.....................................................................................................................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.


For a good while I had ambitions to play the pro tour, and follow in the footsteps of my heroes – Ben Hogan and Sam Snead – but after playing on a NAIA national championship college team at Western Illinois University, in 1959, I realized I was not good enough (didn’t shoot in the 60s enough) and got into writing about the game. I’ve been at it for over 50 years, and it has been a helluva run. Got to know Hogan and Snead, and got some games with Sam, Jimmy Demaret, Jackie Burke, jr., Arnold, Jack, Billy Casper, Julius Boros, Tommy Bolt, and from the next generation, Al Geiberger, Dave Stockton, Phil Rodgers, and a few of today’s top players). I even got on talking terms with Tiger until I pissed him off for knocking his loud-mouth father.

Jack and I discussing the undulations and speed of the greens at the 1987 Masters.


My first big break came when I was hired as the golf writer on the original Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf television program. That was in 1963, and my first show was the famous Hogan-Snead match in Texas. Quite a baptism under fire. Hogan was fantastic: hit every fairway and every green, took five minutes to get the putter back on every putt, and shot 69 to beat Sam.
When that gig ended I signed on at Golf Magazine as a writer/editor, became the editor-in-chief, and among other things rapped the Masters for not inviting any black players to the tournament. I had some trouble getting credentials for the tournament after that, but they did change their rules and Lee Elder finally broke the racial barrier.


While with Golf Magazine I managed to qualify for the 1971 U.S. Amateur Championship – it was the only time I tried – and missed the cut (they did it at stroke-play for a few years before going back to match-play), but was in the same field as Ben Crenshaw, Billy Rogers, Tom Kite, Bruce Lietzke, and a lot of others who eventually made it on the PGA Tour.
When the Golf Magazine job ended I free-lanced for a number of years, and wrote my first books. The very first was Golf’s Golden Grind, the History of the Tour. No one had told that story, and it is still the only one to have been done. I also collaborated with various golf pros on instructional books, did a lot of articles on a wide range of subjects, and kept looking for the secret to hitting two perfect shots in a row. I discovered there are many secrets, and that they aren’t all secret if you know where to look answers. I’m as intrigued by the golf swing and playing the game as I was as a 13-year old caddie.


Then came a job as editor-in-chief of Golf Illustrated magazine, where I had the most fun of my salaried career. I inherited a magazine that was published four times a year in black and white, and had no character at all, and turned it into one of the top three golf magazines in the country. However, the owner lost all his dough speculating on other publications, and I went back to free lancing.


Things being what they are in the world of print journalism – which is to say, they have fallen on hard times that may be permanent – I’m joining the New Age of Communication with this Quarterly, writing e-books (such as my new one on putting that I call The Final World on Putting) so I can continue to tell the ever evolving story of the Old Scotsgame. I’m bringing the perspective gained from 50-plus years of experience in all aspects of the game itself, the amazing personalities that have created its history. Join me.

 

 

 

 

My Putting Book Available Online!

 

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.
There is nothing new about this. It just hasn’t been articulated by anyone, including the putting gurus—Pelz, Utley, Stockton (with whom I did his book on putting), among others. I have had a lot of positive feedback from people who I’ve told about the concept.
You can get the book through this website.

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