Saturday, June 09, 2007

I'm 45 myself, so i've been trying to figure out why the hell they'd be celebrating their 45th birthday at the cube farm where this magazine is made. Forty-five isn't 50 yet, hasn't been near 39 for too long, and is truly between the upper armpit and lower exit of existence. (I can't wait for the gala 46th. If these are major anniversaries, what will they do for the 50th, deck out the building in plaid polyester and stamp it with dimples?) \n

But duty calls once a month, so I delved through the grubby pages of time and came up with the first edition of Golf Magazine, dated April 1959. There was old Sammy Snead on the cover, slamming away in a pair of breast-high Sansabelts. And for the princely sum of 50 cents, you, the weekend golfer, could get inside President Dwight Eisenhower's game. Apparently Snead told Ike, "You're not getting your butt into it, Mr. President." That's a piece of advice that has been offered to several presidents since, from Kennedy to Clinton, albeit not from golfers.

The letters back then were from the same putt-struck addicts intent on improving their games, and the instruction department of the magazine is a monument to the teachers whose purpose in life was and always will be to screw with golfers' minds. Frankly, I'm surprised nobody has sued the magazine — or better yet, The Golf Channel — for emotional distress caused by exaggeration of the benefits of some new trick or gizmo. We're like the makers of SpongeBob SquarePants, who have tricked my youngest son, Rory, by wildly distorting the feasibility of living in a pineapple at the bottom of the sea. It might... just... work!

There's a lot to like in the 1959 version, like seeing Ben Hogan described as a "grim gypsy." But my favorite is a little half-page article called "How to Bet — a Glossary to Golf's Myriad Ways of Wagering." Great stuff! I mean, does anyone remember the bisque? It wasn't a lobster in your opponent's bag, but a shot given to a match-play opponent, to be used on any hole, provided it was declared before teeing off. Then there was the Pinehurst, a delightfully silly format in which partners had to play each other's tee shots, then select one ball with which to finish. I think they should use it next year when the U.S. Open is at Pinehurst. Let's see how the smarmy bastards who can hit those fairways do then!

There is only one logical explanation for this 45th-birthday frenzy: Golf Magazine is having a midlife crisis! Actually I'm quite relieved, as I was thinking it was just me. I hit the less-than-magical 45 last August 13, a birthday I share with two of my heroes, Ben Hogan and Annie Oakley, neither of whom (by bizarre coincidence) ever called Arnold Palmer by his first name either. Hogan hated anyone playing better than he did, and OK, Annie died in 1926. Still, when you factor in that I've never called Arnold anything but "Mr. Palmer," it is pretty spooky. Or it would be if you, too, were 45 years old, lost in a jungle of salt-and-pepper nose hair, battling love-handles and a bum-numbing addiction to Preparation H.

I wonder — should I have my love handles re-gripped? It's all the rage now, Buttox injections or whatever they call them. I should probably start with my eyes. The bags under them have gotten so big they won't fit in the overhead compartment anymore; I have to check them at the gate.

Now that I think of it, the last few editors of the rag have been progressively younger and better looking (ha — they'll run that), and the whole damn outfit is in the middle of a makeover. This is bollocks! I remember when this publication was a great addition to the dumper. It was soft and strong, and yet so thoroughly absorbent. Now it's slick and shiny and liable to give you a nasty paper cut. What kind of journalism is that?

We may be out in 45 and halfway to 90, but I'm sticking to my guns on the old back page. With advances in medical science, 45 years from now they'll have done a Ted Williams on my head and I'll still be getting paid for churning out crap like this. I smell Pulitzer!

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