.....................................................................................................................Issue #1 Winter 2009
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My Journey Through Golf
I got into golf the old-fashioned way, as a caddy, when I was 13 years old. I hit a golf ball for the first time that summer and couldn’t get over how far it went. I was a little kid who could hardly get a baseball into the outfield, and here I hit a ball out of Wrigley Field in dead center. With a 7-iron. I was hooked, forever.
Jack and I discussing the undulations and speed of the greens at the 1987 Masters.
For years I never looked forward to putting, not because I thought it wasn't part of the game, but because I was so poor at it. I’ve had good streaks of putting over the years, but they lasted for a couple of days at most. The best putting I did was when I emulated the back-stroke of Billy Casper. He tilted the blade downward when he took it back. It was not closed, as people have often described it, it was just that the clubface “looked” toward the ground. I used this action when I qualified for the U.S. Amateur, in 1971. When I needed a 9-foot slider on the last hole of the qualifying tournament, in New Jersey, I made it and was in a playoff for the last of the three spots opened at this site. Then, on the second hole of the playoff I put my tipped blade stroke on a 12 footer for birdie, and that got me to the main event, in Delaware.
Why I didn’t stick with this stroke after that I’ll never know. With it I somehow judged the distances well, and it was deadly on short putts. I suppose I had a round or two when the ball wasn’t falling, and I went away from the stroke. Or, I took it for granted and got into other technique stuff. But of course, you can never take any part of golf for granted.
Anyway, a few months ago I got to thinking a lot
about putting, no doubt because age has gotten me to where I can't get
home on a lot of par 4's, therefore neediing more one putt greens to produce
a repectable score. That being the case, I went back to that tilted blade
stroke. It still works, but this time I have added a new element to combine
with it. I came to realize the truth of something I learned from the legendary
putting genius, George Low, when I helped him write his book on the art.
That is, you should put in charge of the action the hand you use the most,
and most efficiently—your dominant hand. If you are right handed,
that is the one that will have the most feel for distance and direction
when you putt. That’s the central theme of my book on putting, what
I have titled The Final World on Putting. That sounds like I’m some
sort of whacko egotist. I’m not, but I am very sure it is the way
all golfers should putt. That and tipping the blade, what I have decided
to call instead, tilting.