OK, I said to my wife Beth, here’s one for you:
If you could put together a foursome of anybody who has ever played the game to play 18 holes, at the peak of their games, for your viewing pleasure, whom would you choose, male or female, foreign or domestic, amateur or professional, handsome or ... OK, you get it.
Out of the blue, I asked this question. We were sitting on the deck at twilight, she searching for a word in the puzzle she was working on, I searching shamelessly for a column.
Beth is a woman of great patience. I ask her lots of stuff, like have you seen my keys, what’s the vice president’s name again and what’s our street address and it only takes her a couple of minutes to get over it.)
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
She is not your average woman on the street when it comes to golf. She’s been to dozens of Augusta Masters, some British Opens, some U.S. Opens, a ton of regular Tour events and has stood beside the 18th green to watch me finish eighth in the fourth flight of the club championship. So she knows her stuff pretty well.
Her first pick was Walter Hagen. She liked his bon vivant style and his stack of major championships.
Her second was Ben Hogan. Heard about him for a long time, never got to see him play but Dan Jenkins swears he’s the greatest and that’s good enough for her.
Her third was Bobby Jones, an obvious pick.
Her fourth surprised me – Francis Ouimet, the kid who beat Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in a playoff for the 1913 U.S. Open title. She said she just liked the story. She didn’t say so, but she probably also thought that Shia LaBeouf, who played Ouimet in the movie “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” was pretty darn cute.
Beth hadn’t heard my choices but it turns out three of hers were mine as well – Jones, Hogan and Hagen. Jones and Hogan were obvious choices.
I picked Hagen for the same reason Beth did, his flair for showmanship which he could back up with some heavenly golf.
My fourth could easily have been Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer or Seve Ballesteros or Tom Watson or help me here Beth, what’s his name, the Merry Mex?
Yeah, yeah, Lee Trevino ... but I’ve seen them in action. I opted for a woman, Babe Zaharias, who basically took the lace off of the women’s game with her power and athleticism and brightened it with her electric personality.