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Golf far different from when I started

Someone who had too much time on their hands asked ol' Three Jack here how the game of golf has changed over my lifetime. I said, "Well, we no longer use shepherds' crooks to knock rocks around."

But I digress.

Changes, you say?

Drives of 300 yards are commonplace today. Sam Snead was known as Slammin' Sammy. Today he would be Bunting Sammy.

If Snead or Ben Hogan or Byron Nelson ever had a swing coach, they kept it to themselves. If you had mentioned a putting guru they would have said, "What's a guru?"

One-irons used to be big among the better players but try to find one today. Too hard to handle. Lee Trevino said if you're caught out in a lightning storm, hold up a 1-iron because even God can't hit one of those.

Women golfers used to wear long skirts and look dowdy. Nowadays they wear short skirts and look like Lady Gaga. Some of them.

Putting surfaces have changed. Greens are faster and smoother. It is no longer necessary to take a full turn in order to hit a long putt.

International players have overwhelmed the LPGA Tour and are swarming the PGA Tour. For two years in a row, international players have outnumbered Americans in the Masters field. And they are welcome. That wasn't true back when Lexington pro Dugan Aycock talked Bobby Locke of South Africa into coming over to play on the American tour. Locke played so well some of the pros offered Aycock a bribe to take Locke back where he came from. Aycock declined but Locke mercifully departed on his own.

Most of the top amateur players nowadays turn pro. That wasn't always the case. Players like Billy Joe Patton, Dale Morey and Bill Harvey could have made it on the tour but chose to remain amateurs. Explaining why, Patton, who sold lumber, said, "I made more money than Ben Hogan did last year." Today, if you can play a lick, you can make a million dollars a year on the tour.

Travel is much easier today. Lots of tour players have private jets. Others fly commercially. Oldtimers drove cars, usually sharing a ride with another player. Some, like Arnold Palmer and Dow Finsterwald, pulled trailers.

As a group, golfers are far better conditioned today. There was a reason Porky Oliver was called Porky. Today, with some exceptions, players work out, eat properly, don't spend their nights in bars and don't smoke. Of course, John Daly is a whole other story.

And as for today's sports psychologists, there were none around. Players solved their own troubles. They broke a club and drank some whisky and they were good to go the next day.

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