Tags: Dan Jenkins, Herbert Warren Wind, Jack Nicklaus, Neville Cardus, The New Yorker, Tom Watson, William Shawn
As Muirfield has brought my thoughts back to golf, I pull from my shelves Following Through by Herbert Warren Wind. It has been often but truly said that golf, like baseball has been well-served by its writers. My friends in England would no doubt add cricket and the likes of Neville Cardus. In the U.S., amidst a forest of great golf writing, two trees stand the tallest: Dan Jenkins and Wind. And it is Wind that I turn to most.
Wind, who wrote for Sports Illustrated in its early days, shone most brightly in The New Yorker for they, under the helm of the great editor William Shawn gave him the needed elbow room to ply his art. I don’t think of Wind as a sportswriter but as an essayist. It was he that turned the phrase “Amen Corner” – naming forever that run of holes from 12 to 15 at Augusta.
Here is Wind on Nicklaus, who he knew well, after his defeat at Turnberry:
For some reason or other, Jack Nicklaus always moves one more in defeat than in victory. I don’t know exactly why this is, for he is an excellent winner. Anyway, he is probably the best loser in the game. He was honest and direct in his assessment of why Watson had won: Tom, he said, had played better golf than he had on both rounds. He had no alibis. Nevertheless, for all his self-possession, it was observable that Nicklaus had been hit hard by losing a second major championship to Watson this year on the final holes after giving the pursuit of winning everything he had. That last phrase is important. No matter what the odds are, Nicklaus never stops fighting, and you never know when he will contrive some small miracle like that impossible 3 on the last hole. In a word, I would say over the past dozen years, without any question, he had been far and away the best competitor in any sport in which it is one individual against other individuals, not team against team.
As I read this words yet again, I think of Nicklaus reading them, now long in retirement, and for not the first time either.
Tags: Herbert Warren Wind, Red Smith, Seve Ballesteros, Tom Watson
Seve Ballesteros is dead but oh how he lived.
I wish that Red Smith or Herbert Warren Wind were alive to write the farewell. In golf, our heroes are in place when a new comet flashes by and so it took me time to come to admire Seve. Of course, you could not help but appreciate him from the start. He was different as he was both a poet and a magician on the links. But most of all, he had fire, fire enough for himself and whole continents of golfers.
It was Seve who broke Tom Watson’s heart (and mine) at St. Andrews and it took me years to forgive him for that. Later, he took the Ryder Cup from our country-clubbed hands. He got under our skin but what we would have given to have him on our side.
Seve died young but he was great and who among us wouldn’t take that deal?