When Dan Jenkins was assigned to cover the Doral-Eastern Open (page 16), he and Golf Editor Walter Bingham decided the best way to report on the tournament would be to describe how the pros played Doral's killer 18th, the toughest finishing hole on the PGA tour. And what better way would there be for Jenkins to get a feel for what the pros faced than to take a whack at the 18th himself?
Although he lately has been concentrating, on tennis, which he plays with a cup of coffee in his nonracket hand, Jenkins is not an average Sunday golfer. He captained the TCU golf team, is a two-time winner of the annual Golf Writers Tournament and, at his best, was a scratch player. But take on Doral's 18th? That's such a tall order CBS decided to bring its cameras when our man stepped to the tee. Here's Jenkins' report on Jenkins:
You can't just go out and play a hole on a PGA tour course when a tournament is in progress; you must get permission from someone of high position. I asked Ben Crenshaw, but he turned me down, telling me to go eat a taco instead. Then I went to Jack Tuthill, the tour director. He said O.K., if I waited until the last threesome finished on Friday. That threesome included a fellow named Calvin Peete, who has diamonds in his front teeth.
Tuthill drove me out to the 18th tee and loaned me his clubs, a couple of balls and his glove. I was dressed like the playing pro from the Army-Navy store, and I brought my own J&B and water. I decided not to wear cleats in order to take advantage of my full body turn. I swing a club like a Texan from the waist up, a cripple from the waist down—and I am a coward when it comes to water-guarded par-4s.
It didn't help that the guys from CBS decided to tape the episode, just in case Ken Venturi got lost on the course during the telecast of the Doral and they needed something to fill air time. As a result, Dan's Detachment included the likes of Announcers Jack Whitaker and Pat Summerall and Director-Producer Frank Chirkinian, who had arranged a Calcutta pool on my score. Eight went for $1,000. You could get four and three in a field bet for 50¢.
Eddie Pearce came off the veranda to club me, and I've been wondering ever since why anyone would let a guy who missed the cut select his clubs? At least he could've found me a driver other than Tuthill's, which must weigh about 80 pounds. I took a quick practice swing, slid into my stance and hit the ball to the right, away from the water and into the rough. I don't know how far the drive went, but Pearce told me to lay up with a four-iron. I hit the ball much too far and into the lake. If I had hit to the right just a little, it would have made the green, and I accidentally would have parred the hole. It's a good thing I didn't, because that would have loused up my story.
I dropped a provisional ball and hit a wedge that bounced on the green as if it had struck cement and went into a bunker. Whenever possible, I don't use sand irons because I can only make the ball go about three inches with them. There was no lip on the bunker, so I knew I could putt onto the green, just like back in Texas.
Luckily, Tuthill had a mallet-headed Zebra putter in his bag. I swiped at the ball—swiped at it too hard. It looked like it was going to Fort Lauderdale, or at least into the lake on the other side of the green. But the Zebra keeps the ball on line, according to Bob Rosburg. The ball smacked the stick and stopped eight inches from the cup.
I often fantasize on golf courses. As I lined up the putt for my six, I said, as if on camera, "If I make this, I will be...the 1976 Doral-Eastern Open winner!" I made it. And then I said, "Now back to you, Jack Whitaker."
A double bogey is not a very good score, but on the 18th at Doral on Friday my six tied Gay Brewer, Tommy Aaron, Bobby Nichols, Frank Beard and Peter Oosterhuis, among others. It's one tough hole.