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December 14, 2011

A Hall-of-Fame Dan Jenkins reader from the SI Vault

Posted at 5:05 PM by Golf.com | Categories: Dan Jenkins

Congratulations to Dan Jenkins, the first living writer inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. A legend at 82, Jenkins has covered golf for more than 60 years, many of them at Sports Illustrated. In honor of Jenkins, we collected some of our favorites Jenkins stories from the SI Vault. Enjoy, it's hard not to...

1. "The Glory Game at Goat Hill" (Sports Illustrated, Aug. 16, 1965)

Goat Hills is gone now. It was swallowed up almost four years ago by the bulldozers of progress, and in the end it was nice to learn that something could take a divot out of those hard fairways. But all of the regular players had left long before. We had grown up at last. Maybe it will be all right to talk about the place now, and about the people and the times we had. Maybe it will be therapeutic. At least it will help explain why I do not play golf so much anymore. I mean, I keep getting invited to Winged Head and Burning Foot and all those fancy clubs we sophisticated New Yorkers are supposed to frequent, places where, I hear, they have real flag sticks instead of broom handles. It sounds fine, but I usually beg off. I am, frankly, still over golfed from all those years at Goat Hills in Texas. You would be, too, if.... Well, let me tell you some of it. Not all. I will try to be truthful and not too sentimental. But where shall I begin? With Cecil? Yeah, I think so. He was sort of a symbol in those days, and... Read more

2. "A High Kind of New Low Life" (Sports Illustrated, July 6, 1964)  

In professional tournament golf the clubhouse veranda can be a noteworthy blend of rumble seat, wax museum, promenade deck, theater wings and courthouse steps. As the tour moves from one Crystal Rancho Happy Avocado Creek Country Club to another, the verandas undergo some severe botanical changes—for example, palm trees become pines and vice versa—but the human plant life remains practically changeless. Except for the occasional intrusion of a spectator, fully equipped with binoculars, periscope, chair seat, transistor and hot dog, and the almost invariable presence of at least one young girl in Capri pants beneath a large straw bonnet, the regular veranda standers comprise a remarkably homogeneous and identifiable part of golf. They are the in-group, style-casual, up-scale, hanging-in, cooling-it businessmen of the game. And as they spread across the lawn, gazing toward the nearest leader board while a tournament progresses, they are not unlike a cluster of military commanders watching the glow of shellfire from a distant valley. Read more

3. "There’s Never Been an Open Like It" (Sports Illustrated, June 1960)

 They were the most astonishing four hours in golf since Mary, Queen of Scots found out what dormie meant and invented the back nine. And now, given 18 years of reflection, they still seem as significant to the game as, for instance, the day Arnold Palmer began hitching up his trousers, or the moment Jack Nicklaus decided to thin down and let his hair fluff, or that interlude in the pro shop when Ben Hogan selected his first white cap.

Small wonder that no sportswriter was capable of outlining it against a bright blue summer sky and letting the four adjectives ride again: it was too big, too wildly exciting, too crazily suspenseful, too suffocatingly dramatic. What exactly happened? Oh, not much. Just a routine collision of three decades at one historical intersection. Read more

4. A Braw Brawl for Tom and Jack (Sports Illustrated, July 18, 1977) 

Go ahead and mark it as the end of an era in professional golf if you're absolutely sure that Jack Nicklaus has been yipped into the sunset years of his career by the steel and nerve and immense talent of Tom Watson. You could argue that way now, in these hours after Tom Watson has become the new king of the sport in a kingly land; when Watson has already become the Player of the Year, not to mention the future; when he has done it in the most memorable way in the annals of golf; and when he has done it for the second time in this season to the greatest player who ever wore a slipover shirt—Jack Nicklaus. Read more

5. Where a Golf Nut Is King (Sports Illustrated, Sept. 28, 1970) 

What could happen in the middle of this story is that the writer might decide to hurl Morocco to the ground and ravage it. Nothing obscene, mind you. Just a gentle, loving tussle in a platter of couscous while his heart thumps ecstatically and the neckcloth on his Foreign Legion cap billows in the soft Marrakesh breeze. The thing is, Morocco grabs you here, right here, like a haunting song. But even before I went there recently on a golf assignment—uh huh, golf among the Arabs—I had been carrying on a rather violent affair with the country. Casbahs and French Legionnaires had done it. And harem girls. And Humphrey Bogart running a bar in Casablanca. What chance did I have on a visit? None, of course, which explains why I shall soon be rejoining a group of contented Berbers in Tiznit, there to enjoy the quiet life of carving silver gunpowder horns and perhaps helping tend the greens of the Robert Trent Jones course that King Hassan II is certain to have constructed one day in the Anti-Atlas.

I thought I knew what to expect in the way of golf in Morocco. I knew the king was building courses as if he had heard that Charlie Farrell was opening a racket club in Agadir. I was aware he had also been flying in Claude Harmon between nines to put some altitude on his low darters. But a golf course there, I felt, would have to combine all that was beautiful and serene about the St. Louis zoo and the battle of the Kasserine Pass. Read more

Update:

6. You're All Right, Jack (Sports Illustrated, April 1975)

Yeah, but Manny, we want Bob Redford for all three leading men. O.K., Jimmy Caan for Weiskopf, but Redford's got to play those two blond guys, Nicklaus and Miller. We call it The Greatest Golf Tournament Ever Played. So people argue. Who'll know? One blond guy makes a putt from here to Encino, and then the other two guys miss putts on the 18th from so close the hole looks as big as Coldwater Canyon. Now the blond guy who wins, Nicklaus, who is already the best there ever was, he marries his one-iron and takes his putter for a mistress. Cut and print. Ciao, baby.

There was something about the 1975 Masters that was cinematic from the beginning. The setup was perfect, all of the world's best golfers coming into the thing primed, poised, inspired, eager. And sure enough, it began to unfold toward what promised to be a historic climax, one way or another. But no one could possibly have imagined that in the final hours, it would become so excruciatingly exciting and monumentally meaningful in terms of the characters involved.

Honestly, if someone had said to one of those brilliant screenwriters, Do me a script where the year's first major tournament comes along, and on the last day, Sunday, April 13, Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf go out there and undergo the most unbearable of sporting pressure and provide the most inconceivable of thrills, hole after hole, until the whole business is ultimately decided by the vagaries of the game itself, what would have been written was precisely what happened last week in Augusta, Ga. Read more

More Dan Jenkins from the SI Vault

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