Nearly eight, years ago the leaders of amateur golf in Canada did Murray (Moe) Norman a great big favor. They booted him off the Canadian team that was getting ready to depart for the American’s Cup matches in Mexico, and formed him into legal professional status.
This Thursday the Mighty Moe, who has been banking bucks regularly ever since the RCGA lowered the boom back on Oct. 19, 1966, will be the one of eight Canadians compete in the first: genuine world golf tournament.
Just for showing up to play four rounds, over the Oaklands club course at Birmingham, Mich., Moe will collect $100. If he finishes among the first 75, which means that he survived the 36-hole cutoff, he’ll pick up extra money, a minimum of $220 more.
IF HE GETS LUCKY he said dig into the heavy sugar which totals $35,000 for the winner, $17,000 for second, on down to $3,500 for tenth.
The event, bankrolled by Carling Brewery, offers $200,000 in cash prizes and a barrel of prestige to the winner. Pros and amateurs are eligible under certain normal qualification rules and handicaps of not more than two strokes.
There will be more than 40 foreigner contestants among a field expected to total 150 on opening day, of which 75 will qualify for the last two rounds.
THE OTHER SEVEN Canadian representatives with Moe will be amateur champion Nick Weslock, one of the real veterans of the field at 46; George Knudson, Alvie Thompson, Al Balding, Bill Wright Jr., Wilf Homenuik and Frank Whibley.
The Twin Cities, you can see, has direct rooting interest in 25 per cent of the Canadian contingent, Whibley hails from the Westmount pro shop and Moe is a Kitchener native, although playing out of Pleasant Park in Toronto.
If they ran pari-mutuels you could just about name your price on any of the Curracks to win the event, They have to beat down the likes of Arnold Palmer, Teny Lema, Jack Nicklaus and all the other top 70 U.S. pros, plus all-star invaders like Kel Nagle and Peter Thompson of Australia; Koichi Ono and Tomoo Ishli of Japan; Laang Huan Lu and Yong Yo Hsieh of Nationalist China; Sebastian Miguel, Ramon Sota and Angel Miguel of Spain; Gary Player of South Africa, and Chico Rodriguez of Puerto Rico, to name a few more.
NEVER BEFORE has anyone attempted to bring together a global field of this calibre. The amount of preparatory work, and the number of obstacles that had to be cleared away, can hardly be imagined by the layman.
The course over which the event is to be played represents a championship test worthy of the occasion. The par 70, 6,907 yard layout will call on every shot in the bag for the man who wins.
THE AMATEURS aren’t likely to cut much show in this one, even the best of them like veteran Wealock, Overseas amateurs have run into a few snags with the mossbacks of the British association, and one possible entrant was warned that his ticket would be punched if he competed.
The song is that under the antiquated rules of golf all amateur competitors, officially at least, pay all their own expenses unless they are part of a golf association team.
Technically, overseas amateurs can only compete at Oakland if they pay their own way, it is even illegal for a friend, or their own club, to bankroll the jaunt.
IN FACT this rule is quickly forgotten. Not too many years ago some local enthusiasts asked an RCGA official if it would be all right if they raised a fund to send Jerry Kesselring, them blasting a trial through amateur ranks, overseas to the British amateur.
“Yes,” was the reply, “but for heaven’s sake don’t tell any of us about it, not officially, that is.”
Eight years ago Moe Norman got away from all that, and what may have looked like a disaster at the time has turned out to be all for the best. It’s most unlikely that be would be toeing up at Oakland Hills this week if the RCGA hadn’t become offended because he was selling some of those 23 radius he had won, and rubbed a few of the stuffed shirts the wrong way by knocking a few tee shirts off pop bottles,
It’s a strange way to get to the first genuine, for keeps world golf championship, but Moe seems to have made it.