“How are you hittin’ ’em?” the fan asked.
“Too often,” said Chi Chi, not looking up.
Juan “Chi Chi” Rodriguez isn’t playing at Oakmont; at 71, even his Champions Tour days are pretty much behind him. Still, fans lined up to get his autograph this afternoon during the first round of the U.S. Open. Seated behind a table in the Lexus tent, Chi Chi was sartorially correct in a blue polo shirt and trademark Panama hat. When a news photographer pleaded for “one more,” Chi Chi grinned and said, “See how they call me Juan More?”
The old pro had a one-liner or a question for everybody in line. “Where did Tiger finish?” he asked one man.
“One over,” said the fan.
Chi Chi looked surprised. “He parred the last hole? From the ball washer?” Chi Chi shook his head. “He’d better get rid of that long driver.”
To a teenage boy who said he wanted to be a golfer, Chi Chi said, “You want to be good? Hit 500 golf balls a day. You don’t need a coach.”
Chi Chi had this advice for another teen: “Say no to everything. That means you’re safe.”
When a tall, thin man with dark hair stepped up to the table, Chi Chi did a double take. “You look like Dr. Carey Middlecoff!” For the benefit of everyone within earshot, he added, “He won 37 tournaments.”
I moved on, but as I left I overheard Chi Chi telling a middle-aged woman, “I just saw a guy here. I told him when he dies to donate his body to science fiction.”