There had to be at least 500 of ‘em there.
Though some recognized the place, all wondered how they got there.
It was golf’s equivalent of 42nd & 8th, that noted intersection in Manhattan near the Port Authority Bus Terminal where, it was said, if you stood there long enough, you’d see one of everything go by.
And, at least as far as this large group was concerned, there was one of everything. There were men in slacks and golf shirts, though some looked like billboards what with all the advertising on them. Some wore loud colors and bell-bottomed plaids–it was amazing a man would pick that stuff off the rack. Some were wearing pants with waists so high that, if they pulled down their zippers, you could poke ‘em right in the belly button. And then there were the shirts and ties and knickers and guys wearing jackets. For that last group, it was amazing how they could even swing a club as they looked so restrictive.
Speaking of…Steel shafts, graphite shafts, hickory shafts and some guys whose equipment might be better suited to weeding the garden. And, one-piece balls, balata balls, dice balls and featheries.
This was golf’s equivalent of 42nd & 8th, except it was at Bay Hill in central Florida. 80 degrees and sunny with a hint of a breeze. Some of the old Scottish and British guys–well, you’d have thought they’d never seen the sun before or the thermometer go above fifty, what with the way they were dressed and squinting in the brightness.
After getting their bearings and being the tight-knit fraternity that the sport was, they introduced themselves to those they didn’t know. “Jack Nicklaus, you say?” “Tom Morris.” “The older or younger?” “The older.” “A pleasure. I’ve heard so much about you.” “Tiger? That’s an odd first name, laddie.” “It was a nickname–had it legally changed a few years ago. Tommy Armour? I’ve played with your grandson.” “He’s here?” Before Woods could answer, the Silver Scot was burrowing through the crowd looking for someone he remembered as only a young boy.
After a bit of socializing, a gentleman came out on the second floor balcony and asked for everyone’s attention. He announced himself only as The Chairman.
The wisecracks depended on the generation of the golfer. “He doesn’t look like Sinatra.” “Is this that foreign cooking show with all that expensive food? Man, I wish I could get me some of that Kobe beef–and one of those Benihana guys to cook it.” “Should I squeeze him?” That’s Charmin, you idiot.”
The Chairman ignored the wisecracks and continued. “Though you’re not quite sure how you got here, it appears that many of you have introduced yourselves to each other and, of course, many of you know each other already. Good. That’ll speed up the acclimation process. What I have planned for you is this: The 520 of you here are considered to be among the best golfers in the world over the past 150 years. You will be playing on the greatest golf tour ever put together. But, even though you’re the best of the best, you’re going to have to earn your way on. For one, there will be three tours. The first one will be called the Gerney Tour…”
“We playing that one in a hospital?” Some laughter then a few “shut ups.”
The Chairman continued. “That’ll be the one with the most money and prestige. The next tour is the Staffa Tour. You remember ‘A’ flight and ‘B’ flight at your home courses? This is the ‘B’ flight. The rest of you will play in the Ruckhaus Tour.” Snickering and people trying to rhyme “Ruck” with anything they could come with.
“But you’ll have to qualify first. And so all of you will be going to Q-School.”
A high-pitched voice was heard. “Q-School? But I won 18 majors.”
“Everybody’s equal here,” noted the Chairman. “Even though you’re all scratch golfers, you’ll all be starting from scratch. And, by the way, the top 64 of you from Q-School, plus ties, will get their Gerney Tour card for the entire year. The remainder of the top 128, plus ties, will be guaranteed to play the first event on the Gerney Tour with the chance to remain there for at least another event if they do well but will be automatically bumped down if they miss the cut. In addition, that second group of golfers down to the top 194, including ties, will be guaranteed their Staffa Tour cards for the entire year with the chance to move up to the Gerney Tour if they do well. The remainder of the 520 will play on the Ruckhaus Tour…”
“Sounds like it’s for losers,” piped up someone with a Scottish brogue.
“You’re all winners here,” said the Chairman in a saccharin sweet voice. “But some of you will win more than others. The Ruckhaus Tour will consist of a massive skins game. For those who don’t know, a skins game means someone has to win a hole outright in order to win what’s called a skin; usually it’s money. But here, you’ll be playing for your tour cards. Only here, the loser of a hole is also out. So, if one-third of you get a birdie on a hole, the other two-thirds are out. Oh, and the purse money? One million a week on the Ruckhaus Tour, three million on the Staffa and ten million on the Gerney.
Even some of the recent pros, many who have played and won lots of money on the PGA Tour, could be heard exhaling with a whistle. “Whoever wins the most money will be crowned the greatest golfer whoever lived.”
The Chairman scanned the group then added, “For those of you who don’t have current equipment, you’ll all be fitted with the best that can be had. It might be a large adjustment from your niblicks and featheries but, with your skill and a week of practice, I’m sure you’ll adjust quite nicely. After all, you’re all great golfers. Come back here a week from today and we’ll play six straight days with the best of you getting a chance at immortality.”
A voice from the crowd presciently noted that it was impossible for 500 golfers to play the same course in one day.
“Ah,” said the Chairman, “Though that’s a very important point, I’ve taken that into account.”
“We’ll probably need night clubs,” came another wisecracker.
“Was that Mr. Trevino?,” asked the Chairman.
“In the flesh. Wait! You know who I am? I don’t know who you are.”
“I know everyone here. And, as I said, I’m the Chairman.”
It’ll all be by daylight. Just show up here a week from today and I’ll get you right out. If you want to sleep in, that’s OK. Show up early and finish up in time even for breakfast? That’s fine too. Just be here.”
With that, some in the crowd thought they heard something that sounded like “allez cuisine,” though it could have been ‘abracadabra’ or ‘hocus pocus,’ and they all disappeared as fast as they arrived.