Saturday, January 20, 2007

Twoscore and five years ago, our fore-fathers brought forth a new magazine, conceived in some smoky 19th hole and dedicated to the American golfer. GOLF MAGAZINE would be for country-clubbers and muni players in all 49 states -- and Hawaii too, once the Aloha State joined the Union four months later.

In 1959 the Celtics swept the Lakers -- the Minneapolis Lakers -- in the NBA Finals. Frank Sinatra won his first Grammy Award, which was also anybody's first Grammy, since the Grammys began that year. And that spring our first cover showed Sam Snead, who was not identified. Everybody knew Slammin' Sam. Inside, the first GOLF MAGAZINE led off with a letter from Bob Jones: "I am delighted to know that you are projecting a first-class magazine devoted entirely to golf." Next came a note from Walter Hagen, who wrote, "Old-timers such as Bobby Jones and myself, who are watching through the picture windows, will be depending on your new magazine to keep us up to date on the links we knew so well yesterday." On the same page was a letter from Art Citrynell of New York, who asked, "Do you think you can run some articles which might help average players like myself? I can't seem to make my long-irons work.... My putting is a little weak too."

Through 534 issues and thousands of pages of swing tips, we are still helping players who can't hit their long irons. On that score, 45 years of instruction have boiled down to four words:.Switch to lofted woods. As for putting, decades of hard work have led to a two-word solution to your troubles: Dave Pelz. But the game is still maddeningly difficult. That's why more than six million readers turn to us for help every month. Millions more read our foreign editions in Australia, China, Korea and other lands. Someday we'll run a headline worthy of McDonald's: More Than a Billion Slices Cured.

"The advent of electric golf carts is bound to shape our future golf courses," Gene Sarazen wrote in a prophetic column in 1960. "Architects designing new courses will have to plan bridges and hard-top paths along the fairways to handle this new type of traffic." Six months later, in a story headed "Boy Wonder," defending U.S. Amateur champ Jack Nicklaus proved he was no prophet. "You can print this or you can forget it," the 20-year-old Nicklaus told GOLF MAGAZINE. "I will never become a professional golfer." We printed it and remembered it as Jack went on to demonstrate that the old, oblong Tourney he played was no crystal ball.

A March 1963 story held a better forecast. Nicklaus had won only one pro major by then, but we made him odds-on to become the best player ever: "What is there to stop him? Probably nothing. But if anything, boredom perhaps. Or calories." Noting that his weight was a worry ("Jack, called 'Blob-o' and 'Whale-man' by his classmates at Ohio State..."), writer Will Grimsley portrayed a 23-year-old Nicklaus so strong ("averaging around 280 yards with his driver") and willful that his destiny was clear. Grimsley quoted Sarazen: "I've never seen a player who could shut himself off from all around him the way Nicklaus does. Nothing affects him." That fierce will turned "Blob-o" into a champion who fulfilled our every prediction, including a line that helped fix the Golden Bear's famous nickname: "On the putting green, Nicklaus hunches over the ball like a frozen grizzly bear."

Gender roles were shifting in the '60s, but we seemed stuck in the '50s. A 1963 feature, "Ten Ways to Keep a Golf Widow Happy," prescribed Ricky Ricardo tactics ("Bring her a box of candy") to pre-empt a fate worse than bogey: "A powerful weapon she can use... is withholding sex. This, in turn, can trigger hostility on his part." And that piece, by Dr. Joyce Brothers, was progressive compared to a 1964 screed by columnist Oscar Fraley. While admitting there was "nothing like a dame," he asked,."But why do they have to foul-up a great game like golf?" Lest you think Fraley was the lone curmudgeon at that month's articles meeting, his story came with a note saying that the article didn't "necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the editors of GOLF Magazine -- but don't bet on it."

A new spring brought another Snead cover. No one noticed at the time, but the background of our May 1964 issue showed a golfer urinating on a palm tree. Around the office we call that one the "Mr. Tinkle" cover.

How much has the game changed since 1966? That was the year we asked touring pros which of the majors mattered most. Surprise answer: the PGA Championship, which Dave Marr said "is in a class by itself."

In 1968, beside a tempting ad for the upscale Concord Golf Resort in New York, (three days of golf, deluxe lodging and three meals a day for $60), we ran a story on Golf-O-Tron, an early golf simulator. Designed by a firm that made ballistic missiles, the game offered video versions of Pebble Beach and Pinehurst and sold for $10,000, or $63,230 in today's dollars.

By '72 our editors were making like Carnac, predicting Nicklaus victories in that year's Masters, U.S. Open and British Open, "and everyone will go out of their birds waiting for the Super Slam to be completed at the PGA." Nicklaus won at Augusta and Pebble Beach and lost by one shot to Lee Trevino at Muirfield. That issue also carried these lines praising the U.S. Open venue: "Not everyone can play Merion or Baltusrol or the Olympic Club. But everyone -- everyone with money, since the greens fee ranges up to $20 -- can play Pebble."

A Message from the White House
Congratulations to GOLF MAGAZINE on your 45th Anniversary.

Mark Twain once called golf "a good walk spoiled." Clearly he was never president. For me, golf provides a welcome escape outdoors with friends and family, and a chance to exercise. Golf is a longstanding tradition in the Bush family -- we've even created our own version of the game, which rewards both score and speed of play. Some of my fondest memories are of early-morning rounds with my dad.

Golf is one of the few sports in which each player reports his own score. There are no referees to call penalties or enforce the rules. The game demands integrity and trust, and it sets a good example for young people beginning to build character. And as anyone who has ever picked up a club can attest, golf is a great challenge. A well-placed trap or tricky green can test the patience of the most seasoned professional. Yet the game has a way of satisfying even the beginners among us. No matter how many 5-irons you shank in a round, there will always be one good enough to keep you coming back. May all your drives find the fairway in 2004.

—President George W. Bush
January 30, 2004

white shorts and a white polo shirt

Golf in the Kingdom,













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45th Anniversary www.golfonline.com/45

A long shot? Maybe, but so was GOLF MAGAZINE 45 years ago, when nobody thought we would be here today, just hitting our stride in 2004.

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