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"No one has ever provided a sport with more comic relief than Bill Murray does golf."
—Christian Science Monitor
"A book infused with gentle humor and even poetic insight. The style is breezy, anecdotal and deadpan...like one of Murray's comic routines."
I can handle it. I'm used to these guys. My pro days go back to 1964 when some of us caddies pulled duty as standard-bearers at the Western Open. Standards are signs on poles displaying the players' current scores. You march around with the standard and stay out of everybody's way.
My friend Bob Schriver was a shrubbery cardplayer, sometime smoker, and St. Francis Xavier wise-ass. He knew Mike Dann, a Loyola guy one year ahead of me whose dad was the Executive Director of the Western Golf Association, which put on the tournament. Bob played good golf, too, one year making it to the U.S. Amateur. But as a suck-up, Schriver was a scratch. Some kids imprint their fathers; others, sports heroes. Bob encoded Mr. Eddie Haskell. I believe it was two days after another buddy of mine, Bucky Benz, and I saw him walking around with -- and dressed identically to -- Mike Dann that Bob weaseled the pole position in the Arnold Palmer threesome.
Arnold is and was the king. Incandescent, perhaps the dominant personality in the history of the game. He had style, he played boldly, he was never out of it. He and Patton were born to lead armies. Arnie could bring a gallery close to him, involve them, make them think with him and feel his pain. And when it worked, they'd get the payoff -- the Palmer grin. Those Latrobe choppers worked magic. It's no wonder Arnie still plays golf with his dentist.
And there Palmer was, on the next fairway, where Bob Schriver was helping him with club selection. He'd nod his head as Arnie pulled a club from the bag. The fraud even moved his lips, "That's the club, A.P. Trust it." He couldn't look over at me. No, they were too focused on winning the tournament.
The guys on the boards I toted were not only in black numbers but double-digit black. Bucky's were, too. During the tournament, we'd wave our doleful numbers at each other, sharing the shame. But something did happen in the practice rounds. We tagged along with Jack Nicklaus, pacing off yardages for him that he'd record in his course Bible. He didn't smile much and had no army, but he was all ours. And he had game.
There he was, hemmed in by our motley group, and someone called out, "Who are you guys?" Bucky snapped back, "We're Jack's Pack!" Nicklaus turned, surprised, and smiled. Major Columbus, Ohio, porcelain. All he'd needed was a collective noun.
That week Bucky screamed, "Jack's Pack!" after every good shot. The gallery picked it up, and by the end of the week there were signs. Bucky Benz later had his name legally changed, by an orthodontist, to Johnny; but no matter -- he'd coined "Jack's Pack."
The climax of this tournament changed the way I'd look at golf. Palmer was the favorite, and he was at or around the lead the whole week. But a little-known player stayed with him, making birdies, and finally the distant shouts were too much to ignore. I came upon his excited gallery just as he was putting. I couldn't see, could only hear the roar as his ball neared and dropped into the cup. Then the crowd heaved and I poked my head through. A guy in a white Panama hat raised his putter high above his head, then whirled it like a sword before sheathing it in an imaginary scabbard at his side. He held it there and marched like a matador while the crowd went silly with joy. "My gosh," I thought, "this guy is not like the other guys, is he?"
Chi Chi Rodriguez dueled Arnold Palmer till the final hole of the final round. He had hung with the king and then held him off, delighting a rollicking Chicago golf crowd. I'll never forget the eighteenth green at Tam O'Shanter. Rodriguez had a birdie putt to clinch. He stepped up, looked at it for one second, and rapped it with his Bull's-eye. It fell in, Chi Chi raced to the cup and covered it with his Panama. As the crowd screamed, he tentatively peeked under the hat to see if the ball was still there. Relieved, he spread his arms wide and gutted the sky from lips to hips.
He had more fun playing golf than any person I'd ever seen. And he'd given more fun. He had won the tournament, holding off the great Palmer while putting on a show of golf joy. He did most of it without words, like a dancer or clown.
Golf entertainment (I've said it, pay no attention) is part landscape painting -- the defined space, the natural amphitheater of each green and tee. The eye is invited to see golfer as celebrant. It is satisfying, and a sense of order, harmony, and security is conveyed.
What good fortune that the Senior Tour came along for Chi Chi Rodriguez. And vice versa. He thrived, it thrived. These days, as his game mellows, the putts at eighteen aren't for the title; they're for the early birds claiming prime bleacher spots.
I saw Chi Chi a few years ago in the grill room of my home club, Sleepy Hollow. He had a beer, and a faraway look. Like an old comic at the Friar's Club. Perhaps people had stopped asking about the things he wished to talk about. Signing autographs on golf balls, that wasn't his metier. He did landscapes. Big ones.
Copyright r 1999 Bill Murray.
Posted July 1, 2002
The most disjointed book I have ever read. I anticipated the read, and was very let down. Do not waste your money. I know Murray loves the game. He shanked this book just like he does his 5 iron.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.