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COCK OF THE WALK JIM COLBERT EARNED THE RIGHT TO STRUT BY FINALLY MAKING IT TO NO. 1

Nov. 20, 1995
Nov. 20, 1995

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Nov. 20, 1995

COCK OF THE WALK JIM COLBERT EARNED THE RIGHT TO STRUT BY FINALLY MAKING IT TO NO. 1

ON A brisk Sunday afternoon in Myrtle Beach, S.C., the ancestral
home of Bubba Golf, with a football game playing on a clubhouse
television, a guy with a bad back and a porkpie hat won the
Senior Tour Championship at the Dunes Golf and Beach Club. Jim
Colbert, a 54-year-old grandfather from Las Vegas, won the
season's inaugural event, its finale and twice in between. His
Sunday payday was $262,000, and his haul for the year,
$1,444,386, was surpassed by nobody.

This is an article from the Nov. 20, 1995 issue Original Layout

Contrary to the practiced and jovial demeanor they let you see,
the Senior tourists, far more than their junior brethren, live
in a state of postadolescent competitiveness. Every dollar they
earn, and every Cadillac they win, contributes to feelings of
empowerment and superiority. In victory Jim Colbert, who won two
Cadillacs this year, was proud. "For at least once in my life
I've got the first spot," he said, speaking the words without
the worried, fixed grin that marks his game face. He looked,
maybe for the first time in the 30 years of his professional
career, truly satisfied.

On the year-end money list, and at the Senior Tour Championship,
Colbert ran one place ahead of Raymond Floyd, and that
contributed immeasurably to the victor's feelings of
satisfaction. For Floyd is, Colbert said, "day in and day out
our best player." Yet Colbert managed to finish a stroke ahead
of Floyd at the Dunes and $24,841 ahead of him for the year. So
what does that make Jimbo?

But the great Raymondo has done the things that Colbert has only
longed for. Floyd has won majors, played on Ryder Cup teams,
lived large. People who know nearly nothing about the game know
he's the man, or one of them, anyway.

And now, at least more than he has ever been before, Colbert is
too. No Senior golfer has ever earned more money in a year. No
Senior golfer has won the first and last tournaments of a
season. Nobody other than Colbert has won a Senior Tour
Championship while carrying the burden of the lead from the
opening round. Colbert was three strokes ahead after the first
and second rounds, and he doubled his lead last Saturday with a
loose, make-everything-you-see 71, one under par and a good
score in the big, wet wind. But a half-dozen ahead, Colbert
discovered on Sunday, is a lousy place to be, particularly when
one of the guys in pursuit is Floyd.

Last year at the Senior Tour Championship--also played at the
Dunes, an oceanside Robert Trent Jones gem opened in 1949, when
the fabled architect was little known and really good--Jim Albus
had six strokes on Floyd entering the final round, and Floyd won
the tournament on the fifth playoff hole.

On Sunday, Colbert played with Rocky Thompson and Dave Stockton.
They, like Floyd, had played 54 holes in 214 whacks. Stockton,
the first name on the 1993 and 1994 money lists, would have won
the money title again had he finished second or first at the
Dunes, but he closed with a 72, level par, good for fifth for
the week and third for the year. Thompson played on the weekend
without his 56-inch-long driver--the shaft broke when his golf
bag fell off a cart and onto a cart path (a caddie will be
fired)--and he tied for third at the Dunes with Tom Wargo, three
shots behind Colbert. Only Floyd, in the penultimate group, made
it a game.

And briefly he did. While coming in, Colbert, by his own frank
admission, was getting nervous and upset, and he made some bad
swings. (But he kept grinning.) He made bogeys on the 11th, the
13th and the 15th, and he heard people talking about last year's
tournament. As he walked up the 16th fairway, he asked Andy
North, an on-course commentator for Colbert's old employer,
ESPN, for an update. "Raymond's four and he's fixing to go five
at 17," North answered. Colbert was six under par at the time.

Floyd made his birdie on 17, he had nearly holed his tee shot on
the par-3, while Colbert made a par at 16. Colbert's margin over
Floyd, which had been nine shots earlier in the afternoon, was
now just a stroke. Then Colbert got himself together. On 17 he
nailed a five-iron and canned a 20-footer for a two. When Floyd
missed a birdie on 18 by the diameter of a ball, Colbert could
afford to make a bogey on the last hole, which is what he did.
He limped home--a 39 coming in, 74 for the day--but he was
standing.

So for the week and for the year Colbert was better than
everybody else. He was better than Floyd and Stockton, he was
better than Lee Trevino and Hale Irwin and Jack Nicklaus. He got
some free help, of course. You always do in tournament golf. The
event was open only to the top 31 money winners, but Nicklaus
skipped it, so Colbert had him beat by Thursday morning. Irwin
was assessed a four-stroke penalty on Saturday and was never
heard from again. Trevino opened his week by calling the Grand
Strand "a 60-mile-long strip mall." The local Bubba gods got
Trevino for that one. He took a 9 on one hole, never broke 70
and never had a chance.

The Grand Strand, midway between New York and Miami, is a place
of pilgrimage, and the preferred tone, any local will tell you,
is reverential, as in this snippet from the Myrtle Beach Golf
Directory: "Lodging, dining and entertainment is plentiful with
over 60 miles of beachfront accommodations to suit your varied
taste." The Dunes Golf and Beach Club is in the heart of the
Strand, just off the main street, King's Highway, where you can
find motel rooms for $22 a night and more discount golf shops
than any healthy population can sustain. Yet a guest round at
the Dunes, a private club with only one African-American member,
can cost $128. Varied is correct.

The players stayed at the local Radisson, expensive and
oceanfront, and on Sunday morning on the hotel TV you could find
preachers on eight channels and golf on three. On Channel 18,
the Myrtle Beach Golf Channel, devoted to selling Myrtle Beach
golf, you could hear rich abuse of the word "absolutely."

American golf has long been commercial, but the Senior Tour
Championship revealed new ways to sell. The event was sponsored
by Energizer, the battery people, and the poor rules officials,
grown men for whom rules disputes are a form of scholarship,
were given metal pins to wear, depicting the pink Energizer
bunny carrying a drum and wearing shades. George Archer
negotiated the course in a cart sheathed in plastic and
emblazoned with the name of the ball he is paid to play.

But this tone of commerce is appropriate for the Senior Tour
Championship: It's about money. When the regular Tour closed its
official season a fortnight ago at Southern Hills, in Tulsa, the
players said high-minded things about playing for the title and
not for the money, even though the winner was given $540,000.
The old guys think differently. The Senior tour became
competitive when the money got big. They live by the adage that
the guy who dies with the most toys wins, and for Jim Colbert
there's no toy more meaningful than the money title. Colbert
said he planned to enjoy his victory for about three days, then
find something new to go after. And with that he gathered his
wife, his two pilots and his trophy, boarded his Sabreliner 80
and flew home to Las Vegas, contented by knowing that for the
moment, at least, he was the envy of his peers.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JACQUELINE DUVOISIN Colbert ran the table at Myrtle Beach, winning the tournament and the top spot on the money list. [Jim Colbert] COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JACQUELINE DUVOISIN Colbert was proud that he held off Floyd, the most dominant Senior. [Raymond Floyd]COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JACQUELINE DUVOISINIsao Aoki had been viewed as a contender but blew up on the weekend (75-76) to finish 14th. [Cameraman in shrubs filming Isao Aoki]