This week's National Open marks, among other things, the approximate halfway point along 1958's circuitous professional golf path. In terms of prize money it marks the halfway point almost exactly. An over-all total of $1,350,000 was scheduled for distribution this year; and when the Open champion collects his check for $8,000 plus, $675,000 will have been awarded.
Only the perpetually discontented could possibly grumble over the way cash prizes and tournament honors have been sprinkled around during the winter and spring semesters. The Young Turks—Ken Venturi, Arnold Palmer and Billy Casper—among them have captured seven tournaments and $70,000 so far, but the winner's spoils at the other 18 tournaments have gone to 17 different golfers. Dutch Harrison, 47, won at Caliente, and Gary Player, 22, was first at the Kentucky Derby Open.
A handful of foreign invaders, working diligently to collect American dollars, have had successful campaigns thus far. Led by Canada's Stan Leonard, who carried off the profitable Las Vegas Tournament of Champions, they have reaped over $55,000 and two tournament titles. Leonard has earned $17,086, South Africa's Player $9,861, Canada's Al Balding $7,065, Argentina's Roberto De Vicenzo $10,532, and an Australian trio of Peter Thomson, Bruce Crampton and Frank Phillips has collected some $8,000 among them. The 43-year-old Leonard now owns a streak of 32 straight tournaments in which he has finished in the money, and De Vicenzo was stopped after 31.
Missing from the upcoming summer schedule will be George S. May's All-American and World Championships. This flamboyant Chicago business engineer yanked his high-paying events off the circuit in a dispute over who was to retain the players' entry fees, himself or the PGA Tournament Bureau. These fees amount roughly to $1 per player for each $1,000 offered in prize money. Most of the tournament sponsors, by agreement, are turning these fees over to the PGA to finance the Tournament Bureau's $140,000-a-year budget.
To fill the gap left by May's World, new sponsors eagerly jumped forward with a $50,000 Chicago Open, July 31-August 3, and the renewed Eastern Open in Baltimore, July 24-27, will replace May's All-American. In addition, the two richest events—the $52,000 Buick Open at Grand Blanc, Mich., June 19-22, played over the longest (7,280 yards) course on the circuit, and the similarly generous Pepsi Open at East Norwich, N.Y., June 26-29—have been added to the summer program. This has made it sufficiently appetizing for veterans Cary Middlecoff and Sam Snead, who usually bypass most of the hot-weather affairs, to announce that they will be on hand for two-thirds of them.
In an effort to lure some of these lustrous names to its championship, the PGA has abandoned its week-long match-play format and this year will hold a 72-hole stroke-play event. PGA officials believe that medal play will attract large galleries by keeping the name players around longer. However, it should be added, match play has its own unique flavor and appeal, and what the PGA has done, in another sense, is to downgrade its championship into just another weekly circuit event, with no distinction of its own.
LEONARD LEADS FOREIGN INVASION