The first time I volunteered at Riviera was in 1948, when I was 19 and the tournament was called the Los Angeles Open, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
I’ve volunteered all over the PGA Tour — at the Hope, in Houston, at Pebble Beach and Westchester. I’ve been a walking scorer, I’ve handled transportation for the players and I worked in the media tent back when there was smoking and typewriters. Two of my great friends from those days were Ken Everett, who ran the leader board in the media tent, and Riviera member Bob Williams.
Of all the courses I’ve visited, Riviera is still my favorite. My favorite hole? The par-3 6th. I had a hole in one there back in the 1950s. The pin was behind the sand trap, and I hit a five-wood. I thought the ball was going to go clear over the green, but it went in the hole instead. I kept the ball for a long time, but I don’t know where it is now.
I have at least eight favorite golfers: Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Bob Goalby, Gene Littler, Jack and Arnie, Hale Irwin and Jay Haas. I met Hogan my first year at Riviera, and he amazed me because he was known as being aloof, but he went out of his way to speak to me. I had been in a car accident years earlier, and in later years I think he kept checking on me because he had been in a very serious car accident himself. I didn’t really think that much about his reputation because he was always so nice to me. His wife, Valerie, too. We kept in touch for many years. I also remember quite well when Jack played for the first time at Rancho Park in ’62. He won $33.33. That’s a wee bit different than today.
One of the main things I’ve always liked about golf is that rarely do you find the gallery rooting against anybody. They’re always cheering for someone to do the best he can. You don’t find that in a lot of other sports.
Through golf I’ve met a lot of great people. Before the Tour started a day-care service, I used to help out watching children at one of the area hotels. Sometimes I’d walk the course with some of the players’ wives and their families.
I remember back when Tiger Woods was 13 and I was volunteering at a lot of Southern California junior tournaments. He was a really nice kid, but even then I could tell his concentration level was higher than the others’. It was obvious he was going to be a great player. When Phil Mickelson was a young professional I was scheduled to pick him up at LAX. The flight was late so I waited. When he arrived about an hour-and-a-half or two hours later and saw me, he was amazed and very appreciative and said, “What are you doing here this late?”
When I hit my 50th anniversary, at Valencia Country Club back in 1998, Billy Mayfair beat Tiger in a playoff. When Billy got to the media room and saw me, he doubled back and gave me a hug. He was pretty excited. Even after all those years, I was excited, too.