Both these happened during the 1964 Pensacola Open at the Pensacola C.C. in Fla. I was in my first year of apprenticeship as a PGA Professional and only 19 years old.
After 36 holes of the tournament Arnie and Gary were battling for the lead. Arnie was always tinkering with his clubs, especially his putters. He came in the golf shop after playing and asked if he could work on his putter. The golf pro was a grumpy old coot and gave specific orders no pros were allowed in his workshop. I told Arnke this and since the pro was still on the premises couldn’t allow it. He said OK and proceeded to the putting green to practice.
While he was there the pro left and as we were closing up I had an idea. At that time I had a room on the 3rd floor of the clubhouse and opened up each morning. I told Arnie if he would be at the front door and 6:30 AM I would let him in to work on his putter before the pro arrived, which was usually about 8:00 AM. Next morning guess who was at the front door at 6:30, the King himself. I let him in and he proceeded to put his putter in the vise and bang on it with a hammer and bend it till if felt good to him. He would run out the front door and putt a few times and come in and bang some more till he had it just the way the wanted it. He then put one of the pro’s new grips on it thanked me and was on his way. The secret was just between the two of us.
Now for Mr. Player. He was playing a club brand called Shakespeare and his clubs all had black fiberglass shafts, just like the fishing poles they make. After the second round his driver shaft starts coming apart and he doesn’t have a spare except for a couple of 3 woods. He asks me if we have any Shakespeare drivers for sale and unfortunately we did not. He was in a quandary because he couldn’t play with a steel shaft per his contract. I thought about it a while and had an idea. After the pro left for the day I said, “Mr. Player would you please go through the shop and pick a driver you think you would like”. He said he would but what good would it do. He chose a Ben Hogan Persimmon “Speed Slot” model with a brown head and steel shaft. I proceed to tape the face and sole plate of the driver and put it in a box and sprayed it with black spray paint. When done it was completely black and if you were not close to it couldn’t tell the difference between it and a Shakespeare. He took that driver and won the tournament with it. Again our secret. As he was leaving he came in the shop where the pro and I were standing and shook my hand and slipped me a $20 bill and told the pro he had a most cooperative assistant. The pro didn’t know what he was talking about.
I met Gary and Arnie a few years ago and both remembered those incidents from many years ago. Arnie sent me a commemorative putter just like the one he used that day and an autographed picture thanking me for the help. It hangs in my den today. Gary was the usual perfect gentleman and said it was one of the strangest ways he won a golf tournament.