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Golfing in Morocco

Claude Harmon was the king's man, actually. For a couple of years Claude had been going over to Morocco to bring Hassan II's game down from 110 to 85. Claude had been getting permission from his two clubs--Winged Foot in the summer and Thunderbird in the winter-- to go over and watch the king take divots in Rabat, Marrakesh, Casablanca, Fez, Tangier, anywhere there happened to be nine holes hidden inside the palace walls or tucked away on a hillside or creeping through a palm grove or seared by the Atlantic or Mediterranean sun. This led some of C laude's friends to invent a slogan for him: Have overlapping grip, will travel.

Originally, according to Claude, the king wanted Tommy Armour because he had come into possession of an instruction book by Armour and decided to invite him over. Tommy thought about it but eventually declined, his friends joked, because he discovered that Morocco wasn't in Westchester County.

Claude, the king was told, had a reputation as the most accomplished teaching pro in the U.S., a man who had once captured the Masters (1948) even though he hadn't played in a single tournament all that winter, who could go around Seminole in something like even threes and in his later years had taught such power brokers, statusmakers, Bob Hopes and patriotic Americans as Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

Anyhow, that is the rough background on how this all got started. Claude and the king are mostly what this story isall about, but there will be something of Morocco in it, too, I hope, and, of course, in the minor role of casual typist and thoroughgoing tourist there is, clearing the throat, me.

I Find It Fascinating That Of The Few monarchs left today--twenty-four by my last count--one is not only captivated by golf but has sort of bent himself toward making his country one long par five, to promote tourism, and has, at the same time, developed a very special relationship with an American pro. Claude Harmon had made four trips to Morocco before I joined him there last spring for his fifth. During this period of almost three years Claude and the king had exchanged more gifts than words. Claude had not known exactly what to expect in the way of reward until after his first visit. "I went out of goodwill," he said. Goodwill became a thousand a day plus expenses. Plus as many swords, daggers, plates, trays, leather goods and small jewelry as Claude could admire during his free-time shopping tours. Claude would pause to glance at something, a guide would notice it, he'd tell the king, and it would later arrive at Winged Foot.

A Mark III Continental arrived at Claude's home one day, and a cigar box full of cash--in case Claude wanted some undeclared income. "I declared it all," said Claude.

Things also turned up for Claude's wife, Alice, and for the clubs he represented. For straightening out a duck hook, one might presume: some antique jewelry and a Moroccan belt for Alice. And for ironing the curl out of a slice, one might also presume: a $25,000 silvertea service for Thunderbird and one on its way for Winged Foot.


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