50s and 60s Star Dow Finsterwald Still Loves the Game
I think I’ve come upon the best trivia question possible to tell how devoted a golfer really is, and what his or her approximate age might be. All right then, here goes. Can you tell me who Dow Finsterwald is? Dow Finsterwald (I hear some of you cry)? No, it isn’t Dow Jones. No, it isn’t Dow Chemical. It’s Dow Finsterwald.
The golfer to whom I am referring was born in 1929, and will soon be 91 years of age. No, this is not an obituary, and yes, he still plays golf, and can. There’s a lesson or two in Dow Finsterwald’s life that might be of interest to all of us if we care to take a look.
He turned pro around the time I was born, when the universe was a lot younger. His most notable achievement is winning the PGA in 1958, and almost winning a Masters a couple of years later. His good friend Arnold Palmer took that away in a playoff. Finsterwald won 11 times on tour. However, he was one of the consistently highest money winners on the tour, every year it seemed. In one season, he won the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average.
As a kid, I perceived Dow Finsterwald as the man lurking in the shadows threatening to take the tournament, but often didn’t. He won money all the time, and enjoyed 72 consecutive tournaments earning a check. I wondered at his sliced-down hair, even in the age of slicked-down hair. I wondered at his name. He must be German, I thought, or perhaps Dutch. No, he was from Georgia, and played at Ohio State University. Taking a head pro job at Broadmoor in Colorado, he stayed for 29 years. However, none of those things are the lessons that I’m speaking of. He played in four Ryder Cups and served as Captain for one. Nope, that’s not the lesson, etiher.
Tim Gavrich’s article on Finsterwald in Golf Advisor startled me, because I didn’t know that he was still alive. Apparently what continues to make him exceptional is that his obsession with golf, or passion if you will, runs as hot today as it did on the tour. Gavrich speaks of a certain type of player who takes a vacation from the game when interruptions occur, such as the one we are enduring now. Others seize the opportunity to maintain or advance their game. I can empathize with both points of view. After a few years in most professions, especially performance professions, burn-out is never far away. I have experienced such interruptions, and have taken both paths.
Not so with Dow Finsterwald. he anticipates what Gavrich calls the “spiritual reward” of the next shot. Even that, however, is not the total lesson, but a good part of it. The rest of the story is the likelihood that a lifelong passion of something so innately healthy is good for your body, good for your brain, and good for your emotional health. Around 80 of those 90 years were probably taken up with golf, without a real break.
There are others to watch on the tour that emulate Finsterwald. Gary Player can still swing it, and Jack Nicklaus could become the greatest 90-year old golfer who ever lived in a few years.until her recent death, Mickey Wright was out there chipping. So why go adrift after retirement in search of other interests unless there’s something that really calls to you, or did at an earlier age when you didn’t have the time to heed it? I believe that Dow Finsterwald is out there still searching for the perfect swing, and it isn’t a Captain Ahab-like obsession. I think it still feels good to hit a golf ball. I think he really likes swinging that golf club.
For me, Gavrich shed some light on my man in the shadows. If I live to be 90 years old, I now understand that such an age doesn’t have to be spent sitting around staring into space. It’s not necessary – just watch Dow Finsterwald.