2017-09-14 / Sports

Tee Time

Is the greatest-ever golfer somebody you’ve heard of?

During a conversation about the greatest golfer of all time, names like Nicklaus, Woods, Palmer or Bobby Jones come up. Perhaps there are some names that should, or could be included with those legends.

1.) Eddie Pearce had lots of fans. Ben Crenshaw believed he had the most “gorgeous, powerful swing,” and could “hit the most beautiful shots you’ve ever seen.” Lanny Wadkins believed he had more talent than anybody he knew. As a college golfer Gary Koch thought “he was like a God, he was that good”.

When he turned pro his revelry became legend. Despite not winning a PGA Tour event, he was recognised by his peers to be one of the most talented golfers they had seen.

2.) Even before the days of the Open Championship the Champion Golfer of Scotland was one Allan Robertson. A professional golfer, a caddy, a clubmaker and a ball maker. It is said than in all of his years playing he never once lost.

In 1858, he was the first man ever to break 80, by shooting a 79 at St. Andrews.

Without Robertson, there would have been no Open Championship. On his death there was a call to find out who was now the Champion golfer, and the Open Championship was born. It was won by a pupil of Robertson’s, a certain Tom Morris, a name we are all too familiar with.

3.) One man who thought golf existed for exploitation was Alvin Thomas – better known as Titanic Thompson. Thompson was a prolific gambler, more renowned for his extraordinary proposition bets. His great skill came at practicing, spending hours, days and weeks on seemingly impossible feats. It was in this manner he approached golf.

Thompson, and other golf hustlers, believed it was far more difficult playing golf hustle. While spending days topping, chunking and shanking balls convincingly he’d then launch a 280 yard drive just when he needed. In his latter days Thompson engaged the services of both Lee Trevino and Ray Floyd for his hustles. But before the golden era of Palmer and Nicklaus, when he was asked why he didn’t join the pro tour, he answered, “I couldn’t afford the cut in pay.”

4.) Jerome Travers was an amateur golfer who played in another golden era of golf. Known as Jerry he was one of the best amateur players ever to play the game, renowned as much by his cold and ruthless qualities as for his exceptional putting. Between 1906 to 1915 he won four US Amateur titles, five Metropolitan Amateurs and the US Open. In fact, only Bobby Jones won more amateur titles.

Yet, his career was short-lived. During the same winning period he twice decided not to enter the US Amateur and never again played a US Open after winning it. His achievements were recognised, but seldom celebrated, and at just 28 his great career finished. His peers acknowledged his greatness with Chick Evans, Francis Ouimet and Alex Smith all championing up his talents. But even today he is not widely known.

5.) No list can be complete without including Moe Norman, who was arguably one of the best ball strikers ever. He played just 27 PGA Tour events before returning to play in Canada after a difference of opinion with the officials. What he might have achieved had he stayed we’ll never know. But that’s part of the enigma that was Moe Norman. His nickname was Pipeline Moe, he hit it that straight. He was so accurate he didn’t need to fly the ball over water hazards, he just aimed at the bridge.

Perhaps the next time someone asks you the question who was the best golfer ever, instead of coming out with the usual suspects like Hagen, Watson, Jones or Snead, catch them off guard with a name they weren’t expecting.

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