SOMEWHERE AT SEA -- The gift was wrapped in anonymous brown paper and closed at the ends with yellow duct tape.
Billy Casper stood at the door of our stateroom as though he might be presenting the most precious offering of his life. And, perhaps in truth, he was.
"This is it," he said in his quiet baritone, "This is my life."
Carefully, afraid to do harm, I nudged the tape until one end was open. Inside was a manuscript that looked as if it had been printed on a home machine. There were copies of photographs, a mockup of the opening page, and underneath the spilling of a great man's guts.
It will be called, "Billy Casper: The Big Three and Me," and that, as much as anything, sets the tone for the book that he hopes will come out before the first of the year.
We have worked adventures for Crystal Cruises for years, doing lectures, hosting golf excursions, sharing our lives and our families. I have always, from the very beginning, sensed an underlying bitterness that seems to go against everything he has stood for over the years. Of all people to be acerbic.
But as he ventures into the latter stages of a wonderful life (he is 80 now), he wants to set his record straight. Too many people over the decades have wondered why he has been dealt such a quiet set of hands while that "Big Three" has grown larger, and perhaps he finally wonders, too.
The numbers give it resonance. Between 1964 and 1970, he won 27 times, two more than Jack Nicklaus and six more than Arnold Palmer and Gary Player combined. Player of the Year, Vardon Trophy, Ryder Cup, 51 victories (seventh all-time) and yet it has indeed always been The Big Three and Me.
My sense is that if he had wanted to nudge Player aside (and frankly that would have made the only sense), he could have become one of the great trio. But while the others built their empires, he quietly won and went home to Utah, to build his family instead. It was his choice, I'm thinking.
The book will both bear that out and build a case for inclusion, something that will only matter to him and his great brood in the history yet to be written.
He is a picture of dichotomy. No man I've ever known with his kind of credentials has ever been more eager to hug and be hugged, to give until it runs out. To travel with him is to walk the world with the Dalai Lama of Golf.
And yet there is a fierce pride burning within him that almost embarrasses him at times. You can read it on his peaceful face. Ask him about his career and he will spend days quietly delivering chapter and verse, numbers and on what hole they came.
You can, in the words of Casey Stengel, look it up.
Once the brown paper wrapping is shed and the life of, well, let's just say one of the Big Four, is revealed.