Clifford Roberts, the president and co-founder with Bobby Jones of the Augusta National Golf Club, died there last week at the age of 84. In ill health for several months, Roberts shot himself during the early morning hours near Ike's Creek, named after President Eisenhower, a friend and club member.
Roberts was austere, demanding and obsessed by golf. Born in Iowa, he was a self-made man who became an investment banker in New York. During the 1920s, he became friends with Jones, and in 1930, when Jones retired after winning the Grand Slam, Roberts took him up on his idea of building the ideal golf course. They selected an old indigo plantation in Augusta that had been turned into a tree nursery, the first in the South, by a Belgian baron after the Civil War. The 365-acre property, named Fruitlands, had a variety of flowering shrubs and trees, many of which still grace the grounds, and at the end of 1932 the course was opened.
Over the years, it was altered because, as Roberts said, "There have been some changes in the technique of hitting a golf ball, a big change in the quality of equipment, and our policy has always been to keep this golf course in tune with changing conditions. It's no trick to make a golf course hard. What we try to do is to give an exacting but fair test of golf. If a golfer hits his shots well and if all conditions are favorable, it doesn't hurt our feelings a damned bit if he makes a low score."
October 9, 1977
Roberts set strict rules for members. A guest cannot play the course unless accompanied by a member, and should the member be called away, the game is over. Roberts did not seize power at Augusta—at the first meeting of the members in 1933 Grantland Rice proposed that Jones and Roberts be given the power to run the club as they saw fit, without the hindrance of meetings. Every member stood and yelled "Aye."
Roberts kept the dues and the names of members secret. Membership, about 220, is by invitation only, and Roberts and Jones did the inviting. Despite the affluence of its members. Roberts maintained, "We don't give a damn about their social standing, not in the society sense. We are only interested in their devotion to golf. That's the basic qualification that we have: that a man be a golfer, really love the game, be a golf nut, so to speak."
Augusta's exclusivity is put aside for one week each year for the Masters, which began in 1934. As tournament chairman, Roberts ran the Masters as strictly as he ruled members. Arnold Palmer said after hearing of Roberts' death, "Everybody in golf studied the operation of the Masters and considered it probably the best-run tournament in the world. So many of the things that are now standard and a normal part of tournament operations, such as on-course leader scoreboards, total roping of courses and other elements of gallery control, have been copied from the Masters, and Cliff Roberts was the man responsible."
Last week was a tough one for the Emprise Corporation, the once thriving sports and concession conglomerate controlled by the Jacobs family of Buffalo (SI, May 29, 1972). First the White House refused to grant a presidential pardon to Emprise, which was convicted in 1972 of conspiracy and interstate transportation to aid racketeering. That conviction came about after Emprise lent money to businessmen fronting for alleged mobsters in the purchase of the Frontier Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Emprise sought the pardon because a number of states want to take away racing and liquor licenses it had farmed out to subsidiaries after the conviction. Among the lawyers Emprise retained in its quest was Henry Petersen, head of the criminal division in the Justice Department during the Nixon Administration. Following the rebuff from the Carter Administration, Emprise was penalized by a Michigan Liquor Control Commissioner. At the instigation of Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley, the commissioner revoked four liquor licenses controlled by Emprise subsidiaries at three racetracks and Tiger Stadium.
Bob Swift, a columnist for the Miami Herald, has found a use for those sticky tar balls that wash ashore on Atlantic beaches when ships flush their tanks at sea.
Swift and his family like to go to the beach, where they construct sand castles, and recently they labored for hours building an elaborate one. They left for a couple of hours, and when they returned to admire their handiwork anew, they discovered it had been stomped flat. The Swifts had a suspect. Tennis-shoe prints indicated the vandal was a 12-year-old boy Swift describes as "a no-neck brat."
Swift's daughters, Ashley and Peggy, decided on revenge. They constructed an octopus with a seaweed smile and seashell eyes. The tentacles were of sand, but the head, the size of a basketball, was a solid mass of tar balls covered by the barest layer of sand. Upon leaving the beach, the Swifts made a big show of folding their chairs and umbrellas. Once behind the cover of a clump of sea grapes, they waited.
Sure enough, the suspect came along. First he smashed each tentacle. Finally he moved back a few steps and, Swift reports, "dashed forward and leaped high into the air and....
"I still smile inwardly," Swift concludes, "thinking of what happened when he returned home with 10 pounds of tar clinging to his shoes, socks, ankles and legs."
Some old scores were settled and a few eyebrows raised last week when the trustees of the estate of the late Tom Yawkey announced they had agreed to sell the Boston Red Sox to a group headed by Haywood Sullivan, the team's vice-president for player personnel, and Buddy LeRoux, the Red Sox trainer from 1966 to 1974. The trustees, one of whom is Jean Yawkey, Tom's widow, chose the Sullivan-LeRoux bid of $15 million even though that was less than offers submitted by Marty Stone (SI, Aug. 22), the tycoon who pitches batting practice, Jack Satter, owner of Colonial Provisions Corp., and A-T-O Corporation, the parent firm of Rawlings Sporting Goods, which had the high bid of $17 million. But then Sullivan-LeRoux had the invaluable support of Mrs. Yawkey, who has a deep regard for Sullivan. She joined the Sullivan-LeRoux group as a limited partner after their bid had been submitted. There is speculation that without her money Sullivan-LeRoux could not have come up with $15 million, in fact, without her money their original offer had been rebuffed in early September.
At a press conference, Sullivan made it clear that he and LeRoux would run the club. For years Sullivan had operated in the shadow of General Manager Dick O'Connell, who took over as Red Sox president in 1965, and who will surely depart after the 1977 season. During his administration the Red Sox have finished in the top half of their division every year and attendance has never fallen below one million. Had Stone's or Satter's bids been accepted, O'Connell would have been retained, but Mrs. Yawkey dislikes him. Indeed, in the last two years they have communicated only by note.
Those good ol' boys on the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society circuit surprised both themselves and local folks when they held a tournament last month, their first ever in the Northeast, on the St. Lawrence River. According to popular belief, the best largemouth-bass fishing is down in Dixie, but the 150 competing anglers (including 41 New Yorkers who were there mostly to soak up pro fishing techniques with spinnerbaits and supersoft plastic worms) caught 3,446 pounds of bass in the Thousand Islands area.
That is about twice the poundage fishermen caught this year in each of the B.A.S.S. tournaments on the St. Johns River in Florida, Greers Ferry in Arkansas and Kentucky Lake. The St. Lawrence catch was topped by the 5,816 pounds hauled in from Toledo Bend Reservoir in Texas and Louisiana, ranked by many as the best bass lake in the U.S., but there were 250 fishermen at Toledo Bend who could take up to 10 bass a day, while the daily limit on the St. Lawrence is only six. "I've fished all over this country and in 122 bass tournaments," said Emmett Chiles of Joiner, Ark., who finished 11th with 46 pounds, 13 ounces, enough to win most tournaments, "and I've never seen anything like the bass fishing here in the St. Lawrence River."
The catches stunned guides, resort owners and officials of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. "Honestly, we had no earthly idea that this type of largemouth-bass fishing existed in these waters," said Bruce Shupp, a department official. Too bad the department hadn't. Maybe it would have tried to prevent the mercury, mirex and PCB contamination that makes the St. Lawrence fish unsafe for people to eat.
In an effort to attract more readers to the weekly parish bulletin, Father J. Morgan Kelly, the pastor of St. Bartholomew's Roman Catholic Church in East Brunswick, N.J., recently started a one-question sports quiz, with the answer to be given in each following week's issue.
At 2:30 one morning, Father Gervase Walters, the associate pastor who was on duty at the rectory, got a phone call from a man asking the answer to the question: "Among the leading strikeout pitchers for one season who has the best strike-out-per-game record?" Father Walters replied, "Come to church on Sunday and you will learn the answer."
The man did—Nolan Ryan, 383 strikeouts in 326 innings in 1973.
Hunters and fishermen, check your equipment, inspect your library, rummage through your attic. Some of that stuff may be worth a bundle, according to Allan J. Liu of Amawalk, N.Y. Liu, who edited the American Sporting Collector's Handbook, published last year, is now in the business of selling sporting memorabilia and artifacts, the collecting of which, he notes in his first catalog, "has been growing by leaps and bounds the last few years." So have the prices.
Liu offers seven shorebird decoys by Harry Shourds, who died in 1920, for $15,000. A knife, a skinner lock-back folder, made by H. H. Frank last year, but of "truly museum quality," commands $1,450.
A Julius vom Hoffe single-action fly reel, "very fishable," is priced at $225. An eight-foot, two-piece, two-tip bamboo fly rod made in 1934 by the late Everett Garrison goes for $1,200, and although the price is a tribute to Garrison's craftsmanship, he probably would be appalled because he sold his rods only to active fishermen.
Among books, a 1939 Stoeger's gun catalog. World's Fair Jubilee issue, has a tag of $300; Roland Clark's Stray Shots, one of 535 copies published by Derrydale in 1931, costs $550; H. G. Pickering's Neighbors Have My Ducks, a 1937 Derrydale, $350; and Edgar M. Queeny's Prairie Wings, one of 225 copies of a deluxe edition published in 1946, $2,500.
If, to quote Liu, you want to "get in on the ground floor," you might be interested in the first list of flies offered to collectors. A mayfly nymph by Yas Yamashito, a contemporary Pennsylvania flytier, goes for $40. That might seem high indeed, but then Yamashito spends more than nine hours on a nymph to make it as realistic as possible.
THEY SAID IT
•J.B. Pinheiro, Brazilian ambassador to the U.N., in praise of Pelé: "My country has been built on mistakes. Pedro Cabral was looking for a passage to India when he discovered Brazil. Our entire history is like that. So here I am, probably the best soccer player in the world, and they've got me being an ambassador. Pelé, on the other hand, has spent 22 years playing soccer, and in that time he has done more for goodwill and friendship between nations than all of the ambassadors ever appointed."