Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Ben Crenshaw, Judy Rankin, Tom Kite, Fred Cobb, Harvey Penick, Babe Zaharias, Lee Trevino . . . the list of Texas golf legends reads like the leader board of an imaginary 20th-Century Golf Greats Invitational.
The Lone Star State has spawned more than its share of golf heroes, and fifty of the best are featured in this collection of portraits and interviews. Milosevich deftly illustrates each golfer with compelling head-and-shoulder portraits and action views. Sampson's brief vignettes of the golfers capture the dramatic incidents and illuminating details that help make each person a legend on and off the links.
Nineteen eighty-six Buick Open, thirteenth hole, final round. Again Crenshaw is fighting to hold a one shot lead, but he hits a wild four-iron second shot on this par five that stops against the trunk of a tree. He has no shotùor does he?
"My only shot was with a nine iron, upside downùleft handed" says Crenshaw. He hits the damnedest pressure shot anyone has ever seen: from forty yards and between trees, Crenshaw's left-handed hack stops four feet from the hole. He makes the birdie putt, of course, and wins the tournament.
On the first tee, a laughing Trevino held up a rubber snake he kept in his golf bag. The gallery laughed too, feeling the same release from the drama and tension of the moment that Trevino did. Nicklaus sat quietly, at the back of the tee on a spectator's chair while his mugging opponent dangled the toy reptile at the end of the club. Nicklaus joined in the merrimentùhe asked to see the fake snake, then flung it back to Trevinoùbut his smile seemed forced.
Trevino won the playoff [with Nicklaus], sixty-eight to seventy-one, for his second US Open title. Three weeks later he won the Canadian Open and the week after that, the British Open.
What would Kite hit? Surely he would play away from the water, with a two or three iron. Perhaps he would gamble and hit a three wood. He looked at his caddy, Mike Carrick. "What do you think about a driver?" he said. The color drained from Carrick's face.
Wind billowed the legs of Kite's grey pants as he got set to hit. "It's a driver!" whispered the television announcer.
He nailed it....
"Best swing I made all day," said Kite to no one in particular as he walked off the tee.
Dave Marr calls him "one of God's people." He is indeed a gentle man, this patriarch of Texas golf, but he is also humorous and sly. "'I'd like you to meet Mr. Ammanex," Penick says, as a confused-looking member introduces himself as Roane Puett. Ammanex? "Well, whenever I see you, you say, 'Am I next?"' explains Penick. HOW ARE YOU TODAY, MR. PENICK? asks another member, loudly compensating for the old gentleman's hearing loss. "I'm Mister Penick's son Harvey," he deadpans, not answering the question.
"I remember playing in one of those first tournaments with Babe, and I was nervous," recalls Marilynn Smith. "So Babe put her arm around me on the first tee and said in a loud voice, I always like playing golf with you Smitty. You really bring out the crowds." The gallery laughed, of course. They were there to see the Babe. But the humor relieved Smith's tension and made her a Zaharias fan for life.
When he's not out on the golf course trying to improve his five handicap, Paul Milosevich is in front of an easel sketching, drawing, or painting. A thirty-year retrospective of his work, Out of the Ordinary, was published in 1991 by Texas Tech University Press.
Curt Sampson was "broke and disgusted" at the end of a four-year stint as a club and touring pro. So he traded in the trials and tribulations of a golf pro for the woes of a writer, thankful that he can stay close to the game he loves. He is a frequent contributor to national golf magazines and the author of The Eternal Summer.
Each collector's edition is prefaced with signature pages bearing original ink signatures of more than two dozen golfers, including Tom Kite, Judy Rankin, Ben Crenshaw, Sandra Haynie, Byron Nelson, Kathy Whitworth, and Dan Jenkins.
The Eagle Edition is a handsome book and slipcase of hunter green accented with gold stamping. These fifty numbered books are signed by twenty-three golfers, including Ben Hogan and Harvey Penick, and each book is priced at $750.
The Legends Edition is bound in smoke blue with silver stamping on the slipcase. This edition of 398 numbered books is signed by twenty-nine golfers and each book is priced at $350.