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KENNEDY KEPT HIS PASSION FOR THE GAME UNDER WRAPS DALY, DAVIES TO TEAM UP NELSON REMEMBERS MCSPADEN

May 06, 1996
May 06, 1996

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May 6, 1996

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KENNEDY KEPT HIS PASSION FOR THE GAME UNDER WRAPS DALY, DAVIES TO TEAM UP NELSON REMEMBERS MCSPADEN

JFK, THE GOLF NUT

This is an article from the May 6, 1996 issue Original Layout

Throughout his career in government, John F. Kennedy put
considerable effort into concealing his love of golf. In today's
vernacular, you might say that playing the game was a
politically incorrect thing for a Democrat to do in the 1950s
and '60s. The party, after all, had complained for years that
Dwight D. Eisenhower, JFK's Republican predecessor, spent far
too much time on the golf course chumming with his country club
pals when he should have been in the Oval Office tending to
affairs of state. Now the cat is out of the bag: Kennedy not
only enjoyed playing golf, but he also had the best game of any
U.S. president.

Many had forgotten that JFK was a golfer until his equipment
went up for bid last week during the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
estate auction at Sotheby's in New York City. The gear, which
included woods, irons, a putter, bags, head covers and even a
plastic score counter, fetched a whopping $1.29 million and sold
at the most inflated prices of all the auction's 1,200 items.

The biggest premium was paid by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the
husband of JFK's niece Maria Shriver. The Terminator ponied up a
terminally insane $772,500--more than 800 times the $700-to-$900
value established by Sotheby's--for a set of five MacGregor
Tourney woods and a leather bag inscribed "JFK Washington, D.C."
Bob Farino, the owner of American Golf Classics in Newport News,
Va., placed the value of those woods at no more than $275. Among
the other items sold were a set of Ben Hogan Power Thrust irons
in a black leather bag, also inscribed "JFK Washington, D.C."
($387,500); a MacGregor Krook putter ($65,750); a set of three
monogrammed head covers ($34,500); and the stroke counter
($28,750). The putter, worth $14 new, would sell for no more
than $50 today.

Testament to Kennedy's skill can be found in the
soon-to-be-released book Presidential Lies, by Shepherd Campbell
and Peter Landau (Macmillan). The book includes a chapter that
chronicles JFK's passion for the game, going back to his stint
with Harvard's 1937 freshman golf team, which, by the way, went
0-2-1. "Kennedy was beyond question the best golfer ever to
inhabit the White House," write Campbell and Landau. "He was
capable of consistently scoring in the high 70s or low 80s."

But Kennedy made it a point to keep his golfing activities in
the closet, particularly during the 1960 presidential campaign.
In Presidential Lies, Campbell and Landau write that JFK almost
made a hole in one at Cypress Point during the stretch drive for
the Democratic nomination. As his ball flew straight at the flag
and his playing partner cheered it on, Kennedy stood with a look
of horror on his face. The ball hit the pin and wound up six
inches from the cup. A relieved JFK turned to his partner, Paul
B. Fay Jr., who would later become undersecretary of the Navy,
and said, "You're yelling for that damn ball to go in and I'm
watching a promising political career coming to an end. If that
ball had gone in, in less than an hour the word would be out
that another golfer was trying to get in the White House."

According to Campbell and Landau, Kennedy's approach to golf
mirrored his approach to life. A gambler, Kennedy rarely teed it
up without a little something on the line. He often played for a
$4 or $5 Nassau with a series of side bets, and he almost always
won. In one match cited in the book, JFK and his military aide,
Gen. Chester Clinton, lost a match on the last hole when Clinton
left short a four-foot putt for a halve. Kennedy turned to
Clinton and said, "Nice putt, Sergeant."

THE BOMB SQUAD

Talk about a perfect couple: John Daly and Laura Davies, the
biggest hitters on the men's and women's tours, will pair up on
Dec. 5-8 in the JCPenney Classic at Innisbrook Hilton Resort in
Tarpon Springs, Fla.

It won't be the first time Daly, who has led the Tour in driving
distance four of the last five seasons, and Davies, the LPGA's
longest hitter the last three, have played together. Earlier
this year they competed with Peter Senior and Tom Watson in the
Australian Skins Game (Daly won 10 skins, Davies two), and last
season they were in the same group during the Wendy's Three Tour
Challenge.

Daly doesn't normally play the mixed team JCPenney, but he had a
change of heart when Davies asked him to join her. Robert Gamez,
who paired with Helen Alfredsson to come in second the last
three years, helped sell him on the event. "It's the most fun I
had all year," Gamez told Daly.

A PEEK AT THE CREEK

You can go to the window on this: Casino owner Steve Wynn had no
trouble filling the field for the one-day pro-am he held last
week at Shadow Creek, his determinedly private golf course in
Las Vegas. Instead of appearance fees, Wynn gave a select group
of Senior tour players such as Bob Murphy, Ray Floyd, Tony
Jacklin and Isao Aoki, who were paired in two-man scrambles with
some of Wynn's high rollers, complimentary suites at his Mirage
Hotel and threw in signing privileges.

But while a good time was had by all, it wasn't the perks that
drew the players (a miserly $1,500 in casino chips went to the
winning team), but rather the rare opportunity to play Shadow
Creek, a desert oasis designed and built by Tom Fazio six years
ago. "That is one of the wonders of the world," said Chi Chi
Rodriguez. "It's not as pretty as Augusta National, but it's a
close second."

THE SHORT GAME

The Texas swing kicked off in Houston this week without hometown
favorite and PGA champion Steve Elkington. He is playing the
Honda Invitational in Phuket, Thailand, instead....Jay Haas's
streak of 23 consecutive events without missing a cut ended at
Greensboro. Nick Price now leads with 14. The record is 105, by
Jack Nicklaus from 1970 to '76....May is the LPGA's busiest
month, with two majors (McDonald's LPGA Championship and the
U.S. Women's Open), this week's Sprint Titleholders and the LPGA
Skins Game on the schedule. "This is the kind of month I'd like
to see us have 10 months of," says commissioner Jim Ritts....
Despite a 269% increase in irons sales, Zurn Industries has
officially put Lynx on the block....Cindy Aubrey, wife of Tour
pro Emlyn, was due to have the couple's first child on May 3 but
decided that if she went into labor last week, when her husband
was playing in Greensboro, she wouldn't tell him. "A little job
security is more important than Emlyn being there," Cindy says.
Emlyn got them some security with a fourth-place finish worth
$86,400, and on Sunday night the Aubreys were still expecting.

[SIDEBAR]

FRIENDS FOREVER

Between the ropes, Harold (Jug) McSpaden (right) was to Byron
Nelson what Greg Norman is to Nick Faldo. But off the course,
unlike many of today's superstars, McSpaden and Nelson were
close friends. During World War II, they teamed up as the Gold
Dust Twins, traveling the country performing exhibitions that
raised $200,000 in war bonds. Thus Nelson, more than anyone
else, was stunned to learn that the 87-year-old McSpaden and his
wife, Betsy, were found dead of accidental carbon monoxide
poisoning on April 22 at their home in Kansas City, Kans.

"He was my best friend," Nelson says. "He was a great kidder. In
all the years we traveled together, we never had an argument. We
always had a lot of fun."

The Gold Dust Twins were reunited last fall at the TPC at Four
Seasons Resort in Irving, Texas, to commemorate the 50th
anniversary of Nelson's 1945 season, during which he won a
record 11 straight tournaments. The two played a round together
at Cottonwood Valley, one of the host courses for the Nelson
Classic, and just as in the old days, Nelson's score (74) was a
shade better than McSpaden's (75), an aggregate of 22 under
their combined age of 171. "If you hadn't been born," McSpaden
told Nelson that day, "I might have been known as a pretty good
golfer."

Although McSpaden will be remembered for that 1945 season, when
he finished second 13 times--seven times to Nelson--he also won
26 tournaments, including the All-American Open in 1942, which
during the war was the equivalent of the U.S. Open. McSpaden,
playing a practice round at the Texas Open with Nelson, Ben
Hogan and Paul Runyon at Breckenridge Park in San Antonio in
1939, is also thought to be the first player to shoot 59.

"He was an excellent player, and maybe because I happened to be
unusually lucky, it detracted something from his career," Nelson
says.

--T.R.

B/W PHOTO: AP PHOTO Kennedy, who seldom played in public, made an exception in the summer of '63 at Hyannis Port. [John F. Kennedy golfing]COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BURGESS [Harold (Jug) McSpaden]