Musings from the eccentric but undeniably brilliant mind of Doug Kelly.
With a college education coming by way of a golf scholarship, I eschewed a career as a wealthy touring pro and instead became a starving writer. Be that as it may, I've always made an effort to watch the greats of the game when PGA Tour events are held nearby. In that capacity as a spectator and also as a player, three incidents stand out.
The first occurred in the early 1970s as the legendary Sam Snead strode to the tee box at the 12th hole and by coincidence stood next to me while waiting his turn to drive. Snead's eyes met mine and, knowing his long friendship with baseball great Ted Williams and their mutual love of fishing, I wistfully asked if they'd wetted a line together recently. Snead winced, his eyes narrowing and head shaking side to side. “I can't make a %$#?&!X putt today and you want to talk about Ted Williams?”
Mortified, I said nothing. Snead hit his drive and walked off down the fairway, and I figured that was that. But about an hour later, I stood at the 16th tee as Snead's group walked up. He scanned the gallery and after his eyes stopped on me he strode over.
“Listen here, kid,” he snarled. “Would you go to a ball park and in the middle of the game when Ted Williams just struck out three times ask him if he's fished with Sam Snead lately?”
“Um, probably not,” I stammered. That something this trivial was still eating at him totally amazed me.
“Good,” he snapped. “Then keep your little mouth shut about Williams or anyone else while I'm out here hacking my way around the course.” With that, Snead did a 180 and walked away while muttering an unflattering reference to my maternal heritage.
The second memorable incident took place when I became the brunt of a bit of word play by the great comedian Jackie Gleason. After being awarded the golf scholarship, I was given the honor of playing in a foursome with Gleason preceding a PGA tournament. The golf course was riddled with water hazards and by the 17th hole we'd all pretty much emptied our golf bags of balls.
The formidable tee shot at the 18th hole featured a lake running parallel to the entire left side of the fairway. Feeling the pressure, I hit a dastardly duck-hook and my heart lurched as the ball sailed into liquid oblivion. I groaned in misery and quickly twisted my head away as if denying any links demon the pleasure of witnessing my agony.
Gleason laughed heartily and quipped, “Don't whine, Doug – we ran out of cheese a long time ago.”
I also received my comeuppance a few years ago during a PGA tournament in nearby Palm Harbor. It was a hot, sweaty day and I noticed Swedish pro Jesper Parnevik walking off the 18th green with an uncharacteristic frown. In an effort to cheer him up a bit, I moseyed over and said in a commiserating tone, “Hey, you don't look so good.”
Parnevik glanced at me and replied, “Neither do you.”
In the future I'm going to take Snead's advice during a golf tournament and keep my little mouth shut.
- Doug Kelly, a resident of Clearwater, is a book author and successful freelance writer who's worked on the editorial staffs of state and national magazines. He's a member of several media organizations as well as the Society of American Travel Writers.