All smugness aside, golf writers and broadcasters often speak with a tiny edge of “know-it-allism,” and they’re usually not entirely out of bounds in doing it. After all, it isn’t the writers, but the game that just insists on that little twist of pomp, especially when the subject gets anywhere near the British Isles. Some of them just can’t help it. The game of golf started in the backyards of kings, and it’s had a little sneer to it ever since.
There would have been many more lofty intellects parading about the course had not other necessities intervened. They were all primed with heady vocabularies and Miltonian twists of phrase, the perfect profile for stalking the putting greens before majors. For example, Howard Cosell became one of golf’s greatest losses when he wedded himself to the career of Muhammad Ali. But, being fellow poets, the time was probably not wasted.
Keith Jackson made college football sound like a mix of Alfred Lord Tennyson and Sir Thomas More. I felt smarter watching games he called, and apparently, he wanted to do a lot more golf than he got to do, in particular, the Masters. His network, lamentably, never got the contract for Augusta. He plays the game constantly, and has shot his age at 82. A badge of pride for the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication at Washington State University, he worked with Walter Cronkite on the ’54 GOP Convention in San Francisco. So, you see, it’s inescapable – golf writers and broadcasters just have that je ne sais quoi.
Herbert Warren Wind, 1916 – 2005, certainly left the game a wiser institution. Educated at Yale and the University of Cambridge, he wrote for the New Yorker in ’41 and authored “Story of American Golf,” co-authored “Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf” with Ben Hogan (you must be good if Hogan will let you hang around that much), co-founded the “Classics of Golf Library” and came out with the World Atlas of Golf in ’76. He covered thirty Masters tournaments, and is responsible for the famous phrase, “Amen Corner,” referring to the fairway shot at 11 through the tee shot at 13. He got it from the Dorsey Brothers recording of “Shoutin’ In That Amen Corner.”
Dick Gordon, 1911 – 2008 was no slouch in the scholarly world of golf, either, scooping the world on the retirement of Bobby Jones, which was so huge in that day that it defies description now. And his background? Writing for the Princetonian Review, of course. James Dodson, b. ’54 wrote for Golf Magazine for twenty years, then taught advanced writing at Hollins University in Virginia.
Women weren’t allowed in the tree house in those days, even though they’re making up for it now. Not only was half the competition missing, but these fellows didn’t have to stick with one sport, either. If Hogan, Snead or Trevino were having a well-behaved week ,and topics were scarce, they could go to horse-racing or the like, which reminds me…
My favorite of the intellectual writers and TV/radio commentators, I suppose, had to be Heywood Hale Boun (1918-2001) of Triple Crown fame. Broun was the son of writer/activist Ruth Hale and columnist Heywood Broun. He didn’t win the Triple Crown, but his brightly colored patchwork sport coats were unforgettable, as were his handlebar moustache, Burnsian lilt and Shakespearian gravity. The powers at Augusta didn’t want him sneaking around the course while television cameras looked on, but somehow he managed it, only to appear for the first round wearing a Sherlock Holmes cap and cape. Famous for his comment, “Sweat is the cologne of accomplishment,” he had many things to say about the beloved Scottish game, such as “Golf is not, on the whole, a game for realists. By its exactitude of measurement, it interests the attention of perfectionists.”
So now you have an idea of where we golf writers and weekend commentators on the famous courses come from. You can always pick us out of the crowd. We use words like, “exactitude.”