News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 31, 2011

Golf: ‘The Game You Love to Hate’

Bob Arnett
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Golf has been called “The Game You Love to Hate.” In addition, love-hate relationships have been around since the beginning of time. 

Golfers can also find themselves in a love-hate relationship with one of their clubs, and that would be the putter.

That’s right, the shortest, lightest club in a golfer’s bag creates more mayhem than any other club you might name. Par figures allow the expert player two putts on each hole. That’s 36 putts for 18 holes, which seldom would make most golfers happy.

Players on the PGA Tour know that to win at their level they had better keep their putting totals in the low to middle twenties.

When a golfer is knocking putts into the cup from all angles, the world is a happy, fun place and love prevails.  The putter gets hugs and kisses as its owner struts to the podium to receive his trophy and prizes.

When the putter balks and ignores the cup as though it contains the plague, pity the poor instrument that has created this chaotic situation. Putters are then thrown into lakes, pounded against trees and snapped in two pieces against the golfer’s knees.

Experienced putter throwers recommend always throwing the putter ahead so that it will not be necessary to walk back to retrieve the misbehaving flat stick.

Of all the clubs in a golfer’s bag, the putter is the one most often replaced. Golfers are always looking for the magic which a substitute putter might possess. Arnold Palmer, back in the 1960s, admitted to owning an arsenal of some 300 putters.

Most pro shops have always stocked an ample supply of putters, some with catchy names such as “Cash In,” “Bulls Eye,” “Jack Pot” and “Rabbit’s Foot.” Names such as these conjure up positive images in a golfer’s mind.  One putter had the shaft coming from the toe of the club and was named “basakward.” It has never been very popular.

One player back in the 1930s would tie his putter to the back bumper of his car and drag it to his next tournament. When he won a tourney, the putter could be found on the bed at his motel with the head of the putter resting on a pillow.

The putter, more than any other club, obviously knows the meaning of a love-hate relationship.


The PGA Tourney slated to end today at The Greenbrier in West Virginia had an illustrious professional representing the resort — none other than Slammin’ Sammy Snead himself. 

On my way to the Norfolk Naval Base to attend a radar school back in 1953, I stopped at the Greenbrier to see if I could get on the course. I was advised that if I would wait one hour I could join three players who worked for “Time” magazine.

I went down to the practice green where Snead was pitching shots. He was talking to a couple of fellows when one of them handed his sand wedge to Sam and said, “Try this one and tell me what you think of it.”

Sam replied, “This isn’t a bad wedge.”  Then the stranger asked Snead, “Can you hit it like a 7-iron?”  Sam replied, “I can hit it like a 7.” He then proceeded to hit a 150-yard shot toward the practice area. I took a closer look at the wedge with a wide-open face and a heavy flange; it reminded me of my Spaulding Dynamiter, which was effective from within about 90 yards.

At that juncture the stranger asked Sam, “Can you hit it like a 5-iron, Sam?”  Snead replied, “I can hit it like a 5-iron.” At that he hit a slow rising shot about 150 yards down the practice range.

I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing. Finally the owner of the wedge asked, “Sam, can you hit it like a  3-iron?” On that, Sammy hit a shot that started low and then began to rise after traveling about 180 yards in the air before dropping to earth. It appeared to me that Sam Snead could have made a good living as a trick shot artist if he had decided to shun the pro tour.

Congratulations to Tim Tennant for his win in the Marshall Open. The “Toy Cannon” fired a 70 to nip runners-up Joe Bridwell and Dave “Al” Alumbaugh, who shared second.

Kudos are also due Tom Jones and Chris Keen on their win in the Geneva Hills better-ball tourney last weekend.  Both Jones and Keen are former presidents of Terre Haute Golf Association. It’s great to see players succeed who have given back to building support for golf in the Terre Haute area.

Lee Shipley rounded up a couple of foursomes for a trek to French Lick to play Pete Dye’s creation. The players were unanimous in their praise for the course. All agreed that Dye’s layout was one tough track to play.

Tennant carded a 77 for the day’s best score and he admitted, “I don’t know if I could play that well again.” Shipley, who can put a great amount of “hurt” on a tee shot, posted an 83. Others who made the trip included Jack Myers, Steve Heck, Mike Wagle, Junior Sumner, Joe Bukovak and Steve Nicoson. Any golfer who can break 80 from the back tees is definitely a player to avoid in a “money game.”

n TIP OF THE WEEK: If you are interested in improving your score, spend more time hitting balls from 100 yards on in to the green.

High school players often want to see the ball fly, and that’s well and good, but nothing is better than practicing getting the ball up and down from close to the putting surface.

Virgil Morey, pro at the Phoenix Country Club, would bet anyone he could put 100 golf balls on a small green from a distance of 100 yards. He was a fantastic wedge player.

Keep your head down and your shoestrings tied. We’ll be back.