Golf Digress

Physically cultured commentary on Sport and Wellness

Month: April, 2014

A Masters tradition

The camera angle caught me off-guard. The ceremonial first shot, with The Big Three. We weren’t permitted to see it, just the swings from the front. No doubt sensitivities prevailing. It’s possible the last shots we were allowed to watch were from Sam Snead and Byron Nelson, the year that Sam paralyzed a man in a tragic accident, running a light on his way to the National. Years before a bunch of scribes were out at the Byron Nelson School at Las Colinas, near Dallas. Byron was out alone “testing” some new drivers from Cleveland on the range. The thought of having to hit that shot at his age on an invariably cold Augusta morning weighed heavy on his mind.

The swings this morning from Arnie, Gary and Jack all looked okay, but, of course, we were denied the opportunity to see the results – not, I hesitate to add, that it really matters. Most golfers would be thrilled to be still playing at their age. I have come to appreciate that with better players, especially the best, there is an alarming point of diminishing returns. These come with the sheer annoyance from not being able to do something that once came so very easily.

One last downer note. Cleaning this afternoon I came across Robert Creamer’s description of the declining years of Babe Ruth. There’s nothing to add, really. You can imagine the Babe, obviously once a virile specimen, a gargantuan athletic talent. As Ruth’s health declined and cancer raged, Creamer took note of the sort of detail that exceptional historians notice.

Sometimes at the club he felt so bad he would have only a soft-boiled egg, and he had trouble swallowing that. One day he looked at the egg in his misery and said, “To think of the steaks.” For a time he continued to play eighteen holes, but as he grew weaker his games grew shorter. One day he teed up his ball, swung well and hit the ball cleanly. It carried straight down the fairway, but for only about 90 yards. Ruth stood on the tee watching it and cried, cursing through the tears.

But hey, enjoy the Masters!

 

 

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Silver lining

 

LET ME GENTLY LAY OUT A PLEASING PROSPECT TO THE UNFORTUNATE LATEST SURGERY FOR THE SPECTACULAR GOLFER OF THE RECENT PAST.
THERE’S AN AWARD THAT ELDRICK TIGER WOODS WOULD NEVER HAVE CONSIDERED, AND NEVER HAVE HOPED TO WIN. BUT LET ME JUST THROW OUT SOME NAMES THAT SHOULD CATCH HIS ATTENTION: CHARLIE OWENS, CASEY MARTIN, LEE TREVINO, CALVIN PETE, KEN VENTURI, TOM WATSON.
THOSE ARE SOME OF THE PAST WINNERS, LET’S CALL THEM CHAMPONS, JUST A HANDFUL ON THE LIST OF AN AWARD THAT NO GOLFER WOULD HAVE IN THEIR SIGHTS. HERE’S ONE OTHER NAME THAT EVERY GOLFER WOULD WANT TO BE ASSOCIATED WITH: BEN HOGAN.

EACH YEAR THE GOLF SCRIBES GIVE THE BEN HOGAN AWARD: “TO AN INDIVIDUAL WHO HAS CONTINUED TO BE ACTIVE IN GOLF DESPITE A PHYSICAL HANDICAP OR SERIOUS ILLNESS.”

A PINCHED NERVE IS NOT BEING HIT BY A BUS. I DON’T MEAN TO IMPLY THAT. COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR IS A MORE RECOGNIZABLE AWARD. WOODS MAY VERY WELL WIN IT. HE MAY NEVER HAVE HEARD OF THE BEN HOGAN AWARD. JACK NICKLAUS’S RECORD WAS ALWAYS ON THE HORIZON, A DANGEROUS, SPECIOUS BENCHMARK, FOR ALL ONE CAN ASK IS TO COMPETE AND WIN AGAINST THE PLAYERS IN THE FIELD. COMPARISON WITH PAST IMMORTALS IS TILTING AT WINDMILLS. FOR A GOLFER SO COMMITTED TO EXCELLENCE, PERHAPS THE TIME CONTEMPLATING AND WEIGHING HIS LATEST RECOVERY WILL BE PUT TO GOOD USE IN TAKING THE LONG VIEW.

HE MAY NOW CONSIDER THE MORE IMPORTANT GOALS. THERE IS AT LEAST ONE MEANINGFUL RECORD OUT THERE, PERHAPS ONE HE NEVER CONSIDERED. HIS NAME CAN GO ON THE LIST, ALONGSIDE THOSE WHO HAVE BATTLED AS SERIOUS AND MUCH DEBILITATING INJURIES AND INFIRMITIES: JIM NELFORD, JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL, LINDA CRAFT, JEFF JULIAN – AND EVEN, FUNNY HOW LIFE GOES – FUZZY ZOELLER. AND, FOR THE RECORD, WHILE I NEVER THOUGHT HE WOULD BREAK JACK’S RECORD, THOUGH WISHED HIM WELL, NOT THAT IT MATTERED, I HOPE HE WINS THE BEN HOGAN AWARD, FOR ALL THE RIGHT REASONS.