When he walks down the fairway, there is such joy in his step that the gallery can't help but notice. Someone will ask, "Who is that?", and a marshal will respond, "Mac O'Grady."
Good question. Mac O'Grady was 101st on the Professional Golf Association's money list last year, winning $50,379. There may have been a hundred better golfers on the tour, but none of them had a better story than Mac O'Grady.
For one thing, he has two names, Mac O'Grady and Phillip McGleno. And with each name comes a different persona, a front side and a back side, so to speak. The Mac O'Grady known to most of his fellow touring pros is an irrepressible zany, one of golf's so-called Space Cadets. In fact, he has drafted a letter to NASA, volunteering his services to the space program. He wanted the '84 PGA media guide to list his special interest as molecular biology, but his request was made too late.
O'Grady is a switch hitter, and he has applied to the USGA for amateur status as a lefthander. He has also taken applications from convicts all over the country who would like to be his caddie. Minnesota-born Mac speaks in a language, and in an accent, all his own—a wedge shot isn't just a wedge shot, but "a bird flying to the firmaments, outlined against an incandescent sky, beginning to fall, gently sashaying back to the earth." Crazy? Why, he went through the PGA qualifying school 17 times beginning in 1971 before finally winning his touring card in November of 1982.
But then there's Phil McGleno, who lived through a nightmare to chase his dream. Along the way, he found love and hate and friendship, shuttled between California, Texas, Florida, everywhere in Greyhound buses, devoured all manner of books, lived in a storage box in a garage, worked at the oddest of jobs, read more books and finally changed his name. Persistent? Well, one 72-to-144-hole qualifying tournament is an ordeal. The thought of enduring 17 of them in 12 years boggles the mind.
So there were tears in his eyes as he walked down the 18th fairway of the Tournament Players Club course on Nov. 21, 1982, the last day of his last qualifying school. Phil McGleno had finally caught up with his dream. As he wrote in his journal that night, "A philosopher once stated, 'Your happiness in Life is measured by how deep sorrow has cut within you.' At this moment, we [he and his wife, Fumiko] are the happiest people in the universe. God bless those who move mountains."
There are all sorts of pleasures to be had in listening to O'Grady's husky voice. "Anytime you talk to him, you'll hear three words you never heard before," says fellow pro Mike Nicolette. O'Grady is liable to babble on, hooking words out of bounds, slicing the language into the trees, but he says things with such abandon that he will stop every once in a while to laugh at himself.
"It's that high-pitched laugh that gets me," says Bill Kratzert, another pro. "Even when I can't understand what he's saying, I'll laugh at the laugh." O'Grady also speaks with a lilt that comes from some undiscovered land. But this is understandable, given that his wife is Japanese, his friends could form their own United Nations, and the man who supported him through many lean years is called Raphael Shapiro, which isn't the name he was born with.
Just watching O'Grady can be a treat. It's not that he's handsome—his cheeks are drawn and his nose is pinched—but rather it's the way he carries himself. He is so full of energy that he literally runs from point to point. At 32, he's in such good shape that many golfers consider him to be the best-conditioned athlete on the tour. He neither smokes nor drinks.
On the course, his swing is also something to behold. "He has the best mechanics out here," says Gary McCord, another Space Cadet. Remarkably, O'Grady has the same swing from the other side. During a practice round before the Bing Crosby Pro-Am in February, he turned his righthanded driver backwards and drove the ball lefthanded—250 yards and dead down the middle of the 18th fairway at Pebble Beach.
To watch him play and listen to him talk at the same time is the best of both worlds. It's the first day of the Crosby, and O'Grady is paired with another famous Irishman, former San Francisco Giant Willie McCovey. They start their round on the 10th hole at Cypress Point. "I was talking with Willie before we teed off," O'Grady says, walking down the fairway after a very nice drive. "We talked about the fear factor. [He pats his heart.] The anxiety. All these people lining the ropes. You're so afraid you'll shank the ball and hurt somebody. You're so afraid you'll look silly. Willie was saying that Charles Schulz called up one year so scared he didn't play.
"God, Willie McCovey. Isn't this great? I was telling him about the time I saw him on Home Run Derby back in 1961 in Milwaukee, and he said, 'Oh, noooo.' I told him I played a lot of golf with Bo Belinsky, and he got a kick out of that." O'Grady hits his second shot into a sand trap in front of the green and says, "We'll talk about this sand shot later." He gets down in three to save par.
After a beautiful drive on 11, O'Grady continues, "Now about that sand shot. There I was plugged in, a horrific lie. I could've had my whole day shot right there, right? I could've gotten upset. But you can't allow yourself to get angry. That is what I admire about Nicklaus and Trevino and Watson, the way they act on a course." O'Grady makes a routine par.
On the 12th, he yells to Johnny Miller's caddie, John Sullivan, who runs over from an adjacent tee to chat. "That guy is like Johnny Miller's adopted son," he says of Sullivan. "If he wasn't around, Miller might be through on the tour. Johnny has a tendency to pout—if he'd plugged it in the sand like I did, he might have whined for four or five holes—but his caddie won't let him. He'll tell him, 'Relax, get back in the ring and see your own blood.' A caddie's so important. That's why Nicklaus hasn't done quite as well since Angelo [Argea] left [in 1981]. I met Kevin, my caddie, in Europe when I was playing there in 1982. Very quiet. I wish he knew the courses better, though." O'Grady makes par at the 12th.
He also pars the next hole: "You have to take this game through so many labyrinths of the mind, past all the traps—like, will my masculinity be threatened if I hit the ball well and still shoot a 72?" He pars 14, but bogeys the short 15th after he buries his tee shot in the sand at the front of the green. "The wind came up and caught the ball," he says. "But such is the frivolous nature of this game."
The par-three 16th at Cypress is one of the most beautiful—and frightening—holes in golf. The green sits 222 yards across an inlet from the tee, perched on a finger of rock with the ocean on two sides, traps in front and ice plant in back. O'Grady hits his tee shot into the rocks and ends up with a double bogey. "Right into the devil's mouth," he says. "It's an honor to play this hole, the Number One hole on the tour, fear personified. If I hit 20 balls into the water on 16, I could still stroll down the fairway in perfect serenity."
On 17, O'Grady runs into more bad luck. His second shot hits the top of a cypress and drops straight down next to the tree, and only a near-miraculous third shot helps him to a bogey. On 18, he says, "There's so much passion and disintegration in this game. At times you want to feel so sorry for yourself and give up." O'Grady three-putts for another bogey.
Now on the front side, he pars the 1st hole, and on the 2nd he resumes his commentary. "If I was 100 years old and shooting 150, I'd come back here every day and play." He bogeys the 3rd. "I feel like a Saturn 5 rocket going into geosynchronous orbit."
He bogeys the 4th. "I'm going through a catatonic, neurosomatic, emotional disorder right now. I'm in total emotional upheaval." After missing a birdie putt on No. 5, he says, "I'm in that wonderful state of purgatory between the insane and the rational." Through 16 holes he is eight-over. "I feel like I've been beaten up by the neighborhood bully," he says. "But there's always tomorrow."
Walking down the 8th fairway, he tries to lift his spirits. "The Japanese have a wonderful expression about golf," he says. "They say the reason you play badly is because you won't let yourself play badly. If you're afraid to play badly, when the time comes for you to play well you won't let yourself play well. That's one of the reasons I haven't signed any contracts. I would be so upset right now. I do feel dilapidated, though."
On the final hole O'Grady pulls science out of his bag. "To what degree are you able to absorb the anxiety and pressure of this thing called the PGA Tour? Perhaps it depends only on the DNA spiral staircase. You know they have pills that can save you from absorbing radioactive isotopes. Perhaps they can develop a pill to protect us from the radioactivity of the tour.
"It's funny. You need a fantastic memory in this game to remember the great shots, and a very short memory to forget the bad ones."
On the green O'Grady, disgusted with his putting all day, calls McCovey over. "Willie," he says, "read this putt for me. We can't." McCovey says to him, "You can make this putt, can't you?" O'Grady shakes his head no, and McCovey says, "Well, do you see this little ball mark here? Just aim to the right of it." O'Grady does just that, but the ball veers to the left just before it gets to the cup. O'Grady says, "Willie, tomorrow you be the pro and I'll be the amateur."
O'Grady finishes the day with an 80, eight over par. "I'm in an amentaceous state, bewildered, confused," he says. "Do you remember all the Romeo and Juliet, hearts-and-flowers stuff about how I would play this course every day even if I shot 150? Do you recall all those romantic things I said? Forget them. I never want to play this course again." Then he laughs, and the people around him can't help but laugh with him.
O'Grady played better the next two rounds, but not well enough to make the 54-hole Crosby cut, and he ended up firing Kevin, his caddie. "He just didn't give me the freedom to be me," said Mac. "Besides, he misread too many greens and distances. Still, I'll be the better for this tournament. After all, a smooth sea never produced a skillful sailor."
Phil McGleno rarely had the benefit of a smooth sea. He grew up in West Los Angeles with four older brothers, an older sister and a twin sister. The family had moved to L.A. from Minneapolis in 1961, when Phil was 10. "Three of my older brothers got involved with drugs," O'Grady says. "One brother died and I'm sure drugs had something to do with it. He was bad. He had been in prison—he ran into a police car with thousands of dollars worth of drugs in his backseat. They were all bad. They used to beat me up and bust my nose. Once, one of them even stole the family car. They were fantastic athletes, too, but they wasted it. I tried to be as little like them as possible.
"My father worked for Hughes Aircraft, but he could be a hard man. Every one of us, though, loved my mother, Patricia—her maiden name was O'Grady. I remember I used to bring her flowers, I loved her so much. She died when I was 16, and later that year my father brought home another wife."
Phillip may have tried to shy away from his brothers, but he did take after them when it came to sports. The first time he played golf, on the pitch and putt course at Rancho Park, he made a hole in one (score it a five; he took two mulligans). Even when he was young, he played sports from both sides. "I remember playing golf against him when we were younger," says McCord. "Seems he was always dressed in a cowboy hat and tank top. One time he had this impossible shot up against a tree. The next thing I know, the ball is in the air and right on the green. I asked him how he did that, and he told me he kept a lefthanded seven-iron in his bag just in case."
McGleno quarterbacked the Hamilton High football team, and played baseball as well. "I was not much of a student, though," he says. "There was one kid who lived around the corner, Vernon Hattori was his name, and I was in total awe of his grasp of science. Do you know what my favorite course was? Cafeteria. I worked in the cafeteria for credit, and every day while washing dishes, I would look out the window at the other kids playing. I never felt bad, because I knew I could play as well as they did. And you know, all those years I was trying to qualify for the golf tour, it was like working in the cafeteria. I knew I could play on the tour—it was only a matter of time."
McGleno came under the tutelage of Walter Keller, a golf shop owner and patriarch of amateur golf in Los Angeles. In 1971 Keller formed a group of wealthy investors from the Riviera and Bel-Air country clubs to sponsor him. "I was 20, and very naive," says O'Grady. "I had caddied for most of these guys since I was 12. It made me nervous to socialize with them, and there was too much pressure on me to succeed right away."
The first time McGleno tried to get his touring card, in 1971, he didn't make it past the regional qualifier. His relationship with Keller soon soured. McGleno had been mistakenly arrested for theft in 1969, and he had subsequently sued for defamation of character in a civil suit. The case was settled out of court with McGleno receiving a letter of apology. One of the men he sued was a friend of Keller's. Keller learned of the suit in 1972 and, says O'Grady, tried to sever their relationship. Before one of the qualifying tournaments that year, O'Grady thought Keller asked him to fail, explaining he had something better in mind for him. "He was afraid I would succeed and that his group would be bound to sponsor me. I was incarcerated in a pool of avaricious sharks." McGleno did fail, and Keller and the others dropped him. Keller says they dropped McGleno over golf matters, not the lawsuit, and that they offered him a job and college tuition, which McGleno declined.
Heartbroken, and sick with a virus, McGleno took refuge in the home of Tom McGarvin, the athletic director at Santa Monica College, which McGleno had attended in 1971. "I was desperate, with nobody to lean on," he says. "Even after the fever broke, I just lay in bed. That's when I discovered books. I must have had a fourth-grade reading comprehension, but I read my first book when I was 22 years old. And then I read and I read and I read."
He also got out of bed and started to play golf again, although now, following his troubles with Keller, he found himself persona non grata at Riviera and Bel-Air, and unable to line up a sponsor in Los Angeles. Fortunately, he had found two angels. One of them was a Palm Springs restaurateur, Raphael Shapiro. Shapiro was born Raphael Viscusi, but he changed his name to Shapiro because "at heart, I really think I'm Jewish." During his first meeting with McGleno, he recalls, "I asked this kid what he wanted to be, and he said, 'I want to be on the golf tour,' and I said, 'Kid, you're picking a tough business.' But I saw something in him, and I let him move into an apartment I had off one of my banquet rooms. He ate my food, but he never asked me for money."
McGleno's other friend was Bob McClelland, a golf club manufacturer in Santa Monica. "Raphael and Mr. McClelland must have spent $250,000 on me," O'Grady says. "They stuck by me when everybody else said I couldn't make it." At Raphael's, Shapiro's restaurant, he worked as dishwasher, busboy, waiter, cook, chef and ma√Ætre d'. At McClelland's factory he worked as a grinder, inspector and salesman.
Through those years, 1973 to '76, McGleno stayed in shape by riding his bicycle great distances, jogging and swimming. He played golf at whatever course would have him, in Palm Springs or L.A. He would try the qualifying school once or twice a year, riding the Greyhound to Texas or Florida, then reliving his failures on the bus trip home. "The day I'd miss the cut, I'd go up to whoever was in charge and ask, 'When's the next school?' I would've gone through 40 schools."
For a time McGleno also worked with a high school friend, Bob Pierce, at Westwood Memorial Park and Mortuary. By night Phil would put on a suit and pick up the dear departed. By day he and Bob might play stickball or football or hit whiffle golf balls in the cemetery. It sounds more ghoulish than it was—some people, O'Grady for one, wouldn't mind their plots being used as a playing field. They did have one pass pattern rather irreverently called Slant Toward Marilyn, a reference to a certain late screen goddess entombed on the premises.
Between qualifying schools, McGleno played professionally in the Far East. He finished 30th on the Asian tour in 1977 but once again missed qualifying for the PGA tour by a couple of strokes. And then his golf game fell apart. "I don't know what happened," he says. "I think I was trying to copy Nicklaus' swing, but I couldn't hit the ball 200 yards. I thought my golf career was over."
In November of '77, McGleno had no place to go. So one night he broke into an empty mansion by the 17th hole at Bel-Air. He stayed there for a month—"like a cockroach," he says—slipping away on his bicycle at dawn and returning after nightfall. He would spend his days at the little pitch and putt course at Holmby Park. One morning he overslept in the mansion and was nearly caught by a real estate agent showing the place. For a few weeks, McGleno lived surreptitiously in a Malibu beach cottage, until he again barely escaped detection.
There was a torrential downpour one night in Malibu, and McGleno took cover in the garage of an apartment house in West L.A. On a platform above one of the cars he noticed a plywood box, 10' X 4' X 5', used to store beach furniture and other large items. He moved in, bike and all, and stayed there for a couple of months, reading by battery lamp and subsisting on peanut butter sandwiches. "The Japanese have a word for a box like that," says McGleno. "They call it a hako. If I ever form a corporation, I'll call it Hako, Incorporated."
Late one night in January 1978, McGleno's twin sister, Patricia, told him that their father was looking for him. The father thought there was a chance that Leonard Tose, the trucking magnate who owns the Philadelphia Eagles and was a son-in-law of Phil's stepmother, might be willing to sponsor Phil's quest to make the tour. Against his better judgment McGleno went home, and for a few days everything was fine. But then the old hurts came back, and the sponsorship never materialized. McGleno returned to his hako.
That March he chanced to go to the Sunstar LPGA tournament at Rancho Park. On the practice tee there, he was introduced to a Japanese woman named Fumiko Aoyago, who managed a Beverly Hills boutique. "I told her I'd been to Japan, and that if I ever got married, I would want to have a Japanese woman for my wife," he says. "She said, 'Oh, will you marry me?' and we both laughed."
While he was still living in the garage, McGleno began to see Fumiko socially. But a few weeks after they started dating, he got terribly ill. He showed up at Fumiko's apartment for dinner one night and stayed for a year. "She saw how sick I was and nursed me back to health," he says. "I know this sounds hard to believe, but it was 10 months before I could get up the nerve to kiss her."
In 1978, McGleno changed his name to Mac O'Grady, combining his mother's maiden name with the nickname of his friend McClelland. The new Mac threw away his past. He also got serious about lefthanded golf and took lessons from Sherry Wilder, a woman pro in Palm Desert. After a month and a half, he shot a 68 lefty. He still felt more comfortable swinging righthanded, although to this day he putts from the south side.
With the next year came a turning point in O'Grady's life. In January he heard of The Golfing Machine, something of a cult book by Homer Kelley. Kelley, an engineer's aide in Seattle, had broken down the golf swing into 24 components and 144 variations. The writing is at once mystical and scientific. "The first time I tried to read the book," says O'Grady, "I threw it down the stairs. I didn't even know what a 90-degree angle was. Fumiko told me, 'You must go see this man. Then it will be a guided struggle, not a blind struggle.' "
At first, O'Grady spoke with Kelley by phone and gradually ran up thousands of dollars in long-distance charges. He also flew to Seattle and spent 2½ days with Kelley. O'Grady became the teacher's pet, and his golf game improved.
But McClelland, for one, had run out of patience. In 1980 he wrote O'Grady off. "He told me I'd been the biggest disappointment of his life," says O'Grady. " 'You're such a good player, but you're never going to be great,' he said. He asked me not to come to the factory anymore. I was hurt, but I was no longer the feebleminded child. I said, 'I disagree with you. I only wish I had changed my name to Raphael O'Grady.' "
In October 1981, O'Grady married Fumiko in her hometown of Sakai, near Osaka. But then, perhaps the crudest blow was struck when, on his 16th try, O'Grady led the qualifying tournament after 36 holes. He shot back to back 80s at Huntsville, Texas and missed qualifying for the tour by four strokes. "I was afraid to call Mr. Kelley after that, but when I did, he said, 'That's O.K. You'll be a better golfer because of the struggle.' "
In '82 O'Grady played the European tour, and that November he took the bus to Florida to try to qualify—for the 17th time—on the Tournament Players Club and Sawgrass courses. In his journal, he wrote of that event in inimitable fashion:
"Tuesday, First Round. I scored a 79, seven over par. I reign in an unprecedented 180th position out of the starting field of 200.... I'm in pain now. Somewhat shocked and numb from this opening round, but certainly not despairful.... Should I control the ever-perplexing variables of swing mechanics, I believe success will be ours before the gun lap of this event has been completed. They say Patience is a virtue. As I lay in Room No. 166 of the Econo Lodge on Phillips Highway in Jacksonville, I hope for my sake the cool, collective aura of Patience will guide me into successful harbors. I Believe! I Believe!
"Wednesday, Second Round. I scored a 76, four over par. The end result continues to indicate I'm not making the grade.... I'm sounding depressed. I'd better stop writing. I'm afraid I may write something that will convince me I won't qualify at week's end.
"Thursday, Third Round. Well! Well! Old feebleminded Big Mac is no longer a french fry. Big Mac shot an under-par round of 71 at the TPC to move into 144th position in this tormenting event.... I feel better, tranquil somewhat, but I'm still in the doghouse. Where is Cinderella's other shoe?
"Friday, Fourth Round. Can you believe it? I shot a 66, six under par at Sawgrass and tied the course record. I flew right into 24th position.... What a brilliantly executed exaltation of professional judgment, mechanical precision and psychological execution of poise, courage and artistic unraveling.... Peace reigns over my emotions...the Torch of Adversity has burned hard and long against my skin for nearly one decade now.... It's been a remarkable day. One that will thrill me in my grandpa years ahead. Goodnight all, Big Mac is ready for slumber.
"Saturday, Fifth Round. The comeback from Poverty to Riches is taking place before my eyes. I scored a 71 today, the third straight under par round for the kid of Los Angeles. My ranking is 10th place.... The question remains, 'Can Big Mac find the Golden Arches?' We'll learn tomorrow.
"Sunday, Sixth Round. It's all over! Big Mac is in the Big-Big Leagues. It's been a life-long dream to make it to the majors.... Bring out the fruit juices, it's time to celebrate this victorious parade that has taken over one decade to complete.... I scored a 73 today. My final ranking was 4th place.... A few moments ago, I called Fumiko in Japan to inform her of the long-awaited good news. When she answered the telephone, I couldn't speak. I was crying...."
In fact, Fumiko had assumed that Mac had failed to qualify yet again because he hadn't called in several days. "When I picked up the phone," she says, "I could hear that it was long-distance, but there was no voice. I could tell he was crying. I said, 'Phillip-san, please tell me good news.' Finally he said, 'I qualified.' I was so happy...."
Even now, neither Fumiko nor Mac can talk about that day without tears. Says Mac, "To find out you were right, right to believe in those dreams—nothing in life could be as sweet as that."
It is customary for Japanese families to keep a little doll in the house, a doll with only one eye—to symbolize a dream unfulfilled. When Fumiko told her family the good news, that Mac had made it, the Aoyagos painted the other eye on the doll.
It was only after O'Grady had won his card that Shapiro began calling him by his new name. And at Raphael's in Palm Springs, Shapiro would make Mac take out his PGA player's card and show it to the customers.
O'Grady passed up the first tour event in 1983, the Tucson Open, so that he could make his debut at the L.A. Open. Of all coincidences, the '83 Open, which is usually held at Riviera, was played at Rancho Park because Riviera was scheduled to host the '83 PGA Championship. Rancho Park was where Phil McGleno had first tried golf and where he had met Fumiko. "There were even more symbols," says O'Grady. "My mother went to church at St. Timothy's across the street from Rancho Park, and she died in a hospital on that street. And Rancho Park abuts Patricia Avenue, which was her name. Destiny was in the wind."
O'Grady went out and birdied the first four holes and finished his first round with a 67. The next day he shot a 70 and was six strokes off the lead. But then destiny's wind changed direction. Mac recalls, "A very good friend of mine, John Hayes, the [52-year-old] pro at Lakeside, was following me around. When nobody else in town would let me play, John did. After the second round, we talked and he seemed so happy for me. He took one branch of the path, and I another, and we parted. That night on the 11 o'clock news, I heard that John Hayes had died of a heart attack while attending the L.A. Open. He must have died right after I left him." Upset, Mac finished 72-76, well back in the pack.
Another death hit O'Grady hard in 1983; Homer Kelley died in February, while working on the seventh edition of The Golfing Machine. "For 20 years I had been marooned on an island of ignorance," says O'Grady. "That book got the clay out of my ears and lifted the veil from my eyes." Before he died, Kelley had said that O'Grady understood his book as well as anyone.
O'Grady's best finish that year was a tie for third in the Heritage Classic at Hilton Head, S.C., after he had led through two rounds. It was there, too, that he first entered the national spotlight. CBS, which was televising the tournament, fell in love with O'Grady. At one point, he called over a cameraman who was following him. At first the cameraman thought he was going to be chastised for getting in O'Grady's way, but Mac said, "I want you to know you can get as close as you want, you can take shots in front of my nose, between my legs, whatever you want to do. People should know my story of perseverance, and how it's steeped in the American traditions of freedom and justice handed down by Franklin and Jefferson...."
During the Heritage, O'Grady received this telegram from that smart kid in his old L.A. neighborhood: "Am following your career with great interest. Vernon Hattori."
O'Grady, as he might say, was the wafting of a cool, refreshing zephyr on the tour. "I had lost him for 10 or 11 years," says McCord. "When I saw he'd made the tour, I thought, 'Oh, my God, he made it.' And when I saw that he had that same faraway look in his eye, I thought, if they thought I was nuts, wait till they get ahold of Mac.' I don't quite know what it is about us. Maybe it's the Southern California water. But then, I wouldn't want to cast aspersions upon the water."
The other pros also found out that O'Grady could play golf. "When we play together in practice rounds, it's like he's in a different league," says Nicolette. "With patience, and putting, he could be one of the great golfers." Says Kratzert, "With that book of his, he can have a bad round, analyze his mistakes, and go back and shoot a 68. Putting is the only thing keeping him from being great."
O'Grady thinks he's a good putter, but most golf critics believe that when a righthanded player putts lefthanded, he's admitting that he needs help in the worst way. Whatever, O'Grady isn't a good putter.
Mac also is in perpetual search for the perfect caddie and someday might find him. When he told Golf magazine that he would welcome applications from qualified convicts because, he says, he feels "an identification with those kind of guys who've had it tough," he was besieged with inquiries. One hopeful wrote, "I will be leaving the pen in Feb. and would love to go to work for you. I have played golf for eight years and can shoot in the high 70s. I was a farmer for 10 years so I'm plenty strong enough to carry your bag.... I can read the greens on the worst of courses. Thank you, Sid, Ex-Con. P.S. Having an ex-con carrying your bag will draw as many people to a tournament as Jack N." O'Grady was tempted, but PGA officials discouraged the idea.
Actually, O'Grady did find a pretty good caddie at this year's Hawaiian Open. Jeff Oda was half Irish and half Japanese, a perfect match for Mac. Unfortunately, Oda was only 13 years old. "I was nearly 20 years older, but I was in total awe of him," says O'Grady. "He would say, 'One inch to the right, slightly downhill,' and walk away. He had such courage of his convictions. One time, though, he said, 'Could go left, could go right, could go straight,' and walked away. I broke up." O'Grady had his best showing of the year in Hawaii, finishing tied for 13th and earning $8,055.
For now, O'Grady is content to serve out his apprenticeship on the tour, learning its politics and cashing the occasional check. After another 13th-place finish last week at Greensboro, he was 68th on the money list. "My friend Bob Pierce has told me, 'Mac, you've traveled the long and arduous path of science, and you've learned the laws of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and Kepler. Now you have an even more difficult journey, learning the laws of human nature.' "
Last year several agents offered to represent O'Grady, but Mac didn't want that pressure—and didn't like what they had in mind for him. "I'm afraid they would've turned me into a freak show: Step right up and see the man who plays with both hands and went through the qualifying school 17 times."
Wherever he goes on tour, O'Grady carries almost as many books as clubs. To the Crosby he lugged the following: Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, The International Thesaurus of Quotations; Roget's Thesaurus; Roget's II; The Portable Greek Reader, The Psychology of Self-Esteem; Crowds and Power, and a book of inspirational poems. You Too Can Work Wonders! When he isn't reading or golfing, he's writing, scratching his thoughts on whatever paper is handy. Both sides of a large envelope from the Phoenix Open are covered with his hieroglyphics in three different colored inks, at a multitude of angles. "Golf is a paradoxical, incoherent discordancy whose incongruous personality shatters one's dreams like the North Wind"—that is only a tiny sample.
O'Grady makes friends so quickly, and holds them so dear, that in just one year on the tour he has established a comprehensive network of people at tour stops who are only too happy to provide the O'Gradys with lodging. His friends tend to have an international flavor, sort of like those exotic instant coffees. Ben Pon is a former race-car driver from Holland who now lives in Carmel Valley, Calif. and imports Porsches, and he provides Mac with business advice. O'Grady's academic adviser is Zaben Manjikian, an Armenian dentist from Los Angeles. "I've no interest in golf whatsoever," says Manjikian, "but I do have an interest in science and knowledge, and Mac has this thirst for learning, an almost childlike curiosity. Someday I'll have to see him play golf."
Then there is Shapiro, who supported O'Grady for so long and brought him to Palm Springs. Shapiro, who sounds a bit like Rodney Dangerfield, entertains such celebrities as Kirk Douglas, Don Rickles, Suzanne Somers and Neil Diamond at Raphael's. One Sunday morning, while boning veal, he talked about Mac.
"When he finally called to tell me he had his card, my mind flashed back 13 years, to all the friends, millionaires, who told me I was crazy, who told me he would never make it. [He empties a pot of ravioli.] I look back and say to myself I wasn't wrong. I did see quality there. That's my reward. [He stirs a vat of tomato sauce.] I couldn't have done what Mac did, getting on that bus after missing another qualifying school. It would be like being released from prison: Here's $1.75, take the bus back home, and while you're on the ride, think about what you did wrong and start all over again. [He tenderizes the veal.] The sucker has a lot of confidence. Destiny has something in mind for him. I'm not saying he's going to be a Nicklaus, but he could become a millionaire. He really could. [Raphael takes a reservation for two at 9:30.] And he's got himself a helluva wife."
Fumiko has devoted herself to O'Grady in ways that go beyond shaving him each morning, which she does. "I've never known such love since my mother died," says Mac. "I don't mean the roses-and-perfume love. Sometimes I think of Fumiko at high noon on a golf course, and tears of joy well up in my eyes. I would be nothing without her."
The O'Gradys live in a small condo in Palm Springs that faces the San Jacinto Mountains. "I look at those mountains for strength of character and purpose," says the ever-poetic Mac. "I look at the mountains and think of the fire storm of geology, the upheaval that caused them, and I cannot feel sorry for the little upheavals that I've experienced."
He has embraced Japanese culture as passionately as he embraces most everything else. On O'Grady's golf bag is the Tokugawa symbol, three flowers representing three great Japanese leaders. Says Mac, "The legend is that the three, Oda—the last name of my caddie in Hawaii, right?—Toyotomi and Tokugawa stood before a tree in which a bird was perched. Oda said, 'If that bird does not sing, I will capture him and kill him.' Toyotomi said, 'I will capture that bird and force him to sing.' But Tokugawa said, 'I will stand here and wait patiently until I hear the bird sing.' When I'm upset on the golf course, I look at the symbol and think of Tokugawa."
Now that he's finally a regular on the tour, O'Grady has one last dream, one last fairway to conquer. It's the final hole of the U.S. Open, and O'Grady's lead is comfortable enough for him to hit his last drive lefty.
"I'm so happy to be on the tour, a little speck in the history of American sports," he says. "Where will the winds of destiny blow this little speck? Wouldn't it be something, a wonderful final chapter if I, Mac O'Grady, Phil McGleno, were to win the national golf championship of this great land? I love it."
Who knows? He may never come close to winning the Open, or he might win it on his 17th attempt. But somewhere there's another one-eyed Japanese doll, waiting for the other eye to be painted in.