It seems like only yesterday that a kid we called "Chipmunk" and "Shipwreck" was scurrying around Augusta National like he owned the place. Twelve years later, Alan Shipnuck is a father of four, an author, and a double-winner in the 2008 Golf Writers Association of America writing contest. But he's never lost that boyish brashness, I'm happy to say.
Shipnuck was a legend at Sports Illustrated before he was old enough to rent a car. He was the first and only SI intern to get a Masters writing assignment -- a "Sports People" column about media center security guard Ede "Tiny" Harike. Shipnuck continued to write for SI while finishing his studies at UCLA. He then joined our staff as a golf writer, sometime editor and self-styled agent provocateur.
He brought to our pages a rare gift for celebrity baiting which, combined with his unmatched appetite for upscale travel assignments, made him the writer most likely to taunt Phil Mickelson on the Internet while zipping around the French Alps in an Aston-Martin convertible.
Certain star golfers, it goes without saying, do not take favorably to Alan's good-natured teasing. Mickelson and Ernie Els have dressed him down in public – at major championships, no less – and LPGA star Karrie Webb nearly filed stalking charges against Shipnuck when she spotted him at her home course in Australia. The players' outrage, more often than not, stems from Alan's immoderate postings on Golf.com, and not from his SI work. His first-place stories, for which he was honored last night at the GWAA Awards Dinner in Augusta, were "No Sweat," an account of Tiger Woods's victory in last year's PGA Championship, and "Avenging Angel," a gritty and poignant profile of the 2007 U.S. Open champ, Angel Cabrera.
One observer, watching Shipnuck walk out of the Savannah Rapids Pavilion with a big plaque in the crook of each arm, joked that he looked like Moses.
"The young Moses," I corrected. "The wisecracking Moses."
It's funny how these things work out. A couple of years ago I was going to have a cap printed with the words, "Don't Blame Me, Shipnuck Wrote It." Now I offer to help him carry his writing awards to the curb.
Makes a fellow feel old.