In his odyssey that takes him to the country's best golf courses, Bobby Grich finally may have found the entree to the most hallowed of all, Augusta National, site of The Masters.
The former Orioles second baseman was playing in a tournament to benefit children's cancer research near Washington Monday when he ran into Tony Whittlesey, an assistant Maryland football coach. Whittlesey's father was a longtime golf writer.
"Tony knows a guy who has a friend who's a member of Augusta National," Grich said. "I gave Tony all my phone numbers."
Grich was at Memorial Stadium last night to be hailed on an anniversary of sorts. It was exactly 17 years ago he became the first Oriole to hit three home runs in a home game.
"Our wedding anniversary was the next day, so when I went home that night I said the home runs were for her," Grich said. "That got me out of buying a present."
Grich's principal pursuit since his 17-year baseball career ended in 1986 has been golf. He invested his baseball earnings wisely, giving him the time and resources to press toward his goal of playing the country's 100 best courses as decreed by Golf Digest.
To date, he has played 37, most recently Shinnecock Hills on Long Island last Friday. A 3-handicap golfer, he ballooned to an 83. The day before, at National Golf Links, also on Long Island and also in the top 100, he shot a 79.
Golf Digest's top 100 ratings are based on condition, tradition, difficulty and beauty. Grich, 42, has had the urge to play great courses since he was 15.
"It's a thrill to watch the pros and then play on the same courses and try the same shots," Grich said. "It's not often a fan can put himself on the same course and under the same conditions as the pros."
Next on his schedule is Grand Cypress in Florida, where a promoter is staging a tournament for football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey players.
His favorite so far is Cypress Point in California, which he has played three times. A close second on his list is Golf Digest's No. 1, Pine Valley in New Jersey.
"Some of these courses are private and it's a challenge to get on them," Grich said. "Being an ex- ballplayer opens doors. People take me out to dinner and I tell stories. They ask what Brooks Robinson is really like. It's behind-the-scenes stuff from a guy who's been there."
Grich played for the Orioles from 1970 to '76, tying a major-league record in 1973 by committing only five errors. He went from the Orioles to the California Angels, finishing his career with a .266 average and 224 home runs, including 30 in 1979.
Grich points out he was "somewhat sensible" in investing his money and says California real estate, in particular, "has been good to me."
While that left ample time for golf, Grich realized he had "done nothing constructive the last 4 1/2 years." So he took a public relations job with Alex Foods, a Mexican food manufacturer owned by a friend.
Grich, who lives in Long Beach, takes prospective clients to Angels games and the golf course. This fall he'll lead them on a hunting trip. "A fun job," he calls it.
Grich, who has been single for 15 years, also is involved in marketing for Airmark, a charter airline company that is wooing ,, sports teams. He has lined up the Orioles for a flight July 10.
Meanwhile, he continues his odyssey. When he was inducted into the Rochester Red Wings Hall of Fame, he took the opportunity to play Oak Hill, in Golf Digest's top 20.
In the late 1960s, when he played for the Orioles' Triple A Rochester farm club, Grich didn't have enough pull to get on the Oak Hill course.