1964: Palmer’s fawning fans distracting

This Furman Bisher column, from the Tuesday after Arnold Palmer won his fourth green jacket in seven years in 1964, gives a glimpse of tournament golf from a much different age and perspective that seems quite quaint today.

You take those four green coats off Arnold Palmer and all you’ve got left is what: Another Ben Hogan without a cigarette between his lips and a white cap hiding his mane.

Between the two of them, better professional golf has never been played.

You remember Palmer. He won the 1964 Masters. You’ll remember Hogan as the man who won it in 1951 and 1953, and lost two others by playoffs, and finished second two more times.

The warmest story of the latest Masters, now filed away among jaunty memories, was the rugged resurgence of Hogan, known as “The Hawk” by those players who once feared for their tournament lives as long as he was on the course.

Last year, Hogan begged to be excused because his game was ashamed to show its face. He couldn’t draw his putter back for putting because of some emotional block. If it had been baseball, the 20-second rule would have got him every time.

He said his zeal for tournament competition had faded, and he had scarcely hit a lick since until the Masters rolled around last week.

On the first day he shot a decent 73. On the second day he crumpled to a 75 and barely made the qualifying party. Meanwhile old friends and compatriots like Sam Snead, Jack Burke, Julius Boros and Ed Furgol fell from grace and caught the plane home.

The third day Hogan shot the most beautiful round of the week, not only because it was a 67, but because it was Hogan shooting it.

It shall not be lost among these sticks of type that Hogan finished 11 strokes behind Palmer but one below par.

What shall be brought forward as the subject of the day is the fact that the revival of a competitive Hogan should have some great influence on golf-course etiquette of the latter-day spectator.

Since the rise of Arnold Palmer, the PGA’s first half-millionaire, the spectator has developed a new kind of behavior. He’s similar now to the bleacherite who strips from the shoulders to waist and sprawls in the sun.

He makes raucous noises. Where golf-watching used to be an act of dignity and solemnity, it is now one of wild expression.

This is traceable to Palmer and his army. You stand on the clubhouse lawn and you can pick out Palmer’s followers by the clatter they make, no matter where they are on the course.

The reason is, Palmer’s adherents have created standard cheers and wild exhortations for their idol. They holler to Palmer, “Go git ’em Arnie!” and Arnie goes and gits ’em.

The decided contrast in the Hogan gallery styles were clearly pronounced Sunday. The spectator response was more operatic when Hogan was at the first tee. A light ripple of applause followed, rising to a crescendo and subsiding with a distinct politeness. Hogan, meanwhile, tips his cap with the good manners of another age.

With Palmer, the cap comes off and is waved about in the air. If the shot is exciting enough, it may be accompanied by a short jig. A broad smile sweeps his face and the idolatrous mob neighs and whimpers in response.

Nevertheless the romance between Palmer and his gallery is obvious and quite distractingly disgusting to the other players in the twosome.