THE ROYAL & ANCIENT

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They'll be playing the Ryder Cup matches this week and I hope everyone tunes in.

Because it may just be the last such competition ever.

The reason? Professional golf is about to be shaken by a scandal. No, it's not a betting coup or an improved lie or even a pine-tarred three-wood (see George Brett of Kansas City for previous ref). And it most certainly isn't sex. No touring pro worth his FootJoys would risk screwing up his backswing in the exuberant excesses of a one-night stand.

No, what has the golfing establishment a-twitter and about which the Royal & Ancient will probably convene a plenary session, is an American professional and quite a successful one, named David Duval.

Perhaps you've seen Mr. Duval during one of this season's PGA events. His transgression? During tournament play, he sports a beard and wears wraparound shades!

Now there may be some out there who don't equate Duval's little mannerisms with the Mickey Jelke Trial or Benedict Arnold's behavior at West Point. But for those of us who revere the PGA Tour, well, David Duval's outlandish getup just doesn't fly.

More than half a century ago Walter Hagen forever altered the status of golfing professionals who had, until then and even the greatest of them, been treated as a variety of superior servant, much as one might think of an accomplished butler or faithful old retainer. At the country clubs where the early professional events were played, even the championships, the members used the front door; the visiting professionals the servants' entrance.

Hagen changed all that, arriving, showily, in a Rolls-Royce hired for the occasion and swaggering in the club's front door as if daring anyone to show him around to the back. It may have been Arnold Palmer and his "army" that opened the way for today's huge purses; it was Hagen who turned professional golf into a true "profession."

Does anyone remember "Champagne Tony" Lema? Now there was not only a great golfer but a great American. He's dead now, unfortunately, and as I tune in on a Saturday afternoon to the latest PGA Tour event and I see Duval in shades and a goatee, I ask myself, "Was this why Tony Lema gave his all? Did they do away with the gutta-percha ball so that Duval could cultivate facial hair?"

Absolutely not! Tony Lema was always well-accoutered and his "champers" the best. Tony believed in the grand old values and dressed the part. And now, rather than honor his sainted memory, along come wraparound shades!

Some folks, including myself, believe strongly that professional golf is the last remaining bastion of purity in American sport. Baseball destroyed itself by expansion, the designated hitter, and the strike. Tennis went out the window when they no longer required whites and allowed the oversized racquet. Football lost its mystique when they introduced the face mask and dropped the single wing. As for fox hunting, the animal lovers have pretty much put that out of business and foreigners won the America's Cup and there are Russians playing the national game of Canada, hockey, and we all know about trap shooting and quoits. And has basketball been quite the same since they abandoned the two-handed set?

The one game that remains pretty steadfastly itself is professional golf. Oh, sure, the mashie has gone the way of the niblick and a clearly deranged man named Ely Callaway is trying to get people to use an outsized club, and there's something called "metal woods," speaking of oxymorons! And on the LPGA tour the women wear shorts. But the grand old PGA continues to uphold tradition.

Until Duval with his shades.

I don't know how golf historians like Crenshaw and Johnny Miller agree to play on the same course with the guy. I mean, it is one thing when Palmer hikes up his trousers or that other fellow sports knickerbockers in the colors of NFL franchises, but does the PGA really want guys in chin whiskers and wraparounds winning the Milwaukee Open or the Bell South Classic or, for God's sake, one of the majors?

I'm a longtime critic of The Masters for its feudal attitudes toward the unwashed press and even the TV sponsors. But they set and maintain a certain standard down there and if you don't like it, don't come and play. I can't recall if Duval played at Augusta last spring. If he did, he must have sneaked in and for four days avoided being seen by anyone on the committee. If the late Cliff Roberts, a thorough-going tyrant if ever there was one, were still around and running the damned Masters, belaboring CBS and bullying GM, you can be sure Mr. Duval would be briskly informed the location of Nick's Barbershop and Tonsorial Parlor in downtown Augusta, and told where he might file his sunglasses while he was at it.

I don't believe David Duval is in the Ryder Cup lineup for this week. And I surely hope not. Isn't Michael Bonallack due to be over from St. Andrews, the secretary of the Royal & Ancient?, the man who pretty much sets the rules of golf? We can't have Michael Bonallack seeing Duval togged out like Keanu Reeves.

I guess there's not much the golfing fathers can do when John Daly shaves his head. But the folks who operate the Senior PGA Tour didn't waste anytime cracking down on J.C. Snead earlier this year when, playing in extreme heat, ol' J.C. protested the rules against wearing shorts by hiking up his trouser legs and playing a few holes.

He looked silly as hell and they flagged him for it.

But if we let David Duval get away with his act, I shudder to think of what we'll be seeing next year at Pebble Beach or at the Hope, or, Heaven forfend, at Augusta:

Gene Sarazen teeing off in a baseball cap worn backwards?

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