“Kenny come watch this!” my dad shouted through to me.
I came through to see him watching The Golf Channel, and there was a fairly unremarkable guy hitting golf balls with a ‘non-textbook’ swing. Then he started talking and he was cockier than Patrick Reed. He was saying how easy golf was and people were playing the game wrong. He repeated this many times. His name was Moe Norman, and until then, I hadn’t heard of him. Here’s the thing though, it turns out that this guy is a fairly big deal and people should take more notice of his lessons.
Now the history. Who was the late and great Murray ‘Moe’ Irwin Norman? First of all Model Sports Fans, you’ll be pleased to know he was Canadian. He was born in Kitchener, ON and used to be a pinsetter at a local bowling alley. He didn’t look like a golfer, he used clubs that weren’t clean and his woods didn’t have head covers. He won the 1955 and 1956 Canadian Amateur Championship and this earned him an invite to the 1956 US Masters from Bobby Jones. He went out and shot a seventy-five on day one. After this he went, as many pros would, to the range to hit some balls. There he met his hero Sam Snead and was offered advice from him. He took the advice and hit ball after ball after ball trying to ingrain these pointers and be set for Friday’s round. He hit so many balls that he could barely grip the club the next day. His hands were torn to shreds and he carded a seventy-eight then left Augusta. He played the same tournament the year after and never played another major.
Moe Norman played on the PGA Tour in 1959 but this did not last. Golf got in it’s own way here in my opinion. Everyone knows that golf can be guilty of being too conservative and Moe was a victim of this. At a tournament in New Orleans he was given a dressing down for his ‘distracting antics’ after finishing fourth. This broke Moe’s heart and he quit the tour and went back to Ontario. America never saw him play again. Norman was most probably autistic but was never diagnosed. Listening to him you hear a very cocky guy but in truth he was cripplingly shy unless he had a golf club in his hands. He would tee off from coke bottles rather than tees; he would tee off at par fours with a wedge and hit a driver onto the green. He would still walk away with par or better. These are the kind of ‘antics’ that got him into trouble but these quirks made Moe Norman.
So he went to the Canadian Tour. He won fifty events, made seventeen hole in ones, nine albatrosses, and carded three rounds of fifty-nine. No more needs to be said to depict his greatness.
The story or Norman is a bittersweet one. Tiger Woods is on record as saying that two golfers in history ‘owned their swing’ Ben Hogan and Moe Norman. Ask many of golf’s greats and they will tell you that he is the greatest player to have lived. No one would stop a range like him. The legends of golf would put down their clubs and watch him hit balls, every single ball hit exactly the same. He was the world’s greatest ball striker. He loved golf and in an interview in 2000 came up with this gem to describe how he felt about our great sport:
“Golf is happiness
It’s intoxication without the hangover
It’s stimulation without the pills
Its price is high yet its rewards are richer
Some say it’s a boy’s pastime yet it builds men
It cleanses the mind and rejuvenates the body
It is these things and many more
For those of us who know and love it
Golf is truly happiness”
A film is being made about his life. It is being funded in part by the great one Mr. Gretzky himself and I cannot wait for this to come out. Look him up and see the most skilled golfer you’ve now heard of. Thanks for reading.
Photo credit to: usatoday.com