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Golfing in Morocco

"Very bad," he said.

"Golf comes and goes," said Claude.

Whereupon the king hooked a third drive over the wall.

"Golf is gone," he said, shaking his head.

"Golf will come back," said Claude.

King Hassan finished out the nine holes in something like forty-three. He hit a few more bad shots, but he also hit some good ones, including a fine three-wood to the last green, where he picked up his fifth par of the round.

He went then to the practice tee, chatted with his friends for a moment, signed a few documents, read through some papers an aide handed him and then began soaring several practice shots off into the distance. They were remarkably straight. The king looked up and smiled.

"Golf come back," he said.

As we were driven back to our hotel in Fez, we passed along the Boulevard des Saadiens. Through the car window I saw a man in a djellaba sitting cross-legged on the grass looking at an object in his hand.

It was most likely a golf ball that had king hass an II engraved on it. But the man would not know what it was, I figured. And he would never understand what it might mean to his country.

Tabbouleh and Tee

In 1971, a year after this article originally appeared, His Majesty instituted the Hassan Deux Trophy, an annual pro-am tournament held every November at Robert Trent Jones's 7,329- yard par-seventy-three Red course at Royal Dar Es Salaam. To this day, players from both the U.S. and European tours, as well as around 150 amateurs, hit the road to Morocco for ten days of banquets, exotic excursions and royal events that make the Hope and Crosby Classics look like, well, clambakes. For around $5,500, you fly to Marrakesh, stay in luxury hotels, play the best of Morocco's sixteen courses and eat couscous with previous winners such as Payne Stewart and 1998 champ Santiago Luna, as well as Hassan's son, Prince Moulay Rachid. The three-day competition concludes with a lavish ceremony where Rachid's brother, Crown Prince Sidi Mohammed, awards the champion a jewel-encrusted sword. Though security issues preclude the sixty-nine-year-old king from playing in the event, he remains devoted to the game. His palace course in Agadir has hosted the Moroccan Open, and in 1996, he celebrated his pro-am's silver anniversary by adding a grove of California redwoods to Royal Dar Es Salaam, to symbolize the friendship between Morocco and the U.S. For information on next year's event, call the U.S. Committee for Royal Moroccan Golf Federation at 703-448-4400 (ext. 105).

Reprinted courtesy of Sports Illustrated September 28, 1970. Copyright ©1970, Time Inc. "Where a Golf Nut Is King" by Dan Jenkins. All rights reserved.

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