Look, no doubt that Bernard Darwin was more than a golf writer. He was also a word technician. However, Mr.Â Darwin was a bit heavy for me, perhaps an unfair appraisal considering the different generations in which we lived. This, of course, brings me around to my subject of the day, Herbert Warren Wind, of whom Bing Crosby, more than just a crooner but a student of golf as well, probably said it best, when he wrote:
“Here in our country, the dean, without question, is Herbert Warren Wind. No man has ever covered golf so thoroughly or as beautifully.”
Yes, Der Bingle was composing the foreword for one of Herb’s books, of which there were many. In doing so, Bing spoke for many of us. Herb delivered the gospel for the American golfer, including several who would declaim one book as their textbook in the pursuit of a playing career. Not the least of these was Larry Nelson, who would win one U.S.Â Open and two PGAÂ Championships. The book bore a cumbersome and rather dullish title, Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, and the fact that it was composed in concert with Ben Hogan did contribute mightily to its popularity.
If you would know golf in this country, you should acquaint yourself with the book The Story of American Golf, as composed by Herbert Warren Wind in 1948 and republished three times. Herb began his acquaintance with the game in Brockton, Mass., a town of moderate size, and four golf courses, located a few miles south of Boston. One of its major industries has been the manufacturing of golf shoes. In his time, Herb, who died in 2005 at age 88, would travel the globe and play golf on every continent except Africa and Antarctica, whose climate, of course, is hardly conducive to the game. When Herb’s game peaked, his handicap was an admirable four.
He and I were, in our prime, course walkers, and there we came to know each better than we would have otherwise. We followed the game wherever our inkling took us, and there was no more inviting venue than Augusta National when the Masters was in play. He was easy to spot, the man in tweeds — when the season would allow — perched on his walking stick, binoculars strapped over a shoulder and a tweed cap on his head. Herb’s figure was one familiar to Masters galleries.
His idea was to station himself at the intersection of holes where there might be a confluence of contestants in contention. His most popular station was on the point where the 11th, 12th and 13thÂ greens were in view of his binoculars, and Rae’s Creek intersected with the wee stream that trickled along the 13thÂ fairway. That point became known as Amen Corner, and in some Masters literature credit for the appellation is given to Herb.
There was no such confirmation, least of all by Herb. In fact, one publication that appeared in the mid-1960s creates the impression that not until Tony Lema spoke of Amen Corner in ’63 had the term been applied. That Herbert Warren Wind coined the phrase, as they say, would be the least of his contributions to the historic success of the Masters. Actually, Amen Corner in Southern terminology originated in Protestant churches, where the menfolk collected in one corner, womenÂfolk herding the children, and when the pastor might strike a sensitive note, the menfolk would utter an approving “Amen” from their pews. So be it.
Herb had a close personal relationship with Bobby Jones and referred to him in the ’60s “as the most popular Southerner since Robert E. Lee and the most admired American athlete in the Golden Age of Sport. He came to know the best that life could offer, and over the past 20Â years, some of the worst.”
This referred to the cruel disease called syringoÂmyelia, which robbed Jones of the latter seasons of his life. For several years Herb would collect a handful of friends and pay Jones a visit in his cottage on the day before the Masters began.
In his book Golf Is My Game, Jones himself paid Herb this tribute: “Herb Wind is devoted to golf. He is a fine, sensitive writer on the game whose work ranges from essays of the most accuÂrately appreciative kind to some of the finest golf reporting I have ever read. His work is truly monumental.”
When one writer writes of another writer, such as Herbert Warren Wind, modesty comes easily. Envy is a professional response, and so it is that when I read Herb’s handiwork on golf, and golf at the Masters, I have read golf in its truest form.