Date posted: September 18, 2017

Charlie Owens: The Man From Florida

The tall drink of water had an obvious limp that didn’t in the slightest diminish his style and grace. Other than that, Charlie Owens looked like a professional golfer in his red sans-a-belt slacks, matching shirt, shoes and visor.

He was “the man from Florida.’’ That was the advance on Charlie, although it didn’t appear to do him justice.

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Date posted: April 7, 2017

The Birth of Tigermania

I’ve recounted the final round of the 1997 Masters many times, and I never tire of it.

Yes, that round. The one of such historical resonance that it lifted an entire race of underserved and unrecognized Americans from the back roads of golf to the highly visible super highways of the sport. The one that punctuated Tiger Woods’ 12-stroke moonwalk to victory among the Georgia pines. The one where the 21-year-old fist pumped his way into the consciousness of 5-year-olds and graybeards alike—an exclamation point on a performance that heralded his arrival as golf’s transcendent player.

If you don’t believe me, feel free to Google it. You’ll find my version of the story on every medium.

I walked every hole with Tiger that week because it was not only my job but my pleasure. I quietly reveled in his superiority as I trekked among the “patrons’’ outside the ropes. I didn’t even mind the Masters’ strict rules requiring print media to cover the “toonament’’ from outside the ropes when every other event allowed credentialed media inside them. Just another power play by the green jackets in the Masters control-room, I reasoned.

I was Tiger’s ghostwriter, loyal to a fault co-author of his father’s soon-to-be-released bestseller “Training A Tiger,’’ proving capable of walking the thin line between journalist and cheerleader.

I was also on a personal mission to justify the New York Times Companies’ Affirmative Action-induced decision to give me a shot at Golf World and later Golf Digest. Just like Satchel Paige (legendary pitcher who at the age of 42 signed with Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians in 1948), Fritz Pollard (the NFL’s first black quarterback) and every other groundbreaker, I was attempting to prove that more than WASPs had the necessities to successfully handle positions considered cerebrally demanding.

I don’t mean to compare my impact on golf writing with the accomplishments of legends, but I’m certain had my mama lived to see her baby boy’s rise in the industry, she would have been mighty proud. If you read the introduction to Uneven Lies: The Heroic Story of African Americans in Golf, you know that her approval was all that mattered to me.

That said, this is not about me but a seminal moment in the history of the game—a moment of particular import on the 20th anniversary of a final round that ushered in Tigermania.

The anticlimactic (Tiger led by nine after 54 holes) final round was part coronation, part vindication and part resurrection. Lee Elder, the first black invited to the Masters (in 1975) was in Tiger’s gallery, having been delayed by a burly highway patrolman as Elder raced along I-20 from Atlanta to Augusta that morning. Perhaps Tiger’s victory took a little bit of the sting out of his speeding ticket.

Charlie Sifford, Tiger’s “adopted’’ grandfather, was there in spirit, too. Sifford, who should have been the first black invited to play in the Masters except for the committee’s continual relocation of the goal posts, encouraged young Tiger via telegrams.

The ghosts of pioneers Bill Spiller and Teddy Rhodes, like Sifford players worthy of an invite that never came, were there, too. Their muted shouts of joy could be distinguished from the others whispering among the pines by the discerning ear. I certainly heard them.

Colin Montgomerie, the crotchety Scot who had a front row seat to Tiger’s mastery of Augusta National in round three, accurately predicted that Tiger would increase his margin of victory on Sunday. Just about everyone who had been paying attention believed the same.

As for the protagonist himself, certain victory was the farthest thing from his mind.

Back at the rental house that served as Team Tiger’s compound that week, restlessness chased Tiger out into the night air. On his way back to his room, he spotted a light on in Earl Woods’ bedroom. So he had a little talk with “Pop’’ not so much for fatherly advice but more for self assurance.

Father told son to expect Sunday to be a most difficult day as he sought to become the Masters’ youngest champion. He also assured his progeny that he was well equipped to handle the moment.

When I arrived at the Woods house on Sunday morning to check on Earl, which had been my daily ritual, Earl was in relax mode as if the deal had already been signed, sealed and delivered. I later discovered that he was conserving his energy in order to fulfill the promise of being at the 18th green with a big bear hug for his son after the round.

Still pale and a little weak as he recovered from a recent second heart bypass surgery, Earl would nap between needles to yours truly. On this morning, however, he appeared more introspective.

Earl was a complicated dude. One minute he was bombastic; the next humble pie. He was a very intelligent man, who knew a little about a lot but everything about one thing: how to rear the youngest of his four children.

Earl knew his son would handle the final-round challenge on the grandest stage in golf.

Of course, he was right.

When Tiger holed out to complete the 12-stroke victory, Earl was right there greenside to bear hug his way into Masters lore.

Tiger’s mom, Kultida, has teased me many times about the ravages of time. “You can’t fool Mother Nature,’’ she chides.

Well, my diminished memory is proof positive of that sound bite. However, I will never forget walking up the 18th fairway outside the ropes and looking toward the massive clubhouse, where club employees had gathered along its veranda overlooking the 18th green.

The mostly black faces were smiling. For years they had faded into the background like furnishings or artwork at the historic club.

Not on this day, though. On this day, they openly celebrated the long-awaited dawn of a new era—one in which they would no longer be invisible men and women.

Thanks to a young man who looked like them.

 


Date posted: February 12, 2017

The Sweet Aroma of Inclusion

As I strode past the various playpens on either side of Aisle 2900 at my 23rd PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, the bright-eyed newcomers to golf -industry paradise jumped with joy hawking their latest, greatest, neatest, sweetest, craziest lure to the minnows and whales alike.

Of course, the jaded show veterans were more reserved, smiling and nodding to passersby as if their bait couldn’t miss. Or perhaps experience enabled them to distinguish between the serious fish and the simply curious nibblers.

I, for one, was not about to be distracted; not even by the scantily clad, young sirens posted up at a booth touting a revolutionary device guaranteed to alleviate the most extreme muscle pain. I managed to slither by quickening my pace to avoid the temptation of another surefire remedy for the golfer’s elbow (or tennis elbow or old-age elbow) that afflicted me much of 2016. I’ve also been a sucker for smiling mini-skirts in four-inch stilettos in the not-too-distant past. But I digress…

Besides, I was a man on a mission: Booth 2991 or bust!

As I got closer to my destination, this wonderful aroma filled the air. I soon discovered that it wasn’t coming from the vendor’s booth replete with samples of grilled sausages from an Italian restaurant. I had to fight through the crowd of eager samplers, most of whom were not the least bit burdened by healthy or nutritious dietary concerns.

No, the aroma was that of diversity and inclusion, and it was intoxicating as I approached Booth 2991. That’s where African American Golfers’ Digest Publisher Debert Cook and the magazine’s executive editor (and my great friend) Jim Beatty were tag teaming a group of brown faces.

Some were first-time show attendees. Others, like me, had made the annual trek to the sunshine state a wintertime ritual as part of an industry consistently promising to mirror America in diversity but just as consistently falling short of that promise. That failure has provided fodder for critical analysis of the industry as a whole, and in particular exclusivity in pursuits that generate more than $70 billion a year with precious little of that sum earmarked for minority-owned golf-related businesses.

The inequity has long been a bone of contention addressed by industry leaders, who so far have talked up a change but delivered little in the way of progress.

Cook, a New York-based publisher, took it upon herself to create a throwback of sorts that could provide a blueprint for future diversity at the show. And she did it through social media—via Facebook and email invitations to all minorities involved in the industry to participate in a meet-and-greet with other like-minded individuals, including legends like Jim Dent, Lee Elder and Renee Powell.

There were also authors available to autograph books and share insights into the industry for those seeking to get involved. More importantly, Cook’s effort to “colorize’’ the show was a total success, as dozens of people of color gathered at the AAGD booth to talk golf.

For its part, the PGA of America again offered skull sessions on diversity and inclusion, including one for the small number of African-American PGA Professionals. African-American industry leaders Dr. Michael Cooper, Wendell Haskins and consultant Earnie Ellison shared their wisdom and guidance.

Of course, there were more promises made by some industry leaders—even a promise to keep the promise of increased inclusion. I don’t doubt the sincerity. For now, though, those of us in attendance must be content to bask in the glow of Cook’s outstanding leadership.

And take seriously the challenge to do our part in transforming diversity and inclusion from industry watchwords into real change.

I’m all in. Won’t you join us?


Date posted: February 8, 2017

Golf’s Royal Commoner

Professional golf hitched his pants, sucked on a cigarette without the slightest fear of harming lungs or throat and swaggered down the  fairway long before “swag’’ was in vogue or trending. Even in black-and-white the little country boy glued to the boxy Sylvania recognized something different about Arnold Palmer; different from the other club swingers in the televised tournament.

It might have been the U.S. Open or the Masters. Or it could have been a Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf episode. I’m not certain. I do remember being mesmerized by that swagger, that wrinkled brow as if it were oven-baked from one of Grandma’s biscuit molds, that lashing pass at the ball as if he were Willie Mays swinging for the fences at Candlestick Park.

Back then I loved baseball, football and basketball, and catching fireflies in a jar. I had a diehard allegiance to Mays and the San Francisco Giants, plus Jim Brown and the Cleveland Browns. I also revered Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics.

The only thing I knew about golf was all the players were starched and pressed white men who left a trail of cigarette smoke behind as they strode the green pastures. With the exception of Arnold Palmer.

Arnie had the flare and daring of Mays and the power of Brown. And he was a crowd-pleaser.  The guy had his own army of loyal fans. No one else, not Mays or Brown or Sandy Koufax or Whitey Ford, could match that.

Someone dubbed him “The King,’’ because he ascended to the throne of professional golf. Perhaps it was that aura of royalty I found enticing as a boy getting his first taste of the game, one of exclusivity in this country at the time. I paid scant attention to the fact that all of the men swinging the clubs were white, and most of the men lugging the golf bags were dark-skinned like me.

I wasn’t informed about the game’s dark past until years later when the seasoned caddies at Biltmore Forest CC gave me a history lesson about golfers of color like Charlie Sifford, Brooks Dendy and Ted Rhodes, who were barred from playing on tour because of a skin condition called excessive melanin.

Just like they do today, the TV announcers spoke in hushed tones. Through the crackling of the always poor reception, not remedied by the antenna on the roof of our Jim Walter home, I deciphered that Arnie was not only the fan favorite but the top contender in the event.

Like many folk, I’ve always been drawn to the best player in the competition. Arnie was that player, even in the face of a challenge by a portly young man with blond locks who the commentators were also making a fuss over.

The young guy didn’t smile much, though. Arnie, on the other hand, smiled even when he grimaced, if that’s possible.

They call it charisma. Arnie always had that as a 15th club. If you were a Jack fan, as I grew to be, Arnie would disarm you with a smile and handshake.

And if that didn’t do the trick, his uncanny ability to remember names would.

Years later, while trolling the TV beat for Golf World Magazine, I had my first encounter with Arnie. The Golf Channel was launching its 24-hour coverage of the game, and I had been dispatched to Orlando to record it. I had interviewed Arnie by phone several times, but this was my first face-to-face meeting with the King.

As I prepared to spend the night at the Orlando facility, in walked Arnie and co-owner of the new network, Joe Gibbs, along with several others. Arnie smiled and extended his massive mitt to shake my hand. “Pete, we’re happy to have you here,’’ he said. “Are you being taken care of?’’

I answered in the affirmative and thanked him for asking.

He was always gracious and grateful to be held in such high esteem. It was a 15-minute drive from my Orlando home to Bay Hill, where he lived and hosted his hugely successful PGA Tour event. He was always accessible and accommodating.

There was no one like the King, certainly none of the current crop of megastars, with nowhere near his pedigree, class or resume.

In the interview for the documentary “Uneven Fairways,’’ which I co-wrote and co-produced for Moxie Pictures and Golf Channel, Arnie declared a certain affinity for being around caddies and golf’s unwashed. It was part of his comfort zone. He could identify with them because he was far from the silver spoon set. His roots were a lob wedge from the steel mills in Latrobe, Pa.

Arnie identified with the common man because of those roots and his upbringing. He lived as an exceptional human being with respect for all. He died that way, too. The King was 87 years old.

The image on that TV screen will remain with me forever. Arnie’s unmatched legacy will also endure, for he was a common man with an uncommon touch that popularized the game of golf.

His imprint is on the young dreamer who learned the game beating balls at the country club’s well-manicured practice range, as well as the one emulating his swing in a cow pasture in rural Carolina.

Hitching his pants just like the King.

 

 


Date posted: September 27, 2016

Golf’s Royal Commoner

Professional golf hitched his pants, sucked on a cigarette without the slightest fear of harming lungs or throat and swaggered down the  fairway long before “swag’’ was in vogue or trending. Even in black-and-white the little country boy glued to the boxy Sylvania recognized something different about Arnold Palmer; different from the other club swingers in the televised tournament.

It might have been the U.S. Open or the Masters. Or it could have been a Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf episode. I’m not certain. I do remember being mesmerized by that swagger, that wrinkled brow as if it were oven-baked from one of Grandma’s biscuit molds, that lashing pass at the ball as if he were Willie Mays swinging for the fences at Candlestick Park.

Back then I loved baseball, football and basketball, and catching fireflies in a jar. I had a diehard allegiance to Mays and the San Francisco Giants, plus Jim Brown and the Cleveland Browns. I also revered Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics.

The only thing I knew about golf was all the players were starched and pressed white men who left a trail of cigarette smoke behind as they strode the green pastures. With the exception of Arnold Palmer.

Arnie had the flare and daring of Mays and the power of Brown. And he was a crowd-pleaser.  The guy had his own army of loyal fans. No one else, not Mays or Brown or Sandy Koufax or Whitey Ford, could match that.

Someone dubbed him “The King,’’ because he ascended to the throne of professional golf. Perhaps it was that aura of royalty I found enticing as a boy getting his first taste of the game, one of exclusivity in this country at the time. I paid scant attention to the fact that all of the men swinging the clubs were white, and most of the men lugging the golf bags were dark-skinned like me.

I wasn’t informed about the game’s dark past until years later when the seasoned caddies at Biltmore Forest CC gave me a history lesson about golfers of color like Charlie Sifford, Brooks Dendy and Ted Rhodes, who were barred from playing on tour because of a skin condition called excessive melanin.

Just like they do today, the TV announcers spoke in hushed tones. Through the crackling of the always poor reception, not remedied by the antenna on the roof of our Jim Walter home, I deciphered that Arnie was not only the fan favorite but the top contender in the event.

Like many folk, I’ve always been drawn to the best player in the competition. Arnie was that player, even in the face of a challenge by a portly young man with blond locks who the commentators were also making a fuss over.

The young guy didn’t smile much, though. Arnie, on the other hand, smiled even when he grimaced, if that’s possible.

They call it charisma. Arnie always had that as a 15th club. If you were a Jack fan, as I grew to be, Arnie would disarm you with a smile and handshake.

And if that didn’t do the trick, his uncanny ability to remember names would.

Years later, while trolling the TV beat for Golf World Magazine, I had my first encounter with Arnie. The Golf Channel was launching its 24-hour coverage of the game, and I had been dispatched to Orlando to record it. I had interviewed Arnie by phone several times, but this was my first face-to-face meeting with the King.

As I prepared to spend the night at the Orlando facility, in walked Arnie and co-owner of the new network, Joe Gibbs, along with several others. Arnie smiled and extended his massive mitt to shake my hand. “Pete, we’re happy to have you here,’’ he said. “Are you being taken care of?’’

I answered in the affirmative and thanked him for asking.

He was always gracious and grateful to be held in such high esteem. It was a 15-minute drive from my Orlando home to Bay Hill, where he lived and hosted his hugely successful PGA Tour event. He was always accessible and accommodating.

There was no one like the King, certainly none of the current crop of megastars, with nowhere near his pedigree, class or resume.

In the interview for the documentary “Uneven Fairways,’’ which I co-wrote and co-produced for Moxie Pictures and Golf Channel, Arnie declared a certain affinity for being around caddies and golf’s unwashed. It was part of his comfort zone. He could identify with them because he was far from the silver spoon set. His roots were a lob wedge from the steel mills in Latrobe, Pa.

Arnie identified with the common man because of those roots and his upbringing. He lived as an exceptional human being with respect for all. He died that way, too. The King was 87 years old.

The image on that TV screen will remain with me forever. Arnie’s unmatched legacy will also endure, for he was a common man with an uncommon touch that popularized the game of golf.

His imprint is on the young dreamer who learned the game beating balls at the country club’s well-manicured practice range, as well as the one emulating his swing in a cow pasture in rural Carolina.

Hitching his pants just like the King.

 

 


Date posted: February 18, 2016

The Fountain of Optimism

I’ve known several golf equipment geeks but none more fanatical than my late golf partner Leroy Posey. Leroy had plastic head covers for his irons back in the ‘70s when it first became fashionable. His always immaculately polished golf shoes never left their little leather bags until they were unpacked in the locker room (or the parking lot of courses much too discriminating about those allowed in their locker room).

Leroy was one helluva trumpeter in several R&B bands back in the day. I penned lyrics and worked the lighting switchboard for one of them, traveling up and down the East Coast on a Silver Eagle touring bus customized to accommodate the 10-piece band. Leroy was also a clothes horse, who matched his hard-collared golf shirts perfectly with his hard-creased Sans-A-Belt slacks.

One of the best clutch putters ever, Leroy would have loved the PGA Merchandise Show in the Orlando Convention Center with its assortment of golf equipment, action wear apparel and swing aids. Pure paradise to the got-to-have-the-latest golf nut.

What Leroy would not have liked, however, is the ever-growing lack of diversity of the show. I know it’s an old saw, but 10 years ago the show had a nice sprinkling of black faces (vendors and floor walkers) to suggest a welcomed shift in the industry’s demographics. Now the only African-American presence at the show is a lone golf writer, a couple of PGA of America officials, a small cadre of PGA professionals, a handful of convention employees in uniform and the occasional hack testing the latest driver guaranteed to deliver on the promise of 20 extra yards off the tee.

No, Leroy would not appreciate the mostly vanilla landscape of the show. And neither do I. But you already know that from my previous rants against the wind.

However, I do appreciate what the show represents: the eternal hope that brand, spanking, new equipment will help the average hack improve their overall score and appear impeccably dressed while doing so. I’m all for that. Still, the business of golf devoid of persons of color remains the white elephant in the massive room.

Unlike Leroy, I’ve never been much of a golf equipment geek, but I must admit the show (my 22nd, I believe) has always intrigued me. The sheer enormity of it is certainly impressive. And the new innovations are mesmerizing to even the most ornery hack.I’ve seen octogenarians jockey for position in line against starry-eyed juniors to test drive the new center-shafted, heel-to-toe-weighted, never-miss, see-more-putts-fall putter; and little old ladies with notepads sizing up the new next-generation, hip-hugging, eye-popping, drop-it-like-it’s-hot skirt and top set in every color imaginable.

The show is replete with enough swing gurus, swing aids and snake oil salesmen (and women) to provide a carnival atmosphere. This year my trek around the convention center floor revealed a bevy of new and interesting products, including a golf club carrier that holds six clubs for the player who prefers walking, a collection of jumbo-sized grips, an electronic cigar for those who enjoy puffing away the pressure of that three-foot par putt with six inches of break, and a Euro Body Shaper supposedly developed by NASA that promises great results in only a 10-minute daily workout.

Although I never attend as a consumer, this year a putting aid caught my attention sparked by the USGA’s ban on anchoring which took effect a few weeks ago effectively shelving the long putter I’ve used to skin opponents the past 15 years. It’s an arm-lock grip for belly putters patterned along a similar concept as the one employed by Matt Kuchar.

I can’t wait to take it to the practice green for a test run. If it works as well as advertised, my golf partners will start quaking in their soft spikes again whenever I stand over a 20-footer. Well, perhaps “quaking’’ is a little strong; more like exhibiting a modicum of concern. If it doesn’t enable me to start dropping putts again from all over the place, at least I can be assured that Leroy would have approved of my having sipped from the fountain of optimism.


Date posted: November 8, 2015

Mice and Men

This might be the shortest blog I’ve ever written. In fact, it’s so short let’s just call it a log, as in an entry in a ship captain’s writings detailing a journey on the high seas. In many ways, that’s an accurate depiction of my many years on assignment with Golf Digest following Tiger Woods around the world.

I was a high-riding journalist covering the PGA Tour’s ultimate high-rider, Tiger Woods. Well, covering might be a stretch since I rarely wrote anything concerning Tiger’s tournament play. Guess I was more of an observer of golf shots, expressions of joy and pain displayed during Tiger’s emotional rollercoaster and fan reaction to his various exploits on the course. All to better convey to the reader how he played a similar shot among the dozens of Tiger Tips Digest published.

Fellow golf writers chided me for having “the best job in golf.’’ In retrospect, they were wrong. Steve Williams, Tiger’s caddie for 13 years, had the best job in golf. Here’s why:  My gig with Digest certainly provided a very comfortable lifestyle and a fair amount of fame. However, Williams’ gig not only made him arguably the most famous caddie ever but certainly the wealthiest.

I never saw one of Steve Williams’ paychecks. But I think it’s safe to assume that if he was paid the standard fee of 10% of the “winner’s’’ share of a tournament purse and he was on the bag the majority of Tiger’s 70-plus PGA Tour wins, he made millions off the man he reportedly said treated him like a “slave.’’

That’s right, a slave. That’s how Williams said he felt when Tiger would flip a club toward his golf bag expecting Williams, the caddie, to pick it up. In other words, expecting Williams to do what he was being paid to do. It is reportedly part of the nonsense excerpted from Williams’ new book Out of the Rough. I don’t know how they define slavery in Williams’ homeland of New Zealand, but as an African-American I know the meaning of the word in America.

To Williams’ absurdity I say bullshit!

The evidence on public record and that known only to a select few make Williams look exactly as he has turned out to be: the worst kind of disloyal, whining, disgruntled employee whose boss had the good sense to fire him. Or a jilted lover; you choose.

I remember a much more blissful time between player and caddie. It wasn’t exactly Camelot but close. A time when the player supported the caddie’s charity and stood up for his friend as best man at his wedding. A time when caddie defended player against media, photographers, tour officials, cackling galleries, et al; almost anyone from the gates of hell.

I even recall hearing that player gave caddie two expensive Ford GT Mustangs, part of his bounty for winning a world championship event in Miami. Rumors have it that the same player let the caddie and his family go cruising on his yacht.

Of course, those were happier times and no doubt forgettable by the caddie.

I won’t be reading Williams’ book. Just like I’ve passed on other tell-all books written by those Tiger dismissed. I refuse to contribute to the cheese they will surely generate by exploiting another man’s fame, especially when they’re already fat from his cheddar.

On that note, I guess mice will be mice—annoying pests thriving in darkness and dirt.

 


Date posted: August 25, 2015

Embracing Change

When destiny intersects with history, the result can be enlightening if not transformational. So it was this past week in North Carolina’s Triad, a three-hour drive from my birthplace in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Coming home again never was more entertaining or nerve wracking. That’s because Tiger Woods was in contention for a much-needed win at the Wyndham Championship. There was also a berth in the FedEx Cup playoffs on the line for the former world No. 1 in the regular-season-ending event.

That he failed to end a two-year victory drought and stymie talk of his demise (for the moment) is only part of the story. Just as important is the historical significance of the site where he sought to capture career-win No. 80—Greensboro’s Sedgefield Country Club.

Fifty-four years ago another man of African-American descent entered the PGA Tour event in Greensboro. Like me, Charlie Sifford was a native Tar Heel having cut his golfing teeth as a caddie in Charlotte. He was also the first black man to receive a PGA Tour card, which made him eligible to compete in the Greensboro tournament.

In 1961, black faces were part of the scenery at private clubs in the South and much of the rest of the country for that matter. In starched uniforms, we dominated the service staff. And very few golf bags were carried by anyone else. So news that a black man was going to tee it up with white professionals at Sedgefield shocked and angered golf fans of southern gentility from Maryland to Mississippi.

The backlash was immediate. Sifford received death threats as soon as he pulled into town. Hoteliers shunned him. Most restaurants didn’t allow blacks either. Sifford found refuge among his own people. A local black college provided room and board. Locals not only fed his body but his spirit. And man, did he need the nourishment. Read More


Date posted: May 5, 2015

The Ravages of Time

The ravages of time are cruel reminders of man’s mortality. I’ve witnessed that reality many times during the years.

Grandma Mattie battled the ravages with every ounce of energy produced from her bantamweight frame. She complained that “ol’ Arthur’’ (that’s what old folks called arthritis back in the day) had her 80-year-old knees swollen the size of a grapefruit. Then she’d hand me a bottle of rubbing alcohol. “Rub grandma’s knees, son,’’ she would say. “They hurtin’ mighty bad.’’

After I finished massaging her aching knees, grandma would pat me on the head and give me my reward: a few pieces of peppermint or horehound candy. Then she would resume her daily domestic duties—ironing dress shirts and other clothing to perfection for one of the families at Christ School, a boarding preparatory institution for upper class boys from around the country. Grandma would stand on those aching knees for hours. Then she would read scriptures from the Bible. I believe the combination of faith and intestinal fortitude kept the ravages at bay until she was ready to turn back the sheets a final time at 101 years young.

When I first started working with Calvin Peete on his biography, he was already firmly in the grip of the ravages. Tourette’s syndrome had robbed him of the ball-striking skills that made him a legend on the PGA Tour. He used magnets in an effort to control the tics and involuntary jerking associated with the malady. His shoulders were a lot more rounded than I remembered making him appear shorter and older, I guess.

Still, he flashed a huge smile, firmly shook my hand and gave me a sincere “soul brother’’ hug like old friends are wont to do. Cal and I were not old friends, although our paths had crossed on tour when he was at the top of his game. We had also shared the same lectern Read More


Date posted: April 15, 2015

Fate of the transcendent hero

Transcendent sports heroes are reluctant to pass the torch. Like a boa constrictor, they employ a death grip on greatness even when it’s obvious to all but their most faithful followers that the flame is a mere flicker.

Michael Jordan refused to defer to Kobe Bryant, lacing them up until his vertical leap resembled the fat-celled-challenged left-handed golfer’s pitiful attempt at hops for joy upon winning his first Masters. Sorry, Phil, I couldn’t resist.

Bryant refuses to abdicate to Lebron James, preferring instead to post up Father Time in a game of one-on-one he has no chance of winning. You’d think he would have learned from his predecessor.

Although it’s impossible to compare independent contractors strolling the lush fairways of the PGA Tour to team-oriented hoopsters, golf also has a history of graying (and hair follically challenged) superheroes on the back nine of their illustrious careers refusing to give way to a burgeoning youth movement. This most recent Masters shone a spotlight on the growing disparity between the glorious past and the promising future.

In the aftermath of Jordan Spieth’s masterful performance in Augusta on the heels of Rory McIlroy’s sweet run in 2014, the Tour should change its mantra from “These Guys Are Good’’ to “The Future Is Now.’’

The proof is in the pudding. Or in this case the leaderboard at major championships with 20somethings supplanting the “name’’ players we’re used to seeing on top.

Call it prescience or forewarning or happenstance, but I arrived at the Masters this past Wednesday with low expectations. My man hadn’t played in nine weeks and when last we saw him his short game resembled that of a 20-handicapper. If he didn’t have the chipping yips he Read More