The Golfer's Alphabet: From Arnie to Tiger

Peter ImberContributor IIIDecember 22, 2011

The Golfer's Alphabet: From Arnie to Tiger

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    Putting together a golfer's alphabet is not a new idea. The book pictured here was published in 1898—the year after the first golf rules committee was formed by the R & A at St. Andrews and just months after William McKinley became the first sitting U.S. president to play the game.

    The author, William G. Van Tassel Sutphen, produced a whimsical work lighter than my Sun Mountain 3.5 bag with entries like this:

    "H is the Hole that was easy in four, And also the Hazard that made it six more."

    Van Tassel Sutphen also made a couple substantial contributions to the sport, being the first editor of America's first golf magazine and also the man responsible for coining the term "The 19th Hole."

    So, let's drink to Van Tassel and the fact that despite 100 years of illustrious history, legendary players and revolutionary equipment, the game really hasn't changed all that much.

    It's still 18 holes with the same elusive and unattainable goals that tantalize and challenge everyone's level of proficiency. Have you ever heard a golfer say he couldn't have done better than he did after a round? I haven't.

    Golf is still the game you can play well past your prime and actually continue to believe you are going to improve. In fact, it's the only sport I know where you look forward blissfully to the day when your age might actually equal your score. Can any other sport offer that? 

    With reverence and apologies to all those who have ever written about golf, I pay my own humble homage to the game I love. 

A Is for ARNIE...

1 of 26's first TV star. His charisma and popularity set an awfully high bar.

    "Arnold Palmer's place in history will be as the man who took golf from being a game for the few to a sport for the masses. He was the catalyst who made that happen."—Jack Nicklaus

B Is for BOBBY...

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    ...whose play on the course never earned him a dime, but his Grand Slam as an amateur will last for all time.

    "One might as well attempt to describe the smoothness of the wind as to paint a clear picture of his complete swing."—Grantland Rice


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    ...a setting for golf that is without compare but an experience we average golfers are unlikely to share. 

    "I do not expect anyone will ever have the opportunity of constructing another course like Cypress Point, as I do not suppose anywhere in the world is there such a glorious combination of rocky coast, sand dunes, pine woods and cypress trees."—Alister MacKenzie

D Is for DONALD...

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    ...but not Luke or Trump. Donald Ross designed courses with greens that still stump.

    "There is no such thing as a misplaced bunker. Regardless of where a bunker may be, it is the business of the player to avoid it."Donald Ross

E Is for ELY...

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    ...and the Callaway brand. He made clubs expensive but also quite grand.

    ''Prior to Big Bertha, the most feared, shunned, disliked golf club in most everybody's bag was the driver. Now, it's most everybody's favorite. What we did in creating that club was to transform an attitude among the masses. We made the driver easier to hit. We took the fear out of it.''—Ely Callaway

F Is for the FEATHERIE...

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    ...which outflew balls made of wood. At 20 bucks a pop, you'd better believe that they should. 

    "Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without words and never stops, at all."—Emily Dickinson not writing about golf

G Is for Greg and Gary...

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    ...a mate and a bloke. Norman wrote The Way of the Shark, and Player authored Don't Choke.

    "When someone has a bad day like that on the golf course, you say, Greg, you look good, you look fantastic. I like your shoes, I like your pants, I like your...well, the hat's okay. I mean, you need to keep it light. Instead they say, Greg, what's next? Suicide? Alcoholism? Drugs?"—Bill Murray

    "Player's feet shift restlessly until they have established solid balance and purchase in the turf; his arms make a straight, determined line down through the club; his jaw has a straight, determined thrust as he starts his swing. It is obvious that he is going to hit the ball just as hard as he possibly can."—Gwilym Brown

H Is for HOGAN...

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    ...the greatest ball striker there has ever been. The "Wee Ice Mon" came back and conquered, but never with a grin.

    "Every time I'd play with him I felt like I was a caddie. I felt like I shouldn't even be out there. He played that much better than anybody else, in my mind, in my estimation, of the players that I ever saw play the game."—Tom Weiskopf

I Is for IRELAND...

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    ...the Emerald Isle with links galore. You'll play a dozen and want to play a dozen more.  

    I woke my wife up and said, "I'm the Open champion, I can’t believe I’ve done it.'" She said, "I can believe it, there's the trophy, now can you go back to sleep?"—Padraig Harrington

J Is for JACK...

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    ...still the greatest of them all, and as golf's embodiment of sportsmanship, he stands 10 feet tall. 

    "He was not homespun like Sam Snead, funny like Lee Trevino. His pants didn't need hitching like Palmer's. Instead, he won over America with pure, unbleached excellence."—Rick Reilly

K Is for KATHY...

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    ...who won 88 times. That's an amazing number that obliterates any rhymes.

    "Golf, more than most games, has a number of cliches, often successfully disguised as tips. Watch out!"—Kathy Whitworth

L Is for Lee...

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    ...he's golf's everyman, with a swing that looked like he was whacking a can.

    “You can talk to a fade but a hook won't listen.”—Lee Trevino

M Is for the MAJORS...

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    ...of which there are only four a year, and if you want your piece of golf immortality, the goal always starts here.

    "Time is against me, but if you think of Tom Watson, who had a ten-foot putt to win The Open at 59, I'm still quite young,"—Colin Montgomerie 

N Is for NICK...

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    ...that's Sir Nick not old, now racking up Q Ratings not Senior Tour gold.  

    "Nick Faldo stared a lot of guys down. He never choked. He had a way of folding his arms and looking at you as though he knew you were going to make a mistake."—Curtis Strange


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    ...great player, club maker, greenskeeper, course designer, we owe him our thanks for making golf so much finer. 

    "People say he died of a broken heart; but if that was true, I wouldn't be here either."Old Tom Morris after the death of his son, Young Tom Morris, who died at age 24 and after winning The Open four times himself.


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    ...there's no doubt it's a beast. But why is it the best? Is the Pope just a priest?

    "To my way of thinking, Pine Valley possesses more classic holes than any other course in the world--ten of eighteen. Of the remaining holes, five are outstanding, two are good, and one, the twelfth, is ordinary, which at Pine Valley, is tantamount to being a misfit."—Robert Trent Jones

Q Is for Q-SCHOOL...

17 of 26 anything in golf as hard? Six rounds played by hopefuls and dreamers for 25 cards. 

    "It leaves them dazed with joy, with utter dejection. A small cadre are invited to a PGA Tour sponsored party that night to welcome them to the tour. The rest go back to hotel rooms to pack their bags and wait till next year. If, by some chance, one of the nonqualifiers were to wander into the party for the qualifiers — perhaps to congratulate a friend a tour official would very politely but firmly ask him to leave."—John Feinstein from Tales from Q-School

R Is for the R & A...

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    ...the most prestigious club in history. For golf's rules and rankings there should be no mystery.

    "Do I have to know rules and all that crap? Then forget it."—John Daly when asked whether he'd like to join the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, after winning the 1995 Open at St. Andrews. 

S Is for SAM...

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    ...with the sweet swing and straw hat. Before Ernie and Freddy, he was the smoothest cat. 

    "Watching Sam Snead practice hitting golf balls is like watching a fish practice swimming."—John Schlee


T Is for TIGER...

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    ...whose private world came crashing down. We watched and judged but missed his being around.

    "I don't care how long he plays and what he does. He will always be, I think, the greatest golfer that's ever lived. Tiger Woods will always be special, whether he continues to play at this level he's playing at or not. There is a mystique about him."Ben Crane

U Is for Updike...

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    ...who wrote about golf without equal and reminded us that with it there is always a sequel. 

    "Just a few shots a round keep us coming back; what other sport offers such sudden splendor for so few calories of expended energy? In those instants of whizz, ascent, hover and fall an ideal self seems mirrored. If we have that one shot in us we must have thousands more..."—from "The Bliss of Golf" by John Updike 

V Is for the PRO V1...

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    ...the ball that's part bird and part rocket. If I could only afford them, I'd have them in my pocket.  

    "In a sonar search last year for the Loch Ness monster, scientists with a submersible device instead discovered more than 100,0000 golf balls."The New York Times

W Is for WATSON...

23 of 26's elementary my dear. Tom is the Watson that so many revere.

    "It would have been a hell of a story, wouldn't it? And it was almost. Almost. The dream almost came true."—Tom Watson after losing in a playoff to Stewart Cink at the The Open in 2009 

X Is for an X...

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    ...which you can take on a hole, but not really. Because there's this thing called a handicap, which precludes such a deal(ee).


    4-1. Unfinished Holes and Conceded Strokes

    A player who starts, but does not complete a hole or is conceded a stroke must record for handicap purposes the most likely score. The most likely score may not exceed the player's Equitable Stroke Control limit, defined in Section 4-3. This most likely score should be preceded by an "X." (See Decision 4-1/1)

    There is no limit to the number of unfinished holes a player may have in a round, provided that failure to finish is not for the purpose of handicap manipulation.

Y Is for the YIPS...

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    ...the frightening failure of fine motor skills. To golfers who suffer them stay away from the pills!

    “A woman student of mine, a surgeon, was fine in the operating room but had terrible yips putting, one of the worst I’ve ever seen."—Hank Haney

Z Is for ZAHARIAS...

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    ...who was nicknamed for that other Babe—"The Sultan of Swat"—and she once struck out DiMaggio on a called third strike believe it or not. 

    "The Babe is here. Who's coming in second?"—Babe Didrikson Zaharias