Before the start of last week's Greater Greensboro (N.C.) Open,
Freddie Corcoran, the PGA tour's all-purpose manager, rules
official, public relations man, travel agent and four-star
storyteller, was holding forth on the porch of the Starmount
Forest Country Club, drink in hand, trying to convince the press
that the tour is more than just Byron Nelson, Sam Snead and
everyone else. This in spite of the fact that Nelson and Snead
have won eight of nine events so far this year.
``Snead has won six tournaments, it's true,'' Corcoran was
saying, apparently tacking on two from last December, which
constitutes the beginning of the winter tour. ``But in 1940
Jimmy Demaret won six starting in January, while Hogan won
three, all of them right here in North Carolina, and nobody made
any claim about a monopoly.'' Then, dismissing Nelson's
record-setting money earnings of $37,967.69 in war bonds last
year, Corcoran said, ``Of course, Byron ran up his money total
Well, Freddie, don't look now, but Mr. Nelson is beginning to
earn a lot of money from firsts, too. Through 36 holes at
Greensboro there was the appearance of a close tournament, with
Nelson shooting a second-round 67 to lead Johnny Revolta by one
stroke. But when Nelson finished that round, Harold (Jug) McSpaden
predicted it was all over. ``Byron will win by five,'' McSpaden
Wrong, Jug. He won by eight. Nelson shot a 68 on Sunday morning
and a 66 in the afternoon, and he made it no contest. Snead, the
betting favorite going in and the winner of the first Greensboro
Open, in 1938, finished 16 strokes back. Perhaps his psyche still
hadn't recovered from his double-playoff loss to Nelson in
Charlotte the week before. At Greensboro he confessed to being
tired. ``Seems like every time I wake up in the morning I'm
playing in a golf tournament,'' Snead said.
In spite of the statistics to the contrary, one can't blame
Corcoran for trying to make the current tour sound more
competitive than it is at the moment. That's his job, and no one
can say he hasn't been successful. Galleries have grown by 50%
since he took over, total prize money for the pros has risen from
$115,000 to $300,000 per year, and he has added at least 20 new
events to the tour.
Corcoran, whom Nelson calls a ``walking encyclopedia,'' was so
inventive as the official scorer for the United States Golf
Association that, in 1929, the USGA paid his way to its Amateur
championship at Pebble Beach. Corcoran kept score with red, black
and blue pencils, and listed so many highlights that reporters
could write their stories without setting foot on the course.
He is a born promoter. When Gene Sarazen, disappointed at being
left off the 1939 Ryder Cup team, said he could pick 10 other
players and whip the Cup team, Corcoran jumped at the idea,
arranging a series of challenge matches to benefit the Red Cross.
It was Walter Hagen's Ryder Cuppers versus Gene Sarazen's
All-Stars, and the competition was close, with the Cuppers winning
seven of 12.
In another promotion in 1940, to try to prove that silence is not
necessary while playing golf, Corcoran arranged a contest in
Connecticut involving Sarazen, Demaret, Babe Ruth and Gene Tunney,
during which Fred Waring's orchestra played at every hole. At one
point the boys in the band became so engrossed in the Babe's
antics, they forgot to play. Ruth shouted, ``Hey, strike up the
band or I can't shoot.'' The band launched into Take Me Out to the
Ballgame, and the Babe sank his putt.
As the tournament at Greensboro was winding down and Nelson was
making 12-foot putts look like gimmes, it was announced that
Starmount's assistant pro, Hope Seignious, had accepted a job as
head pro at North Shore Country Club in Milwaukee. Some of the
players were appalled that a woman should become a head pro
anywhere, but Sam Byrd, for one, insisted he was all for it.
``Women have a definite place in golf,'' he said.
Snead took the middle ground, saying, ``I don't have anything to
say against it.'' And when Nelson was asked, he replied with a
laugh, ``I can't imagine a man wanting a woman to teach him much
of anything.'' The way Nelson has been playing lately, there's
nothing anyone, man or woman, can teach him, at least about golf.