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Original Issue

Talk about Gimmes!

Spoiled by freebies at home, American golfers suffered something awful at Turnberry

Please. Won't you help? Just pennies a day from you can help feed and clothe an American pro golfer. Did you know that many pro golfers go days without free lobster thermidor? Are you aware that sometimes pro golfers are even forced to pay for things?

At last week's British Open in Turnberry, Scotland, for instance, the five-star Turnberry Hotel had the nerve to charge the world's best golfers its normal rate—$312 per night. Many of the players were openly shocked. Most couldn't remember what their wallet looked like.

One American pro, Mark Calcavecchia, spoke out against the unfairness of it all. "It's hard for guys to spend that kind of money coming over here to play in potentially cold, windy, rainy weather," complained Calcavecchia. A lot of top Americans shun the British Open, and the way Calcavecchia sees it, the economics of the situation are "a huge factor. Basically, unless you win the tournament, you're not getting anything out of it."

We have a call into the World Court to seek justice, but until we get some satisfaction, we would like to remind Calcavecchia of one thing: He could be laying cable for a living. Or busing tables.

We would also like to remind him that he has now left godforsaken Scotland, where golf was invented and where the sport stages what is pretty much its world championship, and will soon be back playing in The International at Castle Pines, Colo., where he will once again be receiving the truckload of PGA Tour freebies, sponsor throw-ins and local graft (chart, at left) that American pro golfers are guaranteed by law.

O.K., so everything's not House of Handouts, but it's close. The International gets players and their families discounted rates at good hotels as well as up to 20% off some airfares. Calcavecchia pays his caddie about $500 for a tournament, and sometimes he's even able to avoid doing that. Over the years he has had friends, his wife and, two weeks ago at the Western Open, former Chicago Cub second baseman Ryne Sandberg caddie for him. Sandberg charged him two dozen golf balls.

Calcavecchia has only $4.7 million in career earnings; god knows how much in one-day pro-am and four-hour appearance fees; a house in Scottsdale, Ariz., with a $50,000 chandelier; another house in West Palm Beach, Fla.; and seven cars.

Players like Calcavecchia, who have never heard the sound that a cash register makes upon opening, who think the oldest golf tournament in the world needs to make sure they "get" something out of it and who can't bear the thought of playing a game in "potentially rainy weather" ought to be caned with a two-iron. Guys dream about spending one day in his free spikes, and he's complaining about not getting an orchid on his breakfast plate.

Only one group of Americans gets more free stuff than pro golfers—pro golf writers. But at least we aren't dumb enough to whine when we don't get it.