf."
"We are having a good tournament for you, do you think?"
"It seems funny to be in Spain for golf."
"Golf in Spain is funny?"
"I meant that it is very different for me. Different. Funny—as in funny like my swing."
Most golf conversations make me thirsty. I looked around the room for Ward Wallace, the publicity director of La Manga. He knew how to say "J&B and water" in Spanish.
"You make the golf joke, no?" asked the man in the suit.
"And so. How do you find our wonderful course here?"
"I asked somebody. They said it was outdoors. Heh, heh."
"The course is very green."
"Yes. La Manga seems to have much water. Water, incidentally, is good for me to have in a drink with Scotch."
"You are here from Scotland?"
"No, no. I'm from New York City."
"I have been to New York."
"Now you have been to Spain."
"And so. How did you watch the golf today?"
"I went out to see Antonio Garrido, the defending champion."
"Garrido does not go well this week."
"It was O.K. The man I saw turned out to be Angel Gallardo."
"On the other hand, it might have been Jean Garaialde. Heh, heh."
"There are many fine golfers in Europe although some of them do not go well this week."
"Many in Spain now."
"I'm just getting to know them."
"You would like to know them?"
"First, I would like to know how you say J&B in Spanish."
"Jaime? Ah yes. Jaime is Angel Gallardo's brother. Jaime is the plump one."
"That's very helpful."
"And so. How many people do you say watched the golf today?"
"Counting you and me?"
"I would say perhaps a thousand."
"Not quite so many, to be honest."
"Five hundred perhaps."
"Actually less, I would say."
"It was my thought that there were 200 at least following Neil Coles."
"Possibly, if you included those having lunch in the clubhouse."
"Two hundred is very good for the first Spanish Open at La Manga."
"We are somewhat remote here and La Manga is new. But we will have the people one day because we are presenting much money."
"If you presented the money to the people, you would have many people, I think. Heh, heh."
"The champion must receive $8,000 I believe."
"That's very good."
"Do you personally know Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer?"
"And do you personally know Lee Trevino and Tom Weiskopf?"
"You must tell them about Spain."
"I'll tell them about the $8,000 and the 200 people."
The man in the suit said, "All golfers must like La Manga."
"Yes. La Manga—and Cabo de Palos."
"You know Cabo de Palos?"
"After the golf I go there to sit in the sun and daydream. Also to have a drink."
"What do you prefer to drink?"
"Now that you mention it, if I knew how to say J&B with water and ice, I would drink that."
The president snapped his fingers.
"Se√±or, por favor! Uno ohta bay con agua seen gas con yelo, por favor."
It sounded like:
"Hold it," I said. "That's oh ta bay...con agua...seen gas...con...."
"It has been my pleasure for us to have this talk about the golf. You must come many times to Spain for the golf and bring with you Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer."
"Oh ta bay, was it? Oh ta bay, con gas...seen agua...."
"I am Juan Antonio Andreu, the president of the Spanish Golf Federation. When you come to Spain, you must inquire of my presence."
"I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Let's see. That was oh ta bay, con yelo, con gas...."
As anyone might guess, golf on the continent of Europe has hardly ever been as popular as building castles or sitting around. Professional tournament golf dates back only to the first French Open—er...L'Open de France—held in 1906.
Until recently there had never been any sort of organized European tour. What there had been was a ragged, conflicting, confused, aristocratic, almost secretive schedule that only a few Garridos and Grappasonnis and British journalists knew about. Or, in the distant past, an occasional Walter Hagen and Henry Cotton.
To be honest, the European tour still has several mashies to hit before it can catch up with the Australian tour or the Asian tour or the South African tour or the British tour, much less the American tour, in terms of style, prize money, organization and competitive quality. But all of a sudden things are happening. Europe is trying.
•A regular Continental tour has been scheduled in two parts, before and after the British Open, none of the events conflicting, and all of them compatible with British PGA tournaments.
•Six events, the opens of France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Holland and Germany, have become part of the British Order of Merit—part of the British tour, in other words, helping decide Ryder Cup standings, the Vardon Trophy winner, and entrants in various invitationals.
•Six tournaments (some of them the same) now constitute something called the American Express European Order of Merit. These tournaments offer special inducements to the professionals, such as a big pro-am sponsored by American Express and run by Fred Corcoran of World Cup repute, and offering a season's prize to the most consistent player.
•Prize money is increasing. Only this spring the Italian Open and the Spanish Open upped their purses to $60,000. Others have vowed to follow. With various corporations getting into the act, a race is under way among several federations to host the richest event on the Continent.
•Tony Jacklin, one of the world's best players, has quit the American tour and joined the British and European exclusively, and he is not dominating them, proving there is competition.
The European tour has found a real friend—and draw—in Jacklin. As a former U.S. and British Open champion he can demand (and usually receive) at least $2,500 in appearance money, plus expenses, from most of the sponsors. He is ahead from the start, as opposed to his plight in America. And with the tournaments being closer to him and travel cheaper, not to mention the increasing purses, his future is even more enhanced.
"I have to play bloody well for months in the U.S. to earn $100,000," says Jacklin. "And then half of that goes to taxes and expenses. I can make more in Europe and go to more exciting places. In the U.S. every tournament seems like the same place. In Europe everything changes—the scenery, the food, the people, the language and the atmosphere. When the prize money gets even bigger, I think even some American pros are going to discover what I've already discovered. We're definitely moving toward a world tour."
It is the summer of '72, which is not a film title. The Basque Coast. Bay of Biscay. Biarritz. As a thoroughgoing hedonist I am wishing they played L'Open de France right here in my suite at the Hotel du Palais. It is a castle on a cliff above the Atlantic. From the pool I can look down on the town and the beaches below, and French ladies in brushed jeans that sell for $100. From my balcony I can see Albert's, a loud, open-air restaurant where it seems waiters walk on your table, believing it to be humorous, and where everybody sings, and where, finally, at the end of an evening, furniture or something is thrown onto the sand and sometimes set fire to. At the Hotel du Palais one hurried through dinner nightly in order to have a cognac on the terrace—and watch Albert's burn again.
Ben Wright of the Financial Times in London had dined at Albert's and smoldered while a waiter kept time to the music by beating on his table with a stick. He stared off at the first and said to no one:
"If there was only the remotest chance that the odd French waiter could be pitched atop the flame...."
Characters are emerging.
Arthur Crawley-Boevey is everywhere. In his blazer and scarf and cigarette holder and British accent, he seems like the major reason for planting tea in India. The British pros call him "Groovy Baby" and "Crawley Boozy." He was their field director on the European tour, and they say he has a liking for pink gin.
"Good show, the Continent," says Arthur. "Do a bit of walking about myself. Bit of history around, mind you."
Jean-Louis (Coco) Dupont is a road company Alain Delon. A Parisian bachelor, Coco has the time and energy to be secretary of the European Golf Federation, and the French Golf Federation as well. Coco has probably done a lot to get the European tour organized. When you say his name swiftly it comes out "Go Go Doo Paw," and sounds like you know French.
I asked Fred Corcoran if Go Go Doo Paw was Mr. Big in European golf.
"He wears a 5½ shoe," said Fred.
I asked Coco the same question.
Coco said, "I must make this worry, you see, about the petty jealousies of our federations. It is not so easy. It is sometimes impossible. But not always. It is something we must do."
Dick Severino is more places at once than Arthur Crawley-Boevey or Coco Dupont. I say Dick Severino is a spy who uses his note pad, his camera and Golf World as cover. Besides, he lives in Beirut.
Severino is a busy man who wears the golf cap of the tournament he is covering. He has an armband and a personal card that says "Golf Correspondent." He has a camera around his neck and a clipboard. He is athletic looking and fast talking.
"Great city, Beirut," he says. "I can go either way there. I can whip down to Alexandria or over to New Delhi. The Six-Day War? I played golf every day." Severino knows everybody on the European tour, or any other tour. He knows Hugh Baiocchi of South Africa and Baldovino Dass√π of Italy. He knows Philippe Toussaint of Belgium and Manuel Ballesteros of Spain. He knows Simon Hobday of Rhodesia and Mohammed Said Moussa of Egypt. He knows Vicente Fernandez of Argentina and Guy Wolstenholme of Australia. He not only knows them, he can talk to them.
"Watch this kid Dass√π," says Dick Severino.
I have finally found L'Open de France. It is at a club called La Nivelle, and it is not a golf tournament. It is a garden party.
La Nivelle is a miniature golf club of 5,758 yards, par 69. It is surrounded by miniature whitewashed villas with red-tile roofs. A street named Massy borders the course. It is named after Arnaud Massy, who came from Biarritz and won the first French Open, and who, in fact, remains the only Continental ever to win the British Open. A few people are standing around eating sandwiches. Golfers are trudging up the 18th fairway pulling carts. Two elderly ladies are sitting on a bench. A soldier is asleep under a tree. Fred Corcoran is looking for a photographer.
"The prime minister is here," says Fred.
"Good," I answer. "Maybe he can tell us where the French Open is."
Wait a minute. Here comes an American off the 18th. It has to be an American because his sweater is new. It looks like Barry Jaeckel, out of L.A. Not a bad young player. What's he doing here? If he weren't pulling his own cart and drinking a Pepsi, I'd swear it was Barry Jaeckel.
"What are you doing here?" he asks.
"I was going to ask you that," I said.
"I don't know, man. I just paid my $15 and teed off," says Barry.
"How do you stand?"
"O.K., I guess. I just shot 63. Where's a good place to eat?"
In several different languages the press wants to know who Barry Jaeckel is, and he has left in a taxi. I am interviewed. I know the only player in the tournament Dick Severino doesn't know, and he's leading.
Barry Jaeckel, 23. Son of the actor Richard Jaeckel, who used to play the baby-faced kid who got killed a lot in all those war movies. Caddied for Dean Martin, drove his golf cart. Martin sponsors him. Hasn't made the PGA school yet. Over here getting practice. Doesn't know that Walter Hagen and Byron Nelson are the only Americans who ever won the French Open.
It's Sunday, the last round. It must be because there's a cocktail party under some trees. Barry Jaeckel has a caddie, seeing as how he is in contention with some known quantities: Peter Oosterhuis, Brian Barnes, Clive Clark and Roberto Bernardini. Pretty French girls are passing out free cigarettes. They wear brushed jeans that cost eight million dollars in a local boutique. Fred Corcoran and Dick Severino are looking for each other.
Barry Jaeckel finishes birdie-par to tie Clive Clark for the French Open. They go to sudden death and Barry Jaeckel hits an iron six feet from the cup, sinks it for a birdie and wins. Walter Hagen, Byron Nelson and Barry Jaeckel.
"Dean Martin will love that," smiles Barry.
Is he going to the Swiss Open?
"Do they have one?"
Crans-sur-Sierre. High in the Alps overlooking the Rhone Valley. Postcard land. A good course, leaping from Alp to Alp. Almost 7,000 yards, good condition, par 71. I don't really want to play in the American Express Pro-Am because I'm afraid I'll fall off.
Fred Corcoran, however, just happens to have a set of clubs, a preferential starting time, and a pairing with Barry Jaeckel and Jean-Claude Killy. I can play in my loafers. On the tee. The French Open champion, the ski racer and the idiot. Fred is looking for a photographer.
"It's at least 10,000 feet from here down to Geneva, Fred. I'm not swinging hard at any sidehill lies."
"I golf like you ski," says Jean-Claude.
We don't win.
The Swiss Open is guarded jealously by Crans-sur-Sierre, which has always held it. A couple of families named Barras and Bonvin, who seem to own all the hotels and raclette and fondue in the village, see that it runs perfectly.
A band is marching through town wearing leather skirts, another cocktail party has started, seven watchmakers in black suits are making speeches, everybody is getting a trophy for simply showing up—and the tournament hasn't begun yet.
In case the press doesn't know where the Matterhorn is, or where to find the best raclette, somebody named John Allatini is around to help. He is an expatriate Yorkshireman of private means who says he greatly enjoys "having sips and dins with the Elegantini."
The tournament begins, and compared to France the galleries are enormous. Everybody follows Tony Jacklin for four rounds while Graham Marsh, an Australian, wins.
"Watch this kid Marsh," says Dick Severino.
Spring of '73. La Manga Campo de Golf. Costa Blanca. An hour's flight and another hour's drive from Madrid. The Spanish coast is exploding with Fort Lauderdale condominiums and California developers. One day everything will be air-conditioned from Valencia to Gibraltar.
La Manga Campo de Golf is startling. In the midst of nowhere, tucked against some parched brown hills, looking out at the blue sea, a fortress looms. Inside: multilevels of glass, carpet and porches. La Manga sticks out like gun placements above elegant apartments hidden below like ammunition bunkers. Bars, cafés, sun decks, verandas, shops and fireplaces are here, over there, down this way, up there, around the corner. And always a view of the Mediterranean gleaming beyond the golf course stretching out in the valley below.
La Manga's American owner, Greg Peters, has flown in his props, like a movie studio. Three thousand palm trees line the fairways of La Manga's 36 holes, standing guard over 14 artificial lakes, six-inch rough, and fairways about 30 yards wide. Is the big barranca cutting across the middle of it a natural wonder or was it flown in as well?
The rise of the Spanish professional is well timed with the bursting forth of golf interest and golf architecture in his country. Robert Trent Jones got there first with Sotogrande and then Nueva Andalucia at Marbella (where the World Cup will be played in November), but now there's La Manga, and even Jack Nicklaus is designing a course outside of Madrid. Meanwhile on the European circuit, only the British play consistently better as a group than the Spanish. If the Spanish are coming in swarms, the British think they know why. Some of the Spanish have Portuguese caddies who, they say, can improve a nasty lie with their bare feet. It makes the Portuguese Open sound intriguing, at least. Uno birdie con foot, por favor.
La Manga is set up for the British. The wind is making the course play long, to its full par of 72. The rough is too deep for a Spaniard's flat swing, or even a Portuguese foot. Besides, the British know where to eat. Over in Cabo de Palos in an old house, El Cortijo. Exquisite lamb, roasted before your very eyes. And they know where to drink.
Neil Coles, who drives to tournaments on the Continent, who has a clerical exterior and Charles Dickens hair, is well in control. Other British follow: Jacklin, Craig De Foy, Peter Butler, Brian Barnes, Maurice Bembridge.
Coles wins at 282. A fine, underrated player, and a gentleman. Only one Spaniard, Jaime Benito, breaks 290.
"We've crushed the Armada," says Crawley-Boevey.
The Rome Golf Club at Acquasanta. Along the Appian Way. A horizon punctuated by ruins. Hilly terrain amid the old aqueduct. Smothered in charm, class, scenery, cuisine, and assorted Elegantini.
Big money is up. There's $17,250 for the winner, the highest purse ever offered on the Continent. A man named S. M. Constantino is entered in the American Express Pro-Am. So is a lady addressed as Marchesa Avril Rangoni-Machiavelli. They are paired with Jacklin, with Queen Anne-Marie in the gallery, and if Fred Corcoran can't find a photographer soon, he may kill somebody.
Italian Golf Federation officials wear gray suits, dark glasses and suede shoes. They whisper a lot with Count Piero Mancinelli, a golf-course engineer, until recently the manager of Italy's future hope, Baldovino Dass√π, and the publisher of a magazine called Golf Selezione.
Piero looks sinister enough to be a real count, but he is a kind man. He steals his way around softly, and holds his cigarette like a double agent, but he drinks like an American. And he has cared about golf in Italy, almost single-handedly, through the years.
Piero says, "We are in a position to make the Italian Open the biggest and best on the Continent. How do we get more Americans?"
"Tell their wives about the Via Condotti, and tell them about the food at Sabatini's."
"This week we are up against the Tournament of Champions," Piero says. "These are bad dates. But there are no good ones. Last week it would have been Pensacola."
Acquasanta is a tremendous golf course. Only 6,515 yards, par 70, dating back to 1903, but it is as tricky as can be, sloping away here and there, narrow, demanding, optional—a Roman Merion.
"Nobody is going to break 280," says Jacklin, "and I've got the king of Greece on my side." Constantine is following Jacklin's every shot, dashing to scoreboards for information on the leaders, telling him jokes and stuffing him with caviar nightly.
All of the names are up front, and the crowds are large. The weather is gorgeous and the course, surrounded by those ruins, is haunting. It's Sunday and Jacklin is battling Peter Oosterhuis, the glamorous Valentín Barrios, a former matador, and France's Jean Garaialde. The king is sweating.
He delivers the news. Oosterhuis has faded. Barrios has bogeyed the last two holes. Garaialde has bogeyed the last two holes. Tony needs a closing par 4 for 284 and victory. The 18th is a long hole, uphill, 433 yards. Jacklin drives nicely but his second misses the green. Great chip, four feet.
"If the little beggar misses this, I'm going deeper into exile than the king," says Ben Wright. "My story's already written."
The putt drops.
Everybody is at the bar. Jacklin is buying drinks for whoever stops by. I think Piero and I are buying drinks for a king and perhaps a marchesa or two. Arthur Crawley-Boevey wants to walk to the Colosseum. Dick Severino needs a ride to the airport.
"And so, my friend," says Piero, "you have been to Biarritz and to Crans. Also to La Manga and Rome. And Portugal, too?"
"I haven't seen a Portuguese Open, if you mean that."
Piero throws up his hands.
"My dear chap," he says. "You haven't seen anything yet."