A LITTLE BIRDIE TOLD ME
When anyone, say someone I meet in a sports-bar, finds out about my long stint working as senior editor of instruction at GOLF Magazine, they almost always ask one question to start things off in their questioning session.
The most common query: Who is the nicest pro you ever met?
My answer: Ben Crenshaw. Ben was on our masthead as a Playing Editor, along with pros such as Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman, Johnny Miller, Ray Floyd, and Peter Jacobsen.
In addition to writing articles with all these players, and a book, Natural Golf, with Seve, myself and editor George Peper, each year, around the time of the Tournament Players Championship, in Jacksonville, Florida, would meet at nearby Sawgrass, in a conference room for food, drinks, and talk with our players about such subjects as The Rules, Best Shots Hit, Worst Shots Hit, Player they Prefer to be Paired With in Tournaments, and then we’d go write articles about these subjects.
Well, as much as I usually learned something new about a player at one of these sessions, where Ben Crenshaw was concerned, I already knew he was a two-time Masters champion, winning his second, in 1995, for his lifelong teacher who just had died, Harvey Penick, and that he was a golf historian with one of the most comprehensive golf libraries, containing the rarest of books.
What I did not learn about Ben at our Sawgrass get- togethers, but did hear from Ben’s own mouth during the 1984 Masters, the year he won his first green jacket, was that he was a birdwatcher. Something I would never have predicted in a million years. Furthermore, at another Masters I attended, one of our editors on the features’ side, David Earl, told me that he ran into Ben, who was so super-excited he could hardly talk. I thought David was going to tell me that Ben had found one of the most rare golf books, not in his collection. Wrong!
David told me that Ben was over the moon because during the practice rounds he had spotted four birds indigenous to the Augusta area: Red-Shouldered Hawk, Spotted Sandpiper, Wood Duck, and Pied-bill Grebe.
You just never know about a man’s hobbies.