GET INTO GOLF: What do you know about Moe?
It’s possible that the best player you’ve never heard of is also the best player ever. Of course, there isn’t one simple barometer for measuring the best.
Some might look at competitive victories. Yet, then this develops a subplot. Do some victories have more creditability or clout than others? Is Sam Snead the best because he still holds the all-time PGA Tour record with 82 wins?
Or perhaps Jack Nicklaus, who has the most Major wins? Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones, Byron Nelson, there is an argument for each.
Moe Norman. Who? Yes, Moe Norman. Tour players of the 1970s and ‘80s would not only know the name instantly, but many would say that he might be the best ball striker ever.
Let’s take a moment and delineate. The game has two categorical parts. One is the full-swing, known as long-game. Less than full swings become part of what is known as short-game (chipping, putting and pitching).
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Within the industry, the quality of those full-swings is called “ball striking.” One who is adept is called a good ball striker.
Born in Canada, Moe was a ball striking machine. The stories abound. Moe standing on the driving range and asking those around him if he should hit the “1”, the “5”, or the “0” on the 150 yard sign. Today, we can still watch Moe via YouTube with a 3-wood in his hand hitting balls at a green, approximately 235 yards out, with balls landing on the green and rolling up near the flagstick.
His golf swing is very unique, appearing almost uncomfortable. Arms outstretched, standing well away from the ball, it is nearly robotic as the shoulders and arms go back. Then, aggressively, the lower body pulls those seemingly locked arms and golf club through the ball and at the target.
Nobody is perfect, but every swing looks the same and the dispersion is minimal. It is said that he had just one two-stroke penalty (ie…lost ball, out of bounds) in 11 years. His accuracy and ability to hit shot after shot perfectly straight gave him the nickname “Pipeline Moe.”
So, the obligatory question becomes — why is Moe Norman not a household name?
Anxiety. Rumor has it that during competitive events it was not uncommon for Moe to run into the trees to regurgitate his anxiety. We’re told that although he had the resources for a relaxing night’s sleep, he would spend the night in his car. The poor man had his fears.
Yet, even with issues that might be addressed differently today, Moe was a winner. Norman had 55 Canadian Tour wins. Fifteen years after his passing, he still holds 33 course records. He made 17 holes-in-one. He is a member of the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame.
Sports, being a microcosm of life, has many unsung heroes. Moe Norman would not completely overcome his frailties, his phobias, but his athletic strengths and determination were truly remarkable.
So, when you have a moment, check him out on YouTube. We can get a glimpse of what he had to face each day. Yet, he loved the game and just might be the best ball striker ever.
John Renslow is a PGA professional, VP of Yugi Golf Management, and provides golf instruction at local courses.
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