With monkeys scrambling around on an island near the 10th tee, coots walking on water and golfers fishing for bass alongside the same greens that some of them had three-putted earlier in the day, the Doral Open, which was held last week in Miami, did not seem like a $100,000 golf tournament.
Nothing, in fact, seemed real in the absolute splendor of the Doral Country Club and Hotel out on the edge of the Everglades. Not the hotel guests who thought they should be able to practice their putting on the same green with Jack Nicklaus. Not the two ladies from Michigan who wore high heels as they marched in Arnie's Army. And not the daily fashion and health advisories on Doug Sanders, who turned out to be as well documented a winner as a tournament ever had. "Wearing white shirt, white gloves and white shoes, with purple slacks and orchid socks," announced Doral's press agents on one day of play, "Doug carried a blue tee behind his ear. Walking toward his second shot, he applied suntan lotion to his face. After wiping his hands on a towel, he picked up some sand to eliminate the grease from the suntan lotion."
Certainly the golf course did not seem real—and it wasn't. The people who run Doral like to say that the Blue Monster, one of the four courses on the Doral property and the site of the tournament, measures slightly more than 7,000 yards. However, after Jack Tuthill, the tournament director of the PGA, had finished positioning the tee markers and pins each day, the course was no longer than 6,700 yards. "They're playing from the ladies' tees," said Jack Nicklaus, who, coincidentally, happened to use a driver borrowed from Mrs. Alice Dye, a Curtis Cup player, during the opening round.
Doral is an unusual event on the tour in that it is one of only two tournaments sponsored solely by a hotel-golf club. There are 63 golf holes, nine buildings and 506 guest rooms on the 2,400-acre complex now, and Alfred Kaskel, the slight, elderly man who owns Doral (named after his wife, Dora, and himself, Al) plus some 35 apartment houses in New York City and three other hotels on Miami Beach, envisions a Doral City someday.
He bought the Doral property in the late 1950s and immediately started to build a golf course. That was the Blue Monster. Then came the Green Hornet, the Red Tiger and the White Wonder, as well as plans for two more courses. "These were delayed because money was tight last year," Kaskel says, but presumably guests who pay at least $42 a day for rooms and have breakfast in the Gazebo, lunch in the Zaragozano and a drink in the Staggerbush will remedy all that.
Kaskel may think financially about his hotel, but he thinks only esthetically about his golf courses, a fact that concerns his associates, who still are not used to his expensive whims. One day he was walking on the clubhouse veranda and thought to himself that there was too much of an expanse of naked grass out front, so he ordered installation of a rock garden similar to one he had seen in Versailles. A few months later he went out to inspect the garden, and was horrified because a wall was too high. He personally took a bulldozer, knocked the wall down and ordered the whole garden rebuilt. "Now it takes one caretaker six hours a day to keep the garden trim," says an associate. "But Mr. Kaskel doesn't care. What he wants, he gets."
Another day Kaskel and Doral's course superintendent, Jim Yancey, whose brother Bert plays on the pro tour, were riding around the course when Kaskel said he did not like a particular bridge and ordered it replaced. "He told us to use mahogany—nothing else," says Yancey. "Can you imagine a mahogany bridge? We have one."
With all of this concern about the golf courses, Kaskel and Frank Strafaci, the director of the Doral tournament, were predictably irritated last week when Tuthill and the PGA turned the Blue Monster into a Pink Pussycat. The tradition has always been to toughen Doral. In 1962, for example, a 283 by Billy Casper was good enough to win. During the pro-am before the Doral one year, Kaskel noticed that the pros were saving some 75 yards on the dogleg 16th hole by driving over the edge of a lake. That night he ordered his men to plant eight coconut palm trees that would force the pros to play the hole honestly.
The next day George Bayer, one of the longer hitters, looked out at the palms in bewilderment and asked his caddie, "Those trees weren't here yesterday, were they?" "Things grow pretty fast down here, sir," answered the boy.
"The way the PGA set the course this year was an injustice to Dick Wilson, the architect," says Strafaci. "The PGA operates on the theory that lower scores mean a better crowd. But I think the hacker likes to see higher scores because it makes him feel better. We have 87 traps on this course and water on eight holes, but the majority of the hazards are not coining into play because the course is playing so short."
Tuthill, however, dismissed the complaints diplomatically. "Nicklaus gave me the needle about playing from the ladies' tees," he said. "But I'm not going to make a course particularly long just for him, and I'm not going to make it particularly short for the short hitters. I want balance for 18 holes. Why, the 4th hole was totally unfair the way they wanted to play it."
When the Blue Monster was constructed, the 4th hole was a fairly long par-3 with a single-level green, a single tee, two bunkers and a lake along the right side. Kaskel thought the hole was too easy, so he ordered some changes and supervised them himself. Now the hole has a double-level green, a triple-level tee, six traps, a canal to the left and the same lake along the right. It is some 225 yards from the back tee. "I just would not put the markers way back on that hole, that's all," said Tuthill. "Ben Hogan once couldn't reach the green from back there with his driver. A par-3 is for the medium irons, for accuracy. And that is the way I set it up."
The play of the pros at Doral seemed to bear out the complaints of Kaskel and Strafaci, though the golfers were not joining Nicklaus in protesting the conditions. Tommy Aaron, the leader at the end of three days with a 10-under-par 203, confessed that he used a driver and a five-iron to reach a hole listed on the scorecard at 470 yards, but then said: "No, no. The course isn't too short at all." And Billy Farrell only smiled after getting to the 533-yard first hole with a wood and a five-iron.
Finally, on Sunday, the wind rose to 20 miles per hour, the tee markers were set back, the pins were placed in the most difficult possible positions, and the gallery got to see the kind of golf that it has in the past at Doral.
Aaron, who is earning a reputation as one of the most unfortunate last-round players the tour has known, was leading after eight holes, but on the 9th, a par-3, he hit a shot into the edge of a lake, suffered an unusual penalty for grounding his club in a water hazard and ended up with a quadruple-bogey 7.
With that Doug Sanders—turned out in a more or less stretch-suit ensemble of shamrock green and white—moved into a tie for the lead with Nicklaus. A birdie on 11 put him two strokes up, and not even a bogey-bogey finish endangered his chances at the $20,000 first money.
Sanders, as apt a winner as a gaudy Miami tournament could have, finished with a 9-under-par 275. The total was not as low as it might have been, thanks to the stern conditions on Sunday, but this will still be remembered as the year Doral, the only course on the tour with a monkey island, was made a monkey of by the pros.
A formal garden inspired by a visit to Versailles decorates the route from the clubhouse veranda to the putting green at wondrous Doral.
Golf-minded boss Kaskel is the Al of Doral.