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1995 / 77th PGA RIVIERA : His Scores Look Good : Jack Sneiderman, the Michelangelo of the Media Tent, Stays on Top of the Leader Board

August 11, 1995|GENE WOJCIECHOWSKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The amazing Jack Sneiderman, an obscure 80-year-old originally out of Pleasant Valley Country Club in Sutton, Mass., was all over the PGA Championship leader board Thursday before fading out of sight in the early evening.

Despite the up-and-down day, Sneiderman, who turned pro about four decades ago, is expected to make the cut--he always does--and receive about $1,500 and expense money for his four-round appearance at Riviera. Then it's on to a senior tournament in New York, followed by a trip next month to the Ryder Cup and, later, an appearance in Hawaii.

Busy schedule, but then again, Sneiderman has a special gift.

"There are a number of people who do what I do," he said before the start of the tournament, "but what makes [my work] more interesting is that I put cartoons up and I dress it up and do some artwork."

Cartoons, artwork . . . What?

Sneiderman, scoreboard overseer and illustrator of the PGA stars, wouldn't know where the first tee at Riviera was if Ben Hogan himself pointed it out. He thinks George C. Thomas starred in "Patton," rather than designed Riviera's timeless layout.

But put a refillable ink marker in his right hand and Sneiderman has few peers. Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel on his back. Sneiderman does the PGA Championship scoreboard while standing on milk baskets. Masters both, except that Michelangelo didn't have an endorsement deal with a major clothing manufacturer. Sneiderman and his wife do.

"I always knew I had a little talent," said Sneiderman, who has no formal art training, "but I never developed it."

Sneiderman will spend his days and part of his nights in the windowless media tent, where he'll watch the PGA Championship unfold literally by the numbers. He arrived here Tuesday. By Wednesday, he had painstakingly printed the names of each of the 150 players in the field on oversized PGA of America-issued scorecard sheets. By Thursday, the Sneidermans and tournament volunteers were tending to the scoreboard as if it were a war games map.

Sneiderman also added his usual touches to the scoreboard. On top is a water color/colored pencil portrait he did of Nick Price, the defending PGA champion. So impressed was Price with the work, he recently commissioned Sneiderman to do a separate portrait, complete with a miniature leader board from his 1994 victory at Southern Hills.

There are also assorted cartoon characters and room for special achievements (holes in one, eagles, memorable rounds). Everything is as neat and organized as a Marine's boot camp foot locker.

By his estimates, Sneiderman has done about 1,500 scoreboards. His first was in 1962, when he volunteered to work during the now-defunct Lady Carling tournament at Pleasant Valley, where he owned a house. In 1965, he turned pro, cashing his first check after working at the also now-extinct Carling World tournament.

"I'm not really a golf watcher," he said. "I used to play a lot. In fact, when I really worked for a living, I played golf every day. Now that I work in golf, I hardly play at all."

Back in 1982, Sneiderman was in charge of the media tent scoreboard at the Texas Open in San Antonio. A widower, Sneiderman found himself confronted by a volunteer who had been told by officials to "Go see that old geezer on the scoreboard." The volunteer did what she was told.

It was Skeeter. They were married shortly thereafter.

Now they travel from tournament to tournament. They don't do the British Open or the U.S. Open, but you can almost always find them at the PGA Championship and several other events on the PGA Tour and Senior PGA Tour.

The last three years have been tough on Sneiderman. He had some heart problems and then caught pneumonia during a trip to Scotland. There were rumors that he was through working the scoreboards.

But Sneiderman is fine now, as evidenced by his black leather portfolio full of suitable-for-framing portraits of players. He pulls out the one of Price, then one of Jack Nicklaus, which was commissioned by the Baltusrol Golf Club. He even has been commissioned to do a portrait of a middle-aged woman who recently broke 100 for the first time.

There's no word on whether this is Sneiderman's last loop on the tour. He has talked about working exclusively on his portraits but hasn't made up his mind.

Just in case he does call it quits, someone might want to commission a photographer to capture Sneiderman on one of those milk baskets. After more than 30 years of service, it seems only fitting that he deserves something suitable for framing.

It could be the PGA's special gift.

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