"We gon' eat steak today, Home?" Hayes Thornton wants to know.
"Hope so," Emanuel Worley says. He smiles, but keeps his eyes on the golf ball in front of him, behind which he is waggling a sand wedge.
"If he don't play well, we don't eat well," Thornton explains. "I always say after, 'What you want?' 'I want some steak.' 'Hey--you didn't play well enough for steak today.'" Thornton chuckles. "Hamburger. We sitting in a McDonald's somewhere."
Worley presses his right knee subtly forward and begins his swing. The sand wedge knifes the air, there is a whoosh and a click, turf flies, and the ball sails off, a white speck against a silver sky. It lands 80 yards away, bounces feebly once, and stops, one foot from a flagstick, the powder blue flag limp this windless morning. "Better save that one, Homey," Thornton says. "Got plenty more," Worley replies, his eyes fixed on the next ball in front of him. "That's good," Thornton says.
The practice tee upon which Worley and Thornton stand, at the Cog Hill Golf and Country Club in southwest suburban Lemont, is one of the largest in the Chicago area--200 yards wide, with hitting positions for 100 golfers. Later this cool June morning, dozens of golfers will be swatting balls off the tee, salting the range with their shots. Now, though, at 7:15 on a Monday, there are only Worley and two others. It's not unusual for Worley to be one of the first golfers at a driving range, or one of the last to leave; since he first swung a golf club, at age 11, Worley, now 28, has spent countless hours on courses and practice tees, hitting, by the estimate of Thornton (his coach throughout those years), two million shots. He'll hit two million more without complaint if it'll get him to the pro tour, his dream since he was 14. "He would sleep on the golf course if there was a bed out there," his wife, Kiva Worley, says.
Worley has a special reason for hitting balls early today; today he will try to win a berth in the U.S. Open, coming up in ten days at the Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York. He tees off in an hour, in a field of 34, on Cog Hill's ornery number four course, "Dubsdread." The players will battle Dubsdread twice today, with four of them advancing to Oak Hill. Today's contestants have already passed a preliminary test; two weeks ago, at the Saint Andrews Golf Club in West Chicago, a field of 86 vied for seven spots in today's final qualifier; Worley shot a one-under-par 70 to finish second.
Today's field at Cog Hill comprises 27 pros and 7 amateurs. (Worley turned pro last year.) Most of the contestants are from the midwest, including 15 from Illinois. The Illinoisans hail primarily from the suburbs and downstate, from areas where fine courses abound; only three are from Chicago proper. Worley, one of these, is the only player who claims a Park District course--Jackson Park--as his home course. Probably no one in the field developed on a course with weedier fairways or choppier greens, and with rubber mat tees. Worley also is the only black in the field. And no one here but Worley has a golf bag advertising not Wilson or Spalding, but John 3:16. The blue canvas bag lies several feet behind Worley on the practice tee, at the feet of his caddie, James Lindsey. Bob Butler, a friend of Thornton's, eyes the John 3:16 inscription in black marker, grins, and nudges Thornton. "Remember that time we was in Waterloo?" Butler says. "He wanted to play that Christian music all night long. I said, 'You better turn that shit off, get some sleep!'" Butler roars; Thornton chuckles; Worley, oblivious, keeps shooting.
Worley turned in at nine last night, slept soundly, and rose at three this morning. He prayed--that he play well and his competitors play well also--read scripture, showered, dressed, and went out for breakfast to an all-night diner at 79th and Jeffery, a few blocks from his South Shore apartment. He had grits, sausage, eggs, toast, orange juice, and milk. Shortly after he returned home, Thornton came by to pick him up. Then they got Butler. They took Lake Shore Drive to the Stevenson, and headed southwest to Cog Hill. There wasn't much talk in the car, as Thornton was the only one alert very long. They pulled into the club's nearly empty parking lot a few minutes before seven. Grounds-crew workers were out on Dubsdread's greens, mowing them and setting the cups.
On the practice tee Worley works his way through his bag from his wedges to his long irons, and on to his woods. Now he is swinging his driver, knocking range balls to the far edge of the practice field, 280 yards away. At a half inch under six feet and a trim 175 pounds, Worley is proof that one need not be big and brawny to send a golf ball great distances. Even as a young teen he could give the ball a ride, though he was "nothing but skin and bones" then, says his cousin Paul Blockoms. "He looked like a golf club swinging a golf club."
At ten to eight Worley hands his driver back to Lindsey, pulls his putter from his bag, and heads for the putting green. He has already hit about 100 balls today. Most of his competitors, bearing in mind the 36 holes ahead of them, won't hit half that many shots on the practice tee. But Worley is unconcerned; his muscles are accustomed to the swinging of a golf club over and over; it's like breathing. He jogged four miles a day last week, along the south lakefront and on the streets of South Shore, as a special protection against weariness. "If you're not in shape and you play 36 holes, your legs get a little tender near the end, and they move all over," he has said. "You can't have all that movement, you got to be steady. When you're in shape, you feel refreshed the whole way, like a 12-year-old again."
On the putting green he drops three balls and strokes them toward a hole 40 feet away.
"I would like to find a whole world full of people like Emanuel--I would be happy the rest of my life," says Henry Robinson, the black man in a red Western Open jacket who is watching Worley keenly from a dozen feet off the green. Robinson, who works as a doorman at 2800 N. Lake Shore Drive, first encountered Worley two years ago when Worley was winning the Midwest Amateur at the Park District's Waveland course. They became friends at the district's Diversey driving range, where Robinson practices often and Worley began teaching this year.
To hear Robinson tell it, Worley is Saint Francis of the Fairways: kindhearted, friendly, sweet-tempered. He's so modest: he graciously accepts advice from golfers who can't hit their driver as far as he hits his five iron; and so conscientious: between lessons at the range, if he isn't whacking balls himself, he's studying the Bible or a Ben Hogan book. Robinson has been nagging some moneyed acquaintances to sponsor Worley--that is, to cover the expenses he will incur in his quest for the Professional Golf Association tour. "The people I talk to, they got good connections," Robinson says now. "They're from the Lincoln Park area. You just about know who I'm talking about in the Lincoln Park area--all my Jewish friends. They are super, take my word for it. They got the money, but they want to wait and see how he does today. I told Emanuel that on the phone this morning. I didn't want him to think I'm here watching him to see how he's doing, and he's under pressure--I said, 'Emanuel, you don't mind if I come out?' And he said, 'No, c'mon.' If he plays well today, even if he doesn't qualify, they'll probably send him away to qualifying school."
"Qualifying school," as golfers often call it, isn't really a school at all, but a series of tournaments by which the PGA replenishes its tour each fall. Anyone with $2,000 can enter, and 750 to 800 do annually, competing for 50 tour spots.
About 350 pro golfers carry memberships in the regular men's tour--memberships making them eligible for the PGA's weekly tournaments, with purses that last year totaled more than $42 million. The PGA says it doesn't know how many of the 350 are black; fewer than 20, it estimates. But of the 226 members pictured in the tour's media guide--golfers who actually compete at least occasionally in tour events--only two are black, Calvin Peete and Jim Thorpe.
If all those who had vowed to sponsor Worley had come across, Worley would never have to eat at McDonald's. "A lot of people say they will back him," Kiva Worley says. "And I know they have good intentions, I mean really strong, pure hearts. But when it comes down to actually putting the money on the table or signing the contract, people tend to dwindle away." Last winter, Worley drove to Florida to compete in a series of mini-tour pro events. Worley needs such experience to make the regular tour; all the driving-range practice in the world won't inure him to the pressures of competition. A south-side liquor-store owner pledged to cover Worley's expenses; but after Worley had competed in two tourneys--finishing far back in one and just out of the money in the other--this sponsor informed him that due to unforeseen financial difficulties, no more money would be forthcoming. Worley was nearly broke; but a born-again Christian friend bailed him out with a loan and another one gave him lodging, permitting him to stay in Florida another few weeks and practice, though he couldn't afford the $250 entry fee for any more tournaments. "I hate to brag on Emanuel, but he's good," Kiva says. "But he's also black. And golf is expensive. And there aren't a lot of black people out there who can afford to pay that much money for the tournaments and all that." The baby Kiva and Emanuel are expecting in December makes money an even greater concern.
Hayes Thornton says, "I always tell Emanuel, 'When people say I'm gonna do this for you and that for you, just tell 'em, "Throw the money on the ground. And I'll pick it up, and we'll talk."'" Should Worley qualify in today's event, someone might really throw some money on the ground, Thornton says. Or Worley could go to the U.S. Open without a backer, earn a nice check, "and be his own sponsor, don't have to worry about it."
When he tried to qualify for the open last year, Worley didn't make it past the first stage. "So he's real serious about this," Kiva says. "In the four years I've known him, this is the most important event he's played in."
If he is jittery as he strides to the first tee for such a momentous day of golf, Worley hides it well. He has on his trademark warm, boyish smile as he introduces himself to Mike Muranyi and Mark Krause, the two Wisconsin club pros with whom he will be playing. Worley has small ears, dark brown eyes, and a medium nose; closely cropped hair; and the pretext of a mustache. The wisps of hair on his chin look lost, like weeds on a putting green. He is charcoal-hued. ("Always look for the darkest one and you'll find Emanuel," Thornton had said earlier, identifying Worley in a photo of a group of black golfers.) His face looks all the darker today beneath a white Titleist visor. He is nattily but conservatively dressed, in a white-and-dark-brown-striped, short-sleeved pullover shirt, dark brown slacks, and dark brown shoes; his outfit seems almost somber next to Muranyi's candescent pink shirt.
Mike Muranyi, 38, got his first taste of golf competition at age five, when he batted a ball around for a few holes in a father-son tournament at the golf club to which his father belonged. Before Muranyi had turned ten, he had put in many practice-tee hours at that club, hitting balls with the junior set his father gave him, absorbing the instruction of his father, a top amateur player. Like Worley, he dreamed of reaching the tour. He competed in the qualifying tournaments in 1978, and took one stroke too many to realize his dream. "Then I gave her up. I figured, if you're not good enough, you're not good enough." He has been a club pro since, at Monroe Country Club in Monroe, Wisconsin.
Mark Krause, 35, started playing at age 12. His dad, too, was an excellent amateur player. The elder Krause used to hit golf balls that his Little League son would snag with his mitt. "One day I got tired of just catching them, and started hitting them." His father joined a private club a few years later; Mark Krause caddied there and tended to the carts, and played the course as often as he could. When he tried to qualify for the tour, he learned that "unless you're playing every day and hitting golf balls all the time, you shouldn't even try to compete against those guys. They're playing constantly. And most of them have had professionals teaching them all along. Which I didn't." For 16 years now he has been the club pro and general manager of Muskego Lakes Country Club, in Muskego, owned by his family.
Worley grew up across the street from the Jackson Park course, in a building on 67th at Ridgeland. His father died when he was a baby, of what cause Worley says he doesn't know. His mother was ill and hospitalized much of his childhood, and so Worley and his seven brothers and sisters, all older, were raised primarily by an aunt. They lived with the aunt's only child, Emanuel's cousin Paul Blockoms, who is two years younger than Emanuel. The fairway on the fifth hole across the street "was tiered," Blockoms says, "so you couldn't see from the tee where your drive would end up." Blockoms says he and Worley would snatch balls out of the fairway, selling them for a quarter apiece to golfers coming down the adjacent 14th hole. One day they got caught, and were marched to the Jackson Park clubhouse, where a benevolent course employee told them if they wanted to earn some money around the course, they'd have to do it on the square, by caddying. Worley says he can't recall ever snatching balls; he says he just started caddying one day when Blockoms suggested it.
The two cousins caddied regularly, using their earnings for movie fare downtown. Worley began to take a fancy to golf, and one day asked the man he was caddying for if he could spare a club. The man gave Worley a beat-up eight iron. Worley, 11 then, swung the club incessantly. He and Blockoms contrived their own holes beneath the oak trees near the first tee--typically teeing off alongside one garbage can, and shooting through the trees and around the clubhouse to another garbage can. They took turns with the eight iron. When they didn't have golf balls, they hit rocks.
Worley's enthusiasm for the game soon was boundless. He liked baseball and basketball too, and was pretty fair at them. But nothing gave him a thrill like smacking a golf ball. He began using his caddie earnings for greens fees at Jackson Park. People Worley caddied for knew how much he loved the game, and continued donating things they had no more use for--battered clubs, smiling balls, a tattered bag, a timeworn pair of shoes, a glove, a hat, a towel. In the summer, he'd be out at the course at six, caddie a round or two, then play 18 holes or more. On days he had enough saved, he'd play from sunup to past sundown; when it was hot and the course uncrowded, he'd frequently get in 54 holes. He often skipped breakfast and lunch on these days. "Some people get on about the fourth hole, and they say, 'Well, I'm hungry, I can't play unless I eat.' But it didn't matter to me at all. My mind was tuned in to golf." Sweltering weather didn't deter him either. He'd loosen up with an early-morning round, playing alone, then tee off at noon with Blockoms and another friend. Long about the sixth hole, Worley's playing partners would declare it goofy playing under the beating sun--and Worley would finish the round himself. When darkness reigned, there were quarters to putt for with friends on the second green, by the light of a nearby arc lamp. He'd call it a day around 9:30. But that was no vandal people on 67th Street sometimes spotted on the fifth green at midnight or past; that was a sleepless Worley, trying to sedate himself with a few putts.
Among the few things that could keep him from the golf course in the summer were TV golf tournaments. Jack Nicklaus became his idol, and majestic Augusta National--home of the Masters--his land of milk and honey. He could picture himself out there, dressed so sharply, striding down one of those elegant fairways toward his ball, the multitudes behind the ropes straining for a peek at him, pounding their palms, a caddie toting his handsome bag. He vowed, at 15, to be a pro one day and make it to that most venerated tournament. That almost every player in it, and almost every fan, was white--that the Golden Bear had hair unlike anyone in the neighborhood--bothered Worley not at all; it didn't stop his eyes from misting when the Masters came on. "I don't know why it affected me that way. Golf was just sort of creeping inside of me I guess."
The three golfers pull their drivers from their bags and peer down the first fairway. A 449-yard par four stares back; Dubsdread does not tarry in flinging down the gauntlet. The hole bends severely, or "doglegs," left. A grove of tall oaks and four sprawling sand traps on the left discourage notions of "cutting the dogleg" (taking a shorter, more direct route to the green). Another four bunkers guard the green. The hole is like most of Dubsdread: long and treacherous. A 6,992-yard par 72, Dubsdread is rated the fifth toughest course in the Chicago area by the Chicago District Golf Association. Worley played here frequently some years ago, when the greens fee was just $15, but has only rarely in recent years, with the fee now $40. However, he rehearsed for today with three rounds here in the last ten days.
He likes Dubsdread. It's a genuine test of a player's patience, he will tell you: the length of the holes tempts you to overswing on your drives, and then you wind up behind one of those oaks or in one of the 127 bunkers. The sand in those bunkers is a fine white silica, notorious for the buried lies it produces. His game plan: avoid foolhardy gambles, just keep it in the fairway, go for the middle of the green, and stay away from the trees and traps. If today were windy, a score of six or seven over par for the 36 holes might be sufficient to qualify. But it's almost calm, and recent rains have softened up the greens, so they should hold approach shots. The morning clouds are already dissipating. Under these conditions, Worley is figuring he'll need to shoot no worse than two or three over par for the day to make it to the U.S. Open.
"Good luck, gentlemen," says an official in a navy blue blazer seated at the folding table alongside the first tee. Worley's group, the fourth to tee off this morning, starts right on time, at 8:24. Muranyi hits first, sending a short drive down the middle. Worley is next.
Worley was 14 when he played in his first tournament, a junior competition (15 and younger) at Columbus Park. All he could think about on the first tee that morning was the spectators behind the tee, and how much he wanted to flee their sharp eyes. His palms perspired; his knees wobbled. "I felt like somebody could have just blew my legs and I would have fell." He hurried his swing, and whiffed. Once he got off the tee he recovered and went on to a second-place finish. But first-tee-itis continued to plague him in tournaments for years. "I would feel like a feather, and the club felt like a feather. And I'd swing too fast, maybe top it. It's a different feeling now--more--more--concrete. It's like going out any other day hitting tee balls [on the range]. Like at Saint Andrews [in his previous qualifier], there were these guys back of the first tee. And I thought about them for a second--I know they're saying, 'Well, who is this guy?' But then I put them out of my mind, and I got on the tee and pshoo, cracked it down the left side about 290. Got a birdie on the first hole, and was on my way." Maybe he isn't thinking about the dozen spectators and the three officials around the tee this morning; maybe he really feels no butterflies, as he will claim later. But he rushes his downswing and pulls the ball, a low liner hugging the left side, flirting with the oaks. "Get through, get through, don't catch a branch," Worley is thinking. And the ball does shoot through, landing safely in the left rough, just short of a bunker. "OK--I got lucky, that's a good start," Worley tells himself. Krause, hitting next, is less fortunate, or perhaps more nervous: he duck-hooks his drive deep into the left woods.
"He's got a heart of gold--that's why he's gonna make it," Tim Thomas says of Worley. Thomas is walking hand in hand with Paula Keith down the first fairway, behind Worley and his caddie. They attend church with Worley in Orland Park, at the Midwest Christian Center. ("Come and Receive Your Miracle," invites the leaflet Thomas offers.) They're here to help Worley with their cheers and prayers. "The Lord's gonna be with him," Thomas says. "That's what Emanuel means--God is with us."
Krause fails to find his tee shot and has to take a penalty. Muranyi dumps his second shot into a trap short of the green. Worley's ball is sitting high in the rough--a break, because it's still a long poke home, 215 yards to the middle of the green. He pulls a four iron from his bag, takes two quick, relaxed practice swings behind the ball, gazes down the fairway, then steps up to the ball. The flag is on the right side of the green, beyond a trap, but Worley is sticking to his game plan and aiming for the fat of the green. His swing is unhurried and crisp, and the ball flies straight and true. It settles down on the green, pin high, about 35 feet left of the cup.
He babies his first putt, leaving it three feet short. Muranyi taps in for a bogey five and Krause for a double-bogey six. Worley squats behind his ball, studies the green's grain, then knocks the putt home. Par. "OK--good start, good start," he says to himself.
Worley again shoots for the fat of the green on the 180-yard par-three second hole. His six-iron shot lands dead middle, then rolls to the back of the green. "OK--you're on the dance floor," Bob Blackstone calls out from the side of the tee. Blackstone is one of the managers of the Jackson Park driving range. He is among eight spectators following this threesome--seven Worley fans, and Muranyi's wife. Hayes Thornton surveys the tee shots on number two from up near the green, where he is leaning against a tree. At age 59, and with a pesty bunion on his right foot, he'll have to take shortcuts if he's going to last 36 holes; so he won't walk over to every tee. Watching Worley's shots close up makes Thornton too anxious, anyway. Probably this is because he identifies so closely with Worley: Thornton dreamed of playing on the tour too ("from the time I parred my first hole"). He started playing golf in 1946, while in the Army at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and quickly got hooked. Upon his return to Chicago after the war, though, golf became just a memory. Few blacks ventured onto golf courses in the 50s; those who did were often greeted with jeers and stares. But one day in the early 60s, a friend--Bob Butler--enticed Thornton out to Pipe o' Peace, a Cook County Forest Preserve course in south suburban Riverdale. Thornton soon was stuck on the game again. More south-side blacks were playing golf then, mainly at Pipe o' Peace (since renamed Joe Louis) and Jackson Park. "We couldn't pay for lessons," Thornton says. "We'd go in the shag field at Jackson, practice, and discuss things." Thornton experimented with various grips and stances and alignments; soon he was shooting in the 70s and fantasizing about the tour. But he never dedicated himself full-time to this dream; he had a family to support, and did so as a painter and decorator. His bids to qualify for the U.S. Open never survived the first stage. Like thousands of skilled amateurs, he learned that developing into a tour-level pro in your spare time is like devoting weekends and holidays to becoming a concert pianist.
Thornton has a 35-millimeter camera slung over a shoulder, against the possibility the day's events might inspire him to resurrect his Fairway News. "I put out a golf newspaper, the last edition of which was in '82," he says. "Well, this is because it's a one-man paper. I had to do a lot of traveling to get a lot of news, take the pictures, write the stories, and I even laid the paper out--did everything but print it." He started the paper, which focused on golf in the black community, in the 70s. "I'd see all these black people playing every day, but if you picked up a golf magazine all you'd see is white people playing. I said, 'Damn, we play golf too.'" A frequent topic in the paper had been the prowess of Emanuel Worley, "our boy wonder," as Thornton called him in a June 1978 edition. Worley is one of many students Thornton has taught golf to over the last two decades. Thornton still tries and fails annually to qualify for the PGA's Senior U.S. Open (for golfers 50 and older); but he realizes now that the closest he'll come to the tour is if one of his students makes it. And the student with the best chance by far is out there putting now on Dubsdread's second green.
Worley's 40-footer for birdie curls right and stops short of the cup. "Follow through to the hole. Get that right hand in there," he will later recall admonishing himself. His face is inexpressive, and remains so as he misses his three-footer and taps in for a bogey.
He pars number three. His second shot on the par-four fourth hole catches the bunker left of the green. He finds the ball burrowed in the grabby white silica. "This is just what I wanted to avoid," he tells Lindsey, his caddie. You don't often encounter shots like this at Jackson Park: not only is the sand there coarser, but the bunkers are refilled rarely; they're more like craters with a dusting of sand, atop which the ball usually sits nicely. Coming of age as a golfer, Worley didn't have to scuffle with the high-lipped, supple, well-fed bunkers; the lightning-fast greens, with their enigmatic slopes and grains; and the long, unpliant rough of the finer country-club courses. Jackson Park provided its own special problems, for sure: Worley may know better than any of his competitors how to scoop a ball out of a footprint in a bunker and how to putt over divots, but such shots aren't often called for on the courses hosting professional competitions. Golfers reared on a good country-club course learn early the importance of being accurate: the well-placed groves of tall, old trees at these courses punish careless drivers. But Jackson Park spares the rod: most of the trees "are about as tall as you, and spread out" Worley will tell you, and so a golfer can hook or slice his drive radically and still escape with par. So Worley was content, for several years, with knocking the cover off the ball even though "I didn't know where the ball was gonna go." Playing championship courses often in recent years has matured his game; but it's still the subtler shots he needs to work on most, he allows. What his game lacks in sophistication, he tries to compensate for with diligence. "Not taking nothing from the private clubs, but some people that come up on them, they can be like they're getting it all on a silver platter. And they don't work as hard. Coming up on Jackson, it makes you work harder." Besides the three rounds he played here in the last ten days, and his regular practice-tee work those days, he boned up for Dubsdread last week with two rounds at Glenwoodie, in south suburban Glenwood--because the greens there are fast, like those here; a round at South Shore--because the fairways are tight, like many of the fairways here; and hours in practice bunkers, here and at Glenwoodie, using his wedge to hit balls he had squished into the sand.
"Maybe I didn't push those balls down far enough," he is thinking now as he studies his ball in the bunker, only the top half of which is visible. He digs his feet into the sand, closes the face of his wedge, waggles it three times, steadies himself, and hacks at the ball. Sand flies, but the ball doesn't; it barely emerges from its nook, dribbles two feet to the right in the bunker, and stops. Worley stares at the ball and shakes his head. "Well, at least it's sitting up now," he thinks. But the shot remaining is no cinch either: the pin is only 15 feet from the bunker, so he must land the ball just beyond the trap if it's going to stop anywhere near the hole--near enough so he can escape with a bogey. He slashes at the sand again and this time the ball pops out. It alights barely on the green, rolls toward the cup, and misses it by inches, stopping just three feet beyond. The spectators cheer, and Worley smiles shyly and nods. He holes the putt.
But on number five, he putts timidly again, allowing a four-footer to slide right of the cup, and makes another bogey. He's already three over par. At this rate, he might not break 80 this morning. At this rate, he surely won't qualify; and Henry Robinson will have little good to report to his deep-pocketed friends.
These slick Dubsdread greens are intimidating Emanuel, Thornton is thinking. This rankles Thornton, because he's taught Worley to be bold with the putter. ("Let the hole stop the ball--that's what we believe. I don't believe in getting close; get it in the hole--that's from jump street.") Thornton rarely gives Worley advice during a round. "I mainly just encourage him. It's a mistake to start working on someone's game in the middle of a round; he has to block everything else out and just play." But there are exceptions; and now Thornton, like a baseball manager watching his pitcher founder, decides it's time to go to the mound. "Oh, Emanuel!" he calls to Worley as Worley heads toward the sixth tee.
"You gotta be more aggressive on your putts, or they're gonna keep leaking on you," Thornton tells him. "You're trying to guide them in the hole. Forget the break and just hit 'em firmer. Drive 'em straight into that cup. And slow down. You're getting a little too fast on a lot of your shots." Worley just listens and nods. He knows he's been bashful on the green; but it helps to have Thornton remind him, he will say later. As Worley has matured, Thornton's approach in coaching him has evolved: he phrases things more delicately now. "When we get older, we have a mind of our own. There's a lot of things he still needs, but we gotta go at 'em kinda slow. But we communicate well, I guess because we've been together so long. I know what he needs. And he knows I don't tell lies."
Thornton was sitting on a bench near the first tee at Jackson one day 20 years ago when a school bus pulled up. "I was just waiting for one of them little black kids to jump off. And every kid who got off that bus to play golf was white. I said, 'Damn, we don't have any black kids playing golf? I gotta do something about that.'" The Blackstone Rangers ruled the streets around the course then. Thornton and other Jackson Park regulars decided to make the course a haven for neighborhood kids who wanted to stay free of the gang. They paid the kids to caddie (Park District policy prohibits caddies except in tournaments, but Jackson Park personnel looked the other way); they taught those interested the principles of the golf swing; they drove them home at night.
One afternoon Thornton spotted Worley knocking a ball around with his eight iron in the rough of the third hole. This was shortly after Worley had gotten the eight iron. "Do you know how to use that club?" Thornton asked him. "Nope." "Do you want to learn?" "Uh-huh." Thornton showed him the three basic grips. Then he gave him a card with the address of the golf shop he operated at 71st and Jeffery. When Worley visited the shop, he found an indoor practice facility with mats, nets, and sand floors. Worley said he couldn't pay for lessons; Thornton shrugged and showed him how to bend his knees when addressing the ball.
Complicated theory and a bunch of principles don't help anybody learn to play well, Thornton says; in teaching golf, he has always focused on the proper stance and alignment, and kept it simple. "I teach the Sesame Street method. I believe that once you're standing in the right place, everything will start working properly." Once Thornton got Worley standing balanced and square, he mainly let him swing. Unlike other youngsters he taught, Worley needed no encouragement to practice, Thornton says. Worley says he was glad to practice because of the way Thornton taught. "He had lots of patience, and he'd make you laugh. And he was always so positive--he'd say, 'Keep trying, you'll do it. Keep hitting it, it'll happen.'" Thornton convinced Worley to play aggressively. Worley would swing tentatively when he got near a green, and Thornton would groan. "I'm afraid of hitting it over," Worley would say. "Just hit the ball--try to knock the stick out of that cup--go ahead and knock it over," Thornton would tell him. Worley thinks he hits the ball so long today partly because of this extra oomph Thornton put in his swing.
Parents often discouraged their kids from hanging around Thornton's shop or the Jackson Park course. "When you mentioned golf to the parent, he'd jump back ten feet," Thornton says. "He'd say, 'That's a rich man's game.'" But the aunt who raised Worley visited the shop, watched Thornton instructing Worley and her son Paul, and approved.
Worley soon was shooting in the high 70s and trouncing the other kids his age at Jackson. But he wondered whether he was that good or the competition just that bad. "When am I gonna play some white boys?" he asked Thornton one day. So Thornton entered him in a junior tourney at Columbus. That's when Worley, the only black contestant, finished second. Winning a trophy and posing for photos only added to his enthusiasm for golf. Thornton kept entering him in tourneys; Worley usually won or at least finished in the top four. Thornton paid the entry fees, provided the transportation, bought the lunches. "He said, 'Don't worry about the money,'" Worley recalls. "He saw how much I really wanted to play." (Thornton still helps with cash; he paid the $100 entry fee for this U.S. Open qualifier.) When Worley developed a fat corn on one of his feet (because the golf shoes donated to him were too tight), Thornton took him to a clinic to have it shaved. "He's done a lot for me on and off the course," Worley says. "He's been like a father."
Worley and Thornton are hardly carbon copies, though. Thornton keeps his distance from churches. Worley thinks golf is almost entirely a mental challenge; Thornton says, "It's 99 percent physical. You just gotta train your body to do a certain little twist." And while Worley sees humility as an essential virtue, Thornton sometimes acts as if it's practically a vice. "Perhaps the youthful Worley's most fortunate break was coming under the professional tutelage of Hayes Thornton," Hayes Thornton wrote in a 1978 Fairway News story. "The quick brown eyes of this golf pro easily spotted the boy's inborn abilities. Thornton was able to appreciate and then nurture his pupil's determination to excel at golf . . ." ("Yeah, I put all that in there," Thornton says with a laugh. "I figured nobody else was saying all that good stuff, so why shouldn't I?")
"My brothers taught me things that I didn't know," Thornton says, "and they taught me to hand it down to my little brothers, whether they were my blood or not. It's nothing wrong with being a good teacher. I got some ladies I taught, and every time I see 'em they're playing real well, and that gives me a thrill. I give people tips and whatnot, and they try to put money in my pocket, and I say, 'No, just tell 'em where you got it from.' I get a thrill out of Emanuel winning. I get a thrill out of all of 'em winning. I get a thrill when they say, 'Hayes taught me how.'"
Ten minutes after Thornton's meeting with Worley, Worley faces a delicate sidehill three-footer for par on the sixth hole. He strokes it firmly, and the ball falls dead center.
He putts with authority the next few holes as well, with improved results. On number seven he knocks a 40-footer two feet past, then cans the return putt for par. He runs in a sidehill five-footer on number eight for another par.
On nine, a 576-yard par five, Muranyi pulls his third shot into a patch of knee-high weeds left of the green, and Worley helps Muranyi and his caddie look for the ball. Worley emerges from the weeds sneezing and coughing and scratching. He takes the red bath towel that Lindsey has slung over the bag, wipes his glistening eyes with it, and blows his nose into it. "Hey--that's the side my leg rubs up against," Lindsey says. Worley smiles feebly and sneezes again. On the green, amid sniffles, he runs a 25-footer just past, then taps in for his fourth straight par and a 39 for the first nine.
Worley starred on the golf team at South Shore High School. He held a string of low-paying jobs after graduating: attendant at the Jackson Park driving range, basketball coach at the South Shore YMCA, child-care worker at a day-care center. He continued playing golf, but not with the passion of his earlier years. Reaching the tour seemed more and more a childhood fantasy.
In his early 20s, when Worley wasn't working or golfing, you'd be likely to find him on the basketball court just west of the Jackson Park course. A Baptist minister frequently played there too, and after games, Worley and several other players sometimes would repair to the minister's house for the grub and gospel he offered. "We used to love to eat," Worley says, "and he'd say, 'OK--whoever can find this verse can have these two hot dogs, or these cookies and this pop. OK--John 3:16--whoever can find it can read it.' And you're like, 'I got it! I got it!' And then the verse might say something like, 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so whoever shall believe in Him shall not perish'--and it kinda caught some people's attention." It caught Worley's attention; he began poring over the Bible. He hadn't given religion much consideration growing up; now, he found comfort in the idea that God's plan was at work everywhere and always. "It made me feel free from the worries and stress of this world." He was formally "born again" four and a half years ago. He also came to believe he was obliged not to let his dream of the tour slip away. "I understood that God was gonna use me. He was gonna use us all, but he had blessed me with a talent; and I decided to put it to use."
So he resumed playing golf with a fervor. Golf seemed to require of him the same things his faith did: clean living, for example. "You can't be shuckin' and jivin' if you really want to be good. There comes a time when you have to cut the streets loose, the drinking and smoking and all that stuff. You got to be healthy to play this game. You can't be hurting and hit 250 balls a day." This was no major sacrifice for Worley; he had always steered mostly clear of the rough, and gotten his best buzz off sports. Growing up, "I just didn't like no trouble. I did the teenager things--drink, smoke some reefer. But every time we would get a little high, the other guys wanted to sit around, listen to music, and mess with the women--and I just wanted to go out and play basketball or golf. I had energy that had to just go."
He asked the Lord to improve his game, and the Lord responded, Worley says, making his play more consistent. His faith helps him handle the pressure of competition, he says. For key rounds like today's, he carries a small green Bible in a back pocket, reading verses from it during lulls in play. His favorite verse is Colossians 3:2: "Set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth." It helps him keep things in perspective, he says. "Some players--they have to do good. But I know He will supply all my needs. And that relaxes me." Worley has also prayed for a sponsor. "I feel when the time is right, he will touch some hearts."
Worley believes he can bring people to Christ with his golf. If he makes the tour, he'll be in the limelight; he'll be a role model for young people. They'll see how he follows the Lord and some will be persuaded to do likewise, he thinks. Already he's seen evidence of the effect his example can have: people notice him reading his Bible between lessons at the driving range, and inquire about his faith. On a practice tee in Orlando last winter, he and another born-again Christian pro began talking about God with a golfer they had just met, and the man was born again "right there, in a golf cart," Worley says. "He said, 'I feel an emptiness inside of me.' We asked him if he wanted to receive Christ in his life, and he said yes. We said a sinner's prayer with him and he accepted Christ, right there on the practice field."
He is still wheezing and scratching on the tenth tee, but he manages to power a 280-yard drive down the center of the fairway. Krause and Muranyi also hit the fairway, but 25 yards shy of Worley's ball. "Oh, I got that one good," Worley is thinking as he walks to his ball. "I'm really on my game now."
"Ain't that some drive?" Ralph Rochon says with a shake of his head. He's another Worley backer from Jackson Park; the threesome's gallery has grown to 13 now, 12 of them Worley rooters. Worley usually has more than his share of supporters when he competes, most of them black south-side golfers. They pull so hard for Worley "because there are so few of our kind on the tour," Rochon says. "To see him playing on television--it'd be one of the greatest thrills I ever had. I'd be floating on air." When Worley turned 18, Jackson Park regulars passed the hat and bought him a set of high-caliber clubs. To congratulate him for qualifying at Saint Andrews, an organization of black golfers called the "Chicago Executives" took up a collection and gave Worley a golf shirt, pants, shoes, balls, a glove, and $150. Well-wishers hover around him when he shows up at the Jackson Park course or driving range. "He's their hero," Thornton says. "People there have known him since he was a little guy. They expect a lot out of him." They're constantly reminding Worley to work on his game. "Shouldn't you be hitting some balls?" they'll say; and "You gotta stop hanging over here [around Jackson], go get in some tournaments." "I'm doing all these things, but they don't see it," Worley says. "I just listen, be respectful. They want to feel they're contributing something."
Worley hits 200 to 300 balls at Diversey or another range at least five days a week. "Beating balls" he calls this, in the argot of the professional golfer. Beating balls "programs your swing in your memory bank, so you don't have to be guessing when you hit a shot. There's no other way you can get it--it's not gonna happen by luck. Jack Nicklaus, he beat balls and beat balls--I heard this pro held Nicklaus's hair while he hit balls, to keep his head from moving. Ben Hogan--I know he hit a lot of balls, that's how he got good." Other hours each week are devoted to the short game: putting, chipping, blasting from bunkers. He tries to play two or three rounds weekly, but the six or seven lessons he gives a day at Diversey (some a half hour, most an hour), and his own practice-tee work often preclude that. Beating balls is a more efficient form of practice than playing a round, and it's something he can do between lessons. The teaching job at Diversey has indeed been a blessing. Last year he worked in housekeeping at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He'd get off work at 11:30 PM, head straight home and to bed; Kiva would wake him at 5:30 so he could beat balls, chip, and putt before he had to leave for the hospital. "The one that puts in the hard work will be the first to receive a share of the crop," Worley says. After so many hours on the practice tee through the years, beating balls still does not seem a chore, he insists; he still gets a charge out of hitting a golf ball. Only rarely does he burn out. Then he'll take a day or two off "and not even think about golf. I might go snagging for salmon, or try to catch some catfish at Wolf Lake. Or walk around the house [neighborhood], see how the guys are doing, play a little basketball, shoot some free throws. I might rent a movie or--look at a golf tape." He smiles sheepishly. "Just can't get away from it." Ask him what part of his golf regimen he likes least and his brow knits. "What do I like least?" (Long pause.) "What do I like least? I don't know. There isn't anything."
Worley's 40-footer for birdie on number ten misses by inches. He collects his fifth straight par. "Just keep playing for par and the birdies will come," he reminds himself en route to the 11th tee.
Number 11 is a 517-yard par five. There's a soft breeze now, tickling Worley's face on the tee. He steps up to the ball, right foot first, setting the head of his driver behind the teed-up Titleist. This commences the sequence of compulsive movements Worley makes before every long shot, to get comfortable and set the tempo for his swing. He gazes down the fairway as he brings his left foot in line with his right, looks back at the ball, then back down the fairway, back at the ball, back down the fairway, waggles the club behind the ball with each peek, shifts his weight subtly and continually between his feet, his spikes kneading the ground. In his mind's eye, he sees the shot he intends to hit. When he feels on top of his game, as he does at the moment, he sees it vividly: right now he pictures himself swinging the driver effortlessly, sees a towering drive boring through the wind and bounding down the fairway. When the image is as strong as this, he will tell you, the shot almost invariably will be a good one. (Sometimes when he is over the ball, instead of visualizing, he'll catch himself thinking--wondering if he's lined up correctly, if his grip is right--and then he knows he's in trouble.) After three peeks and three waggles, everything stops: his eyes are fixed on the ball, his club head and feet are still. For less than a second. Then he cocks his right knee toward the target and starts the driver backward, winding his shoulders and hips until the club is behind his head; then he uncoils downward and through the ball, with the force of a taut rubber band suddenly released. Whoosh. Click. The product is a drive that is immense even for Worley. Ahhh--there is a jolt of euphoria even before he sees the ball settle down in the heart of the fairway 300 yards yonder; though he's measured by the results of his shots, it's the execution that gives a rush. "You work on the fundamentals, and practice and practice, and when you get over the ball, you know exactly where it's gonna go! It's great when you feel it, and you don't even give it no effort. If you're guessing or hoping, then you need to work a little bit more. But once you find it, man, it's wonderful."
He reaches the green on this par-five hole in two, knocking a four wood onto the front fringe. But he is 85 feet from the hole, and putting along a steep slope. His first effort slides 12 feet right of the cup. Worley strides to his ball unperturbed. "I'm not gonna walk away from this hole with just a par," he is thinking as he squats behind the ball and examines the line for the birdie putt. "Now, follow through with that right hand." He rolls it in dead center, to the cheers of his followers. "Great putt!" Ralph Rochon says breathlessly. "Oh, man, great putt, great putt, great putt! You see him get himself together on that putt? What a great concentrator!"
He's down to two over par. Muranyi is five over, Krause plus seven. Over the six holes since Thornton talked to him, Worley is one under.
After parring 12, he launches another mighty drive on the par-four 13th. "His spirit's working through you, Emanuel," Paula Keith, one of his church supporters, tells Worley as he walks to his ball. "He is," Worley replies without hesitation. But it is as if the devil hears: Worley pulls his next shot into a trap left of the green. Cottonwood seeds float about him like snowflakes as he prepares for the sand shot, and Worley's sneezing resumes. He backs away from his ball a moment and wipes his eyes with his shirtsleeve. The ball looks blurry to him as he stands over it again; his arms feel sapped. He takes too little sand on the shot, knocking the ball to the far end of the green, whence he two-putts. Bogey.
Number 14 is a 197-yard par three. Worley carries a Dubsdread yardage booklet in one of his back pockets, with illustrations of each hole and distances to the green from various landmarks--sprinkler heads, bunkers. During his practice rounds here, Worley scribbled reminders to himself in the booklet. His note on this hole warns him to "keep the ball from the right." Glancing at the booklet, he recalls the high weeds right of the green. But he's still woozy from whatever set off his allergy on the previous hole. The three iron feels like a tire iron as he twists backward with it, he finishes his downswing abruptly, and the ball sails right.
A large searching party--Worley's supporters, his playing partners, the caddies--combs the weeds. Someone finds a ball--but it's a Titleist 3, and Worley is playing a Titleist 4. Another Titleist 3 is discovered. Then a Titleist 4--but the label is red, and Worley's is black. Worley wanders through the weeds, sneezing; his head is swimming and aching. After ten minutes, he heads back to the tee. He has to hit another tee shot; the stroke-and-distance penalty means it is shot number three. "That pollen's gotta clear out of the air," he tells himself on his walk back to the tee. "Gotta hang in there in the meantime." His tee shot heads right again, but less severely, settling down a few yards off the green. He chips past the pin, misses the 20-footer back, and taps in for a triple-bogey six.
He has good reason to pity himself now: the gains produced by his sparkling play over holes 6 through 12 have been rubbed out in a wink; and not so much by a flaw in his game as by spores in the air. Walking off the green, Worley tilts the visor back on his head and marks a scorecard. Then he breaks into a trot to the next tee. "Maybe running a bit will get some of this stuff out of my system," he is thinking.
All athletes experience setbacks; the successful ones are those who rebound best. Worley doesn't let adversity throw him, Kiva says. After his failures--finishing far back in a tournament, failing to qualify for an event--"his face will droop, and he'll be a little quiet, for maybe a day," she says. "But after that, it's back to Emanuel--he'll get right back on up and go at it again, and work on what he thought might have hindered him." Worley's fans crow about his poise--it's exceptional, they say, considering his limited tournament experience. They like to relate what happened last year in the finals of the annual Jackson Park tournament. Worley was two strokes down on the last hole--a 260-yard par four. Some in the gallery were grumbling that Worley had choked. His opponent drove his tee shot onto the edge of the green. Worley selected a two iron and knocked his ball on the green also, closer to the pin. His opponent three-putted; Worley sank his eagle putt to tie. He went on to win the sudden-death play-off. He'd come a long way since that first-tee whiff at Columbus Park.
When many other top golfers--even some pros--walk off the green, it's easy to tell whether they just bogeyed or birdied. Worley almost always looks like he parred. "You know how a guy is on the first hole, he's pumped up, he's happy, hits his tee ball, boom, 280? And then he gets double bogey. Now he's on the second hole--he's like, 'man'--all down and everything--and he just blows up." Better to maintain an equilibrium, he says: don't get too high when things go well; and after a bad hole, forget it and go on. "If you keep your composure, don't try to force anything, you'll get your score back down eventually."
So Worley is not panicking now, not even after pushing his drive on the par-five 15th into the woods on the right. The wayward drive, he knows, was not due to a loss of composure but to the sluggishness still plaguing his limbs on the tee. The sneezing begins to abate as he walks to his ball, though, and his head no longer throbs. He could try to get home in two with a perilous slice around the trees with a wood; that could set up a birdie or even an eagle (but more likely a bogey or worse). He chooses instead to lay up safely in front of the green with a five iron. Then, from 60 yards out, he pitches to within five feet of the cup, and runs the birdie putt home. He has rallied like a champion.
He is the long hitter off the tee again on number 16. While he waits for Krause and Muranyi to hit their second shots, he pulls the green Bible from his back pocket and reads Colossians 3:2 to himself, and then to Lindsey, who sometimes attends church with him. Muranyi puts his second shot on, but Krause knocks his into a tree right of the green--thwack. "Ohh--don't guide it," Krause says disgustedly. Worley's approach shot settles down on the green 45 feet from the pin. His bid for his second straight birdie rims the cup and spins out. The gallery groans. "Set your mind on things above . . ." Worley reminds himself.
On 17, Worley rolls a 40-footer for birdie three feet past, leaving a testy sidehill putt back. He slips it in. Thornton, watching this putt from the edge of the green, wipes his forehead with his hand and sighs. "Phew. That's why I don't like to hang too close. It grips me at times."
The final hole at Dubsdread is formidable: a 439-yard par four, with an ample pond protecting the green on the left and two traps guarding it on the right. Worley, still sniffling, unleashes another monster drive, which comes to rest just off the fairway on the left. He uses a pitching wedge from 130 yards out, and sends the ball flying straight at the pin. The shouts of the dozen spectators around the 18th green tell him he's put the ball tight. The fans applaud as he walks up onto the green; he acknowledges them with a grin and a quick tug on his visor. Then he almost blows the two-foot putt: he doesn't follow through, and the ball twists around the rim before falling. "Hey, that one came in from the garage, Emanuel!" Henry Robinson calls out, amid the gallery's applause. "OK--I got away with it," Worley says to himself as he scoops the ball from the hole. The birdie gives him a 37 on the back nine, and a plus-four 76 for the first round.
Emanuel met Kiva--how else?--through golf. Kiva was hitting balls at the Jackson Park driving range one day four years ago, taking tips from her stepfather, a cashier and instructor there. Her stepfather spotted Worley and asked him to help Kiva correct her slice; Worley got her to change her grip. Some months later, when Kiva and Emanuel both happened to be at the range again, Kiva's stepfather sent them out to pick up some barbecued ribs for him. Soon they were dating.
Friends discouraged them from getting married. Kiva's friends told her she'd never see Emanuel, because he'd always be on a course or a practice tee; Emanuel's friends told him a wife would undoubtedly try to dissuade him from his goal. "But when you love someone, you don't care," Kiva says. They were married three years ago. The predictions of Kiva's friends have been more on the mark: between his teaching, practice, and play, and her work as a receptionist at Northwestern Memorial, they spend few waking moments together during the week, and his golf interferes with their weekends, too. "I'm used to it now," Kiva says. "Golf is his life, and that's something I just have to accept. This is everything to him. This is his dream."
What of her dreams? "I want so much for Emanuel's dream to come true, I don't even worry about mine," she says. "I would like a house one day--not six bedrooms, but just a nice little cozy house, two kids, and a dog. We aren't the type of people who like to keep up with the Joneses--we're just plain, ordinary people." They're living now in Kiva's grandparents' house, in two and a half rooms upstairs. That apartment will suffice until the baby they're expecting is walking, Kiva says. "It gets a little scary, because after the summer is over, he won't have a job. And I definitely cannot support us on my salary. That makes me just a little nervous. So we're hoping someone will take him under their wing [as a sponsor] and give him a chance."
When Emanuel traveled to Florida last winter, Kiva stayed in Chicago and continued her junior-college training in interpreting for the hearing-impaired. (She has a bachelor's degree in counseling from Northern Illinois.) If Emanuel can get a sponsor and go to Florida this winter, he will come back to Chicago when Kiva is ready to deliver; then he, Kiva, and the baby will return to Florida together. Having come up without a father, Emanuel is determined to be an active dad right from the start. He doesn't think his quest will preclude that; he imagines his family traveling with him on the tour, at least while the child is a baby.
Emanuel led Kiva back to Jesus: she was born again shortly after the two began going together. He has not converted her to the church of golf, though: she plays only sporadically and not well, she says.
She would be at Dubsdread right now, instead of at home, if she didn't have to work later. These are anxious hours for her, wondering how Emanuel is doing. But it's not much better when she's able to follow Emanuel during a tournament or qualifying round; she worries then about disturbing him as well as about how he is playing. "I think I ask dumb questions, and this is a time to be serious. So I'll drop behind him so he can really concentrate. But then sometimes he'll just grab me and hug me and tell me to come on. We'll quote verses on the way, just to keep his mind focused on the Lord, and not so much on the competition that's in the air. But I get more nervous than him--he has to tell me to relax. When it comes to those putts--oh, those putts, they're hard to watch. Sometimes I don't want people to even know I'm with him, because then they start talking to me, and I get even more nervous."
On days when Emanuel is competing and Kiva is working, he'll call her when he's done and let her know how things went. But he is not always direct. "So how you doing?" he asked her on the phone after he had qualified at Saint Andrews. "How are things at work?" "What do you mean, how are things at work?" Kiva responded. "Did you qualify?" "Qualify? Oh--oh, yeah, I qualified." "I could almost see his smile over the phone," Kiva says.
"If I can shoot this front nine in par or one under I'll be in good shape," Worley is thinking on the first tee, while he waits to hit his initial drive of the afternoon. He doesn't actually know where his 76 places him halfway through the day, and doesn't care to. When he sat at the officials' table reviewing his scorecard after holing out on 18, he didn't so much as glance up at the scoreboard behind the table; he prefers keeping his mind on his own game. The scoreboard showed that the early finishers hadn't burned up the course: there was a 72, a 75, and one other 76 among the seven scores posted. Muranyi wound up with a 79 and Krause with an 82, so Worley was tied for third with ten scores in. Worley's guess, then, is on the mark: he'll have to shoot better this afternoon, but he's still in contention for Oak Hill.
Worley devoted the 20 minutes between rounds to reinvigorating himself. He took an Alka-Seltzer and an aspirin to combat the lingering effects of his allergy, switched into new socks, bought by Thornton at the pro shop, and a fresh pair of spikes, loaned by Blockoms, who had just arrived. (The grass on the early holes had been damper than Worley had expected, and his shoes had leaked.) He downed a large orange pop and a hot dog. His head clear, his stomach settled, his feet dry, he winds up now and pokes his tee shot straight and far. Walking down the fairway, he almost revels in how good he feels again. He is so loose and confident as he steps up to his ball that, for the first time today, he forgets his game plan. Instead of aiming for the fat of the green, he decides to shoot straight for the pin on the right side, and his ball fades into a trap on the right.
"Oh boy--here we go again," he thinks as he approaches the trap and finds his ball burrowed deep in the sand once more. He resolves to get the ball out of the bunker on his first shot at all costs, and so knocks it five feet over the green. His chip back pulls up four feet short, and he misses the putt. Had he aimed for the middle of the green on his second shot, a par or birdie was likely. Instead, he starts his afternoon with a double bogey.
On the par-three second hole, he makes the same mistake: he goes for the pin, tucked on the right side, his ball fades right, helped by a crosswind, and it catches a bunker. On the tee, Worley shows his irritation for the first time today: he puts a hand on his hip and glares out in the direction of his shot. "You're playing stupid," he tells himself. "Come on, Emanuel--you know how to do it. And you're gonna stand here and give it away--come on." He makes a bogey. A putt for birdie by Muranyi stops short despite Muranyi's coaxing--"Get up, get up, get up, goddammit." Muranyi and Krause seem to be mostly even-tempered types. But golf is a frustrating game, and from time to time during the day their aggravation bubbles over, in the form of a mild curse or a club slammed back into its bag. The glare and the hand on hip, though, is the most Worley ever shows. Kiva can't recall ever seeing her husband get really angry, on or off the course. "He doesn't get angry--he just gets very quiet." Emanuel allows that though he never swore much, he used to reprimand his clubs for bad shots occasionally--"just banged 'em on the ground like everybody else does." He plays much better, he thinks, now that he keeps the lid on. "When you get angry because you messed up a hole, then you get on the next tee and try to bust one about 350 with that anger. Wind up hitting it out of bounds. Now you're screwed up more." On the golf course, Worley says, "feelings just get in the way."
Off the course, too, feelings can cause problems, Worley believes. "The Bible does say 'Guard your heart.' You should love, but you don't want to be too tender." Worley was too tender as a youth, he says--a little too sensitive to the barbs aimed at his passion for golf, a talent for which doesn't win a black kid much adulation from peers. "Why you wan' play a white man's game?" they'd say; and "Lookit--here come black Jack Nicklaus." When he was 16, "I was going with a girl, and she and her friends was like, 'Man, you like golf? Golf is a sissy sport.' I played so much golf, and it was just me and my golf. And then I didn't have a girlfriend no more. So I had my golf clubs to be my girlfriend. And guys made jokes, they'd say, 'I'll bet you went to sleep with your putter.' When you get hurt, you kinda shut up a little bit. And it carries over as you get older--you don't really trust many people." His religious rebirth has opened him up again, he says. "I don't think I could get hurt anymore, because God is first in my life now."
On the third tee, Worley reminds himself to play patiently and to follow his game plan. "OK--you're three over par--but you got a lot of holes left to get it back," he tells himself. He pulls his drive into the shade of a weeping willow on the left. But his next shot is spectacular: a 130-yard pitching wedge out of the tall grass, over trees, beyond bunkers, to within six feet of the pin. He misses the putt and settles for par.
He finds yet another bunker with his second shot on the par-four fourth. The ball is sitting up this time, though. Before Worley steps into the trap, Julius Richardson has a word with him. Richardson, a short, middle-aged black man, is a golf instructor at the Jackson Park range who has tutored Worley in recent weeks on his sand play. Watching Worley in the bunkers today, he thinks he has detected a flaw. "Bring that club up a little higher," he tells Worley softly. "You're swinging too flat." Worley nods. He gets more advice than he needs during a round like this. When he struggles for a hole or two, people in the gallery--not all of them par shooters--don't hesitate to contribute suggestions: "You gotta close that club face." "You're lifting up too quick." Worley just listens and says thank you. Richardson's advice, though, like Thornton's, is in a different class. Worley consciously tries to take the club back more vertically now, and pitches to within 18 inches to save par. Richardson is tickled. "Didn't he pick it up good that time? Oh, that was beautiful," he tells the spectator next to him.
On number five, Worley hurries his downswing and hits his worst drive of the day: the ball shoots off to the right on a low line. "Turn those shoulders!" he lectures himself. Compared with the bliss a good shot brings, a bad one feels "like you just threw something in the garbage." "Patience," he reminds himself as he walks to his ball. "You know what you did wrong, and you know what you have to do to correct it. Now, just get this one back in position for a shot to the green." He whacks a four iron through the trees and into the fairway, 60 yards from the green on the par-five hole. He pitches to within five feet and makes the birdie putt. His flock rejoices. He's back down to two over for this round, six over for the day. Emanuel's on a roll, his fans tell each other, and he's still got a chance.
Worley realized, entering today's competition, that the odds were strongly against his qualifying: 30 of today's 34 contestants, after all, will not be heading to Oak Hill. "I think I'm gonna make it," he has said earlier, "but if I don't, at least I've gone another step. Everything's not gonna fall in your lap right away. At least with me making it this far, people recognize that I've got talent."
He pars number six, but his drive on number seven ends up in trees, and he makes bogey. He pars eight, but a wayward drive on nine leads to another bogey. That gives him a 40 on the front nine. He's eight over for the day. If he's ever going to play in the U.S. Open, he now realizes, it won't be this year.
The number-one money winner on the tour last year--Curtis Strange--made $1,147,644. Number 50 brought home $216,768; number 100, $114,180; number 150, $47,108. Worley has never made more than $15,000 in a year. When he muses about what he would do with his winnings if he made the tour, owning fine cars and taking splendid vacations do not come to mind. Buying scores of Bibles for distribution by his church does. So does repaying Thornton for all his help. "I'd ask him, 'Where do you want to live? Do you want your own golf shop?'" (Thornton had to close his shop in '79 for financial reasons.) Worley also envisions starting a junior program at Jackson Park: he'd equip the course with 100 beginner sets, and provide for free lessons and play. When he wasn't on the road competing, he'd give lessons himself. He'd like poor kids in the Jackson Park neighborhood to have the chance to play he got. "I'm gonna set up something definitely--no story, but the truth, because what I got outta there--I got guys encouraging me--I got good stuff from outta there." He'd never forget his origins, he says. "Rich or no rich, I wanna stay the same."
If he doesn't make the tour by age 34, he'll give it up. He'd be disappointed, but not despondent the rest of his days, he says; he'd just accept it as the Lord's desire. He could see himself happily employed as an instructor at a YMCA; he's always liked working with kids. He'd have more time to spend on church activities. Some of those who try for the tour and fail end up, like Muranyi and Krause, as teaching professionals at country clubs. Worley would love such a job, "but how many black club pros do you see?" Though he wouldn't be hitting 250 balls a day, he'd make sure his game didn't get too rusty; and when he turned 50, "Who knows?" he says with an impish grin. "Maybe I'd make the senior tour."
On the tenth tee, Worley decides to make an adjustment: he positions the ball a couple of inches farther back in his stance. He hopes this will stop him from pushing his drives right, as he has done on two of the last three holes. But standing over the ball now, waggling his driver, he is questioning the wisdom of this adjustment. Guessing and hoping over the ball, instead of visualizing. He knocks the drive far right, into the woods again. "You should know better," he scolds himself as he walks toward his ball. "You don't go changing things in the middle of a round. Worst time there is to go switching things." He's stymied by an oak tree; another bogey.
It's nearing 4 PM. The Worley faithful have not departed, though they, too, must realize their hero won't prevail today. They number 15 now. Thornton has persevered, though he walks somewhat gingerly. Thomas and Keith continue to pray silently for their Christian brother in the rough. Robinson is hoping Worley can at least finish strongly, so he won't scare away those potential sponsors. He has bogeyed three of the last four holes, and needs badly to rally. Twenty-eight holes and seven and a half hours into the day, though, rallying isn't easy. But on the par-five 11th hole, Worley responds again: he belts a 290-yard drive down the middle, reaches the front of the green with a four iron, and two-putts for a birdie.
He pars 12. On the 13th tee, he looks relaxed and confident once more. He winds and releases--smoothly, unhurriedly--ahhh. "Hallelujah," Paula Keith says, following the flight of the ball from the edge of the tee. "God," Krause says. "When I grow up, I wanna hit the ball just as long as you do." It's Worley's longest drive of the day--300-plus yards, down the middle. "I didn't realize I hit it this far," Worley says to himself as he walks down the fairway and sees his ball sitting 35 yards beyond Krause's and Muranyi's. "I'm impressed."
Worley is almost always the long hitter in his group, often by plenty, even when he's playing with pros or top amateurs. His playing partners "always tease me about my drives," he says. "They're like, 'Oh, my, oh, man, hit mine.' I think it's kind of funny--these guys are stretching out of their shoes and pulling their hair trying to hit it--and I'm just swinging smoothly." His powerful hands help. They weren't so strong when he started playing golf, "but as I continued to hit balls and hit balls and hit balls, my hands got like Godzilla's." Weight training at a YMCA the last few years has further developed his wrists, as well as his forearms, shoulders, and legs. The shoulders are especially important, he says: "It's the shoulder turn that gets you the distance." The numerous golf books and magazines he's read convinced him of this, as well as the videotapes he's studied for hours of Nicklaus and other greats. At Diversey, Worley likes to put a towel under his students' arms and get them used to swinging without letting the towel drop. This ensures that the upper arms don't stray far from the body, and that the student is swinging his shoulders, not just his hands and arms.
Worley enjoys teaching golf. Like his teacher, Hayes Thornton, he tries not to lecture too much; he mainly wants his students to hit a lot of balls and enjoy themselves. "He's always very positive, laughing and smiling," Robinson says. "I've never heard him say anything negative about a person's game. You might say, 'You know, so-and-so, he can't play at all.' But Emanuel will say, 'Well, he's just not doing this certain thing, and that can be corrected.'" Worley does sometimes forget that his students aren't as accustomed to beating balls as he is, Robinson says. "One time he had me hit 300 balls. That's a walk in the park for him, but my hands felt like someone had beat 'em with a hammer."
After his mammoth drive, Worley uses a pitching wedge for his second shot on the 446-yard 13th. He puts the ball six feet from the flag.
The line of the birdie putt confuses him. From behind the ball, the putt looks straight; from the other side of the hole, it looks like it might slide slightly right. Krause's and Muranyi's caddies have been helping their players line up putts periodically today. Reading greens is an art, and even pros appreciate a second opinion at times, as long as it's expert. But Lindsey, 22, a cashier at the Park District's Robert Black course, is a golf novice: he began playing last year, and he first caddied two weeks ago (for Worley at Saint Andrews). Worley decides on his own to play the putt straight, and it breaks right just before the hole. He settles for par.
Whatever set off his allergy this morning has given him a pass this afternoon. And this time on the par-three 14th--site of his triple bogey--he drops his tee shot on the green, seven feet from the pin, and narrowly misses birdie.
"This is Emanuel's graduation from grade school to high school," says a middle-aged white man in a blue corduroy Evanston Golf Club cap. He is walking down the 15th fairway while Worley heads to his ball in the right rough. He's known Worley five years; he met him in a golf outing at Columbus Park. "He's got to get a little further improved, then go on to the universities. If you have that head of desire like Emanuel, you can do it--but you also gotta have the seasoning. If he doesn't make it, he'll be all right, 'cause he tried. You ain't worth a damn if you don't try.
"Emanuel's not like all these other blacks," he goes on. "Most of 'em are just a lot of mouth. When they play, you can hear 'em all over the course. Emanuel's different--he behaves himself." This man in the blue corduroy cap has aided Worley occasionally--he loaned him a car for his trip to Florida last winter--and so Worley tolerates his racist prattle. "When he goes too far, then I put my foot down--tell him, 'OK, that's enough,'" Worley says. Moving closer to the tour and farther from Jackson Park means being more and more in the company of, and increasingly dependent on, whites. Worley frequently will be the only black, or one of the few, in the field, playing at courses in fashionably fair-skinned neighborhoods. He hasn't been the target of much overt racism, he says, and when he has been--such as at a golf shop in Florida last winter, where he was treated more like a shoplifter than a customer--he just tries to ignore it. "If someone else is prejudiced, that's in them. I don't have to receive it. I'm just gonna say, 'You have a nice day,' and walk away."
On the green in three on the par-five 15th, Worley has another birdie opportunity, this one from ten feet. "I think he's gonna make this one," Julius Richardson whispers to the man in the blue cap. "It's doable," the man whispers back. "One time, Emanuel, knock it in the hole," Muranyi says. Worley aims two feet left of the cup and strokes the ball. It turns slowly, seems about to die, then slides right and gains speed, and disappears. "He did it, he did it, he did it!" the man in the blue cap whoops. "What'd I tell you, what'd I tell you?" Richardson chimes in. Worley drops his poker face momentarily, and beams.
"He could have a chance [to become a tour-caliber player] if he plays in enough tournaments," Mark Krause will say later in evaluating Worley. "He needs to keep playing in harder and harder competitions--keep getting out of what I call your 'comfort zone.' At times on Dubsdread, he looked to me like he was out of his comfort zone. But he showed good composure most of the time--especially after that triple bogey. His game is awesomely long--he just flat outright busts the ball. He'd be long for a tour player. But there's tons of people who can bust the ball, but only a few who can handle tournament pressure. There's no way to tell how he'll be at that." Mike Muranyi will agree: "He's a strong kid--he hits it a long way. The question is how he will do on the mental aspect of the game. You can't predict who's going to be good at that."
Worley pars 16 and bogeys 17. On 18, he belts a final prodigious drive. "You know, when I was young I used to hit it that far," Krause says. Worley drops a gorgeous seven-iron shot 11 feet from the pin. "We're gonna take this hole home with us!" Robinson shouts, recalling Worley's birdie on 18 this morning. "That'll cost $2.1 million," a Cog Hill regular says. Worley responds to the cheers of the crowd uncharacteristically, waving a fist jubilantly in the air. He's not tired in the least; his game feels more in sync now than it has all day. "Wish we were playing another 18," he tells himself. He leaves the birdie putt three inches short.
The par on 18 gives Worley a 36 on the back nine--his best nine of the day--another 76, and a 36-hole total of 152. Muranyi also shot 76 in the afternoon, for 155; Krause came in with an 83, for 165. Qualifying, as it turned out, required a one-over-par 145. Worley's score placed him 17th among the 34 in the field.
He watched the U.S. Open on TV. The scores of all the contestants rolled across the screen near the end of play on the final day. "Kiva, my name could have been up there," he said wistfully. "Your name is up there," Kiva consoled him. "I see it right now, 'Emanuel Worley.'"
The following day he tried to qualify for the Illinois Open, the most prominent annual competition for Illinois pros. There were 175 golfers competing for 39 spots, at the Deerpath Golf Course in Lake Forest. Worley shot a three-under 67 to tie with an Itasca pro for medalist (best score).
He didn't do so well, though, in the three-day tournament itself; he shot 78 and 77 the first two days, and was cut when the field was pared from 150 to 50 for the final day.
In late June, he failed to qualify for the Western Open by several shots. He played much better when he tried to win a spot in the Greater Milwaukee Open in August: his two-under-par 70 placed him fifth in a field of 100, but there were only four open berths.
He's still without a sponsor, and so he's decided to pass up the PGA tour qualifying tournaments this fall. He expects to try next year. He still plans to go to Florida this winter to play in some mini-tournaments--if he can get some backing. Henry Robinson says his contacts still haven't decided whether to sponsor Worley. "Everybody's talking," he says, "but nobody's put anything concrete together."
Worley "sang praises" with Lindsey during the car ride home from Deerpath after his medalist round, but he did not otherwise celebrate. When he called Kiva at work to tell her how he had fared, he was typically coy: "So how's your day been?" "Emanuel, come on--what happened?" "What happened? Oh--oh yeah, I shot a 67." He ate no steak that night, just burgers at Wendy's. He rose early the next morning and headed over to Diversey; there were lessons to give and balls to beat. "When I make it to the tour, then I can afford to be a little proud," he said that day. "Then I'll celebrate, and shed a few tears. But not now. My work is not yet done."
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Mike Tappin.