We were sitting around Augusta National this spring talking about golf when Dan Jenkins veered off the path and said, “You know what I really hate? Political correctness. College professors invented that @#$%, after they had finished teaching communism.”
Therein you have the essence of Dan Jenkins – a thinking man, terminally opinionated, not real fond of change and funny with a splash of vinegar on top.
They finally got around to inducting Jenkins, one of the most knowledgeable and entertaining golf writers ever to pen a sentence, into the World Golf Hall of Fame Monday night, a decade or two late, put him in there with his old friends and fellow Fort Worth products Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson. That’s a pretty impressive triumvirate from one city.
Jenkins, 88, will feel comfortable in there with all those 100-some legends because he’s not too thrilled with the way things are going in golf nowadays.
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“I’m an old-fashioned traditionalist,” he said. “so I can’t think of anything that’s changed for the better where the game is concerned. I can’t see why I’m supposed to like it that every 90-pound weakling can now drive the ball 310 yards, find no rough anywhere he plays and, due to superior maintenance, make 10-footers like he used to make two-footers.
“A pro named David Ogrin once described me so accurately, saying I’m a ‘hostile voice from a previous generation.’ Well, somebody has to be.”
Jenkins’ views are grounded in the 211 major championships he has covered, as well as many others tournaments and varied sports events, and countless hours spent talking with the game’s stars. (He played golf with Hogan 30 or 40 times.)
He doesn’t think Tiger Woods ranks with Hogan, Nelson, Jack Nicklaus or Jimmy Demaret because Woods has faced weaker competition on easier courses.
“Given today’s equipment,” he said, “Hogan, Snead and Nelson would be right up there with these guysThe competitive heart transcends eras.”
Jenkins, the sixth media member to go into the World Golf Hall of Fame, is in the Texas sports and golf halls of fame and has won a long list of other honors.
It’s in his 20 books that you find his humor running free, with phrases like “life its ownself” and characters with nicknames like Foot the Free and Cecil The Parachute. Along the way, he introduces us to young Scotches and chicken fried steak with cream gravy. A collection of his articles under the title of “The Dogged Victims Of Inexorable Fate” may be the best golf book ever and one of the stories, “Glory Game At Goat Hills,” is the most amusing thing I’ve ever read about golf.
Jenkins says, “I’ve never considered myself a novelist even though I’ve written a number of books and happily made some money. I’ve always considered myself a journalist first or a sports writer first and always will.”
Inducted along with Jenkins were Phil Mickelson, Hollis Stacy, Peter Alliss and Sandy Lyle.
When he learned of his election, a writer asked for his reaction. It’s hard to impress Jenkins. He said, “I’m flattered and honored and all that stuff you might imagine.”
The man’s got a silver tongue.