|Don Sheelen - New York Times|
Pebble Beach? No but clients seem to love it.
LEAD: The ad firm of Messner, Vetere, Berger, Carey is one of Madison Avenue's hot new agencies, but the fact is the principals can't play golf. If you don't think that hurts, you should have been around recently when they were wooing a new client, an auto importer.
The ad firm of Messner, Vetere, Berger, Carey is one of Madison Avenue's hot new agencies, but the fact is the principals can't play golf. If you don't think that hurts, you should have been around recently when they were wooing a new client, an auto importer.
''We'll talk it over when I play golf with you,'' said the president of the car concern, after watching a glitzy show-and-tell. The agency principals told the president everybody was busy for the foreseeable future.
Naturally, the agency lost the account. Bob Schmetterer, president and partner, vowed that that would never happen again. ''It's a tough, competitive, awful business,'' he snarled. ''If we're not golfing with the clients, someone else will be.'' Thus was born the Turtle Cove Miniature Golf Pro-Am, sponsored by the agency and held Thursday on a truly dilapidated course in the Bronx's Pelham Park. One didn't need to read the specially printed T-shirts to know where one wasn't. ''What'd you expect, Pebble Beach?'' they read.
The greens - composed of threadbare carpeting - are pockmarked with cigarette burns. Graffiti are everywhere. Water holes don't have water because garbage would rot in them, and on Turtle Cove's signature hole -No. 4, where you roll the ball under a turtle -the reptile's head is missing. Explosions from the Police Department's adjoining bomb disposal range tend to throw off golfers' strokes.
All putt-putters were asked to sign a contract attesting to a complete lack of hand-to-eye motor skills and poise under pressure -making them unfit for any sport save pygmy golf. That hardly diminished their competitiveness. There was Don
Sheelen, president of the Regina Company, a vacuum cleaner maker. ''There's a lot of stress when you step up to the tee - a pressure to perform,'' he said. ''Hey, need a vacuum? I can probably get you a deal.''
John LeSauvage, kingpin at Schrafft's Ice Cream Company, stared longingly at the big trophy - at four feet, big enough to be in questionable taste on Donald Trump's yacht. ''I've had my eye on that ever since I pulled into the lot,'' he said. ''I'm going for it.''
Then there was Dave Long, ad director for Life magazine. He brought two clubs of his own, a ''power putter'' for longer shots and an ''accuracy putter'' for those less than eight feet. He brought his own balls, which he said had been X-rayed at New York Hospital to ascertain that they were perfectly round. He brought his own cleatless executive miniature-golf shoes - ''the best, of course.''
Most of all, Mr. Long brought a truly obnoxious attitude. ''We're not here to win this,'' he said of the Life team. ''We're here to humiliate everybody else.''
Clearly, the day's disappointment was the absence of Vice President Bush, whose campaign advertising is one of the agency's accounts. One partner, asking anonymity, said his absence may prove a huge mistake. ''He could not have been a wimp in this viciously cutthroat situation - no question,'' he said. ''And he could also have gotten his obligatory visit to the Bronx out of the way early in the campaign.''
Midget golf has come far since 1916, when James Barber, a North Carolina businessman, built the first course in his backyard. He called it ''Thistle Dhu,'' meaning ''this will do.''
By the 1930's, there were 25,000 courses, and Mary Pickford, ''America's Sweetheart,'' owned a chain. On the tops of Manhattan buildings alone, there were more than 150 courses.
Then, people lost interest and the game took a long slide, with a slight upsurge in the 1950's when courses were jazzed up with complicated moving obstacles. Today, there are 1,400 left and just three in New York City: one each in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, according to Turtle Cove's manager.
What is inescapable is how much fun it all can be, if Thursday was any indication. There were the fierce debates about how to play around ''the locomotive killer,'' the dread hole No. 9 where the obstacle is a toy train. There was Barry Vetere, a partner in the agency, holding a video camera to record his own tee shot - while also narrating the proceedings and scoring a hole-in-one. And there were beverages befitting 90-plus heat and shamefully blown opportunities.
Suddenly, as quickly as it began, the tournament was over. Mr. Long limped away with a disappointing 47 and a forced grin. Mr. Sheelen, with a 42, picked up the winner's trophy, about eight inches tall. In a paradoxical twist, Rip O'Dell of Life, with the day's high score of 55, won the monster cup and kissed it madly.
More to the point, agency executives estimated billings had increased by 15 to 20 percent during the course of the match. And that was before martinis at the 19th hole.
You can contact Don Sheelen at: email@example.com
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