Interested golf aficionados are anxiously awaiting the TV ratings for last weekend to see which of the three tournaments had the largest viewing audience. Certainly NBC, which telecasts the Tahoe event, had the best visual setting with which to work and Montreux had to be in second place visually when you consider the barren and wind whipped St. Andrews course that was the site of the British Open. Tahoe always wins for beauty because of the sparkling blue water, the backdrop of snow covered peaks, the cloudless skies and the host of watercraft that sit offshore by the final holes. Even the Edgewood clubhouse is a striking, architectural delight to the eye.
For golf purists the British Open had to be first choice since that is where the best of the best in golfdom were competing. Conversely, the poorest players were at Tahoe, but because of their star power they probably outdrew the RTO by a 10-1 margin when it came to live fans on the course. That a former basketball star like Charles Barkley, who routinely finishes in last place at the Atlantic Coast Conference, could have a larger gallery following him around the course than say, Scott McCarron, who was the playing host at the RTO, seems incredible but such was the case last week.
Over the years, the RTO has struggled mightily to come up with a title sponsor and a stand alone date but thus far has been unsuccessful. The only time there was some “buzz” about the local event was several years ago when Michelle Wie was invited to play. For the first two days she had the largest gallery following of anyone on the course. However, when she failed to make the cut for the final two days, the attendance dropped off dramatically.
The Wie experience sums up in a nutshell the fact that sports today is dependent on celebrity star power to be successful. Even the struggling Tiger Woods makes the difference in attendance and viewership when he chooses to play.
There is always a sense of drama when the announcement is made that Woods and his arch rival Phil Mickelson are going to play in a major. However, this year the dynamic duo was completely overshadowed by the skillful South African player who won his first major at St. Andrews.
It will be interesting to see how well the RTO is holding up when, and if, they release their attendance numbers for this year’s edition of the tourney.
The month-long celebration of the cenetnnial of the Johnson-Jefferies Heavyweight title fight, that was held in Reno on July 4, 1910, is soon coming to an end. While attending the portion of the remembrance that was held at the site of the fight, the southeast corner of Fourth and Toano streets, it suddenly occurred to me that I had spent many long hours on the real estate where the ring and stands had been constructed. It was during the university school year of 1948-49 here. Prior to heading back to Reno from our summer vacations at our homes in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., my roommate Harold Hayes and I got a call from Reno’s Ray Wolford. His message was short and to the point, “I’ve found a great afternoon job for one of you for the upcoming school year. Unfortunately, in order to keep it for you I had to take it on myself — so hurry up and get back to Reno!”
When we asked the nature of the employment he responded that it was of a janitorial nature and it paid extremely well for the three hours, five days a week. Hayes immediately said he couldn’t participate since he would be at football practice every afternoon in the fall and at basketball practice for the following three months. I told Ray to put my name down and gave him an arrival date.
My first day on the job was a shocker since the building that occupied the Fourth and Toana site was the Johnson Chevrolet body shop. It consisted of an acre under roof and the “job” was to sweep the entire cement floor. The tools provided were a large, three-foot wide push broom that had metal brush prongs rather than the conventional heavy duty straw and a good-sized metal pail in which you mixed sawdust and light oil. You sprinkled this mixture generously about the area where the bodyshop men were grinding away at bent metal and sodering other parts, all the while producing an enormous amount of dirt and metal flakings. Other than refilling the pail, you pushed the broom for the better part of the three hours and when you returned the next day you couldn’t tell that you had even been there the day before. But, as Ray had pointed out, the money was good and the daily hike out and back was also excellent exercise.
As usual the Cable Channel provided a film last week that featured several performers that had ties to northern Nevada. This one was entitled “Captain Newman, M.D.” and the major stars were Gregory Peck and Tony Curtis. Peck is best remembered here for his visit when he won the Silver Spurs award that was annually given to the best actor in Western film as determined by polling the Hollywood Press. I had the good fortune to meet Peck during a visit to L.A. in 1948 when we were invited to see the cast and crew of the movie “12 O’Clock High” off at the LAX airport. We spent about an hour one pre-dawn morning while the troupe assembled next to their plane that was to take them to Florida, where the bulk of the movie was shot at an abandoned World War II airfield. While Peck was gracious and talked easily in that voice that was dubbed the best in Hollywood, one of the more impressive cast members was Dean Jagger, who had an equally strong voice and towered a couple of inches over the six foot-three Peck.
Tony Curtis made several appearances in this area, the earliest being as a star of the racing moving called “Johnny Dark” in the 1950s, where the best racing shots were taken on the highway to Virginia City. He later was a Mapes Hotel guest for the 1960 Winter Olympics and returned shortly after that to star in a movie called “40 Pounds of Trouble” that was shot at Harrah’s Tahoe and finished shooting at the Reno airport. Then, several years back he was the featured celebrity of the Reno Film Festival.
“Newman” was essentially a comedy but it also featured a fine dramatic performance by singer Bobby Darin, for which he received an Academy Award nomination.
Harry Spencer is a freelance writer in Reno. His column about the past and present of northern Nevada appears weekly in the Tribune.
Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in Harry Spencer’s column are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tribune.