During my instruction/coaching recently, I caught myself repeatedly quoting the off-the-cuff sayings of Moe Norman.
Being of the last generation and fortunate enough to experience Moe towards the end of his prime and into his senior years, I have the fondest of memories, and yes, so many of those so-called “Moe stories” are true.
I know so many of you can relate to these stories. They are consistent from course to course.
I first saw Moe hit golf shots at the age of 11 on the driving range at Maples of Ballantrae, where I worked in the backshop and on range duty.
Mr Ted Maude and head professional Tom Aired brought him in for a corporate demonstration. I still remember Mike Mackie, the assistant pro at the time, slipping me out the back of the pro shop door where the range tee deck was, and telling me to be quiet and watch.
It was amazing. I am not sure if that set-up is still there, but there was an old turf care barn at the end of the range some 250 yards out, and I still to this day swear that Moe hit the same board of the barn five or six times in a row!
Moe certainly found his comfort zone with certain facilities and that year, he stopped by to see Tom and the boys in the shop a few times.
I recall one day putting the pull carts back as Moe pulled up in his old Cadillac. He noticed that I worked there, obviously in the backshop, and said, `Hey little guy. Come here, come here,’ as he stood at the back of his open trunk.
I looked in and saw a number of irons.
He said, “See this, See this.”
Moe was showing me a long wrap grip that looked like leather, but was actually made of rubber – mostly black with a thin line of colour where the wrap overlaps itself.
Moe then handed me the grip end of an iron, and said, “Feel that. Wow, soft grip and tacky. These grips were only made for four years, only four years – ’52 to ’56, ’52 to ’56. If you ever see one in the back, hold it for Moe, hold it for Moe!”
Well, needless to say, I still to this day look at old yard sales and flea markets to see if I come across any of those grips.
I did come across one that I found that one in an old lost and found bag when I worked for Bob Kennedy a couple of years later at Sleepy Hollow in Stouffville Ont.
When the tour wrap came out some 20 years ago, I could have sworn that some engineer found the clubs that Moe was playing and duplicated the material and wrap of the grip.
While working for Bob Kennedy for six years at Sleepy Hollow, I distinctly recall in my last couple of years taking repairs to a fellow named Danny. He had a repair shop in the basement of his daughters place, a true repair shop where inserts on persimmon would be poured, shafts re-whipped or replaced and heads refinished.
Mr. Kennedy mentioned he was one of the finest craftsmen for MacGregor back when they were hand forging irons. I hope some one remembers his last name for me. His shop was near Summit back when Shayne Dysart was an assistant there.
Anyway, Moe spent a good part of the summer there because every time I came to pick up or drop off clubs, Moe was sitting there on a work-out bench in the back porch, pumping iron with his legs.
As I walked by, he said “Wow! Wow! Moe’s hitting it an extra 10, extra 10!” as he continued pumping the weights with his legs. I would be there for 10 or 15 minutes and he wouldn’t stop.
Danny would just keep working away, and often, he showed me one of his new masterpieces that he had finished, like an old persimmon Spalding with the grain going back perfectly straight from the face, stained just right with the lines appearing subtly in the dark brown shine.
I quietly asked, “How long has Moe been there doing that?”
Danny responded, “Oh, an hour or so”.
I wanted to ask Moe a couple of questions, just hoping that I would be able to get some insight from him, just a little something from stories about from all the pros I worked with and to satisfy the curiosity of somebody so young.
However, I was too nervous to interrupt him and not around so much to have him come out and start talking about the intricacies of the game.
It wasn’t until I was working for David Wood and Leon DeCaire in the Spring Lakes pro shop that I would have the privilege of catching a few phrases from Moe that I had been waiting seven or eight years to hear.
One July afternoon, I looked up from the counter and all of sudden Moe was right there, putter in one hand, literally throwing a golf ball at the putter head (a blade at that) and catching it.
He did this non-stop while he was looking around the shop. I remember he started chatting with me about “hope and fear.”
Moe said, “Hope and fear, hope and fear – I don’t understand why people think these guys on tour are so good. All these guys get in their own way. They’re hoping and fearing.
“They fear they are not going to make the shot, so they are hoping it’s there and they hope that they are going to make the shot because they fear what might happen if they miss. How can they play like that?
“Hope and fear. They’re full of hope and fear!”
I hung on every word he said, but a member came in. I served the member, had all kinds of questions for Moe, looked around the shop and he was gone.
A few more members came in and after about 15 minutes, the pro shop had cleared out again. The next thing I heard from the far corner of the pro shop was a repeated clicking sound of a golf ball hitting a clubhead.
I went around the racks and there was Moe standing their firing this ball of the putter head and catching it again. I finally had the absolute pleasure of a one-on-one discussion to understand better about what he was saying with the hope and fear theory.
His comments were simple and true. If you hope that you will hit the ball to a particular location, than you obviously have some fear about that shot. If you fear a shot, then you will be only hoping that you are going to hit it according to plan.
The book Extraordinary Golf, has some very similar philosophies, with regards to getting yourself out of the way of the game and the shot your are playing.
Moe was right.
If you can clear your mind of everything except the fact that you have your target and have the confidence that you can hit your shot where you want, then you will.
It is that simple. If all your mind knows is to hit the ball from here to there, then it will do it. It is us that puts hesitation and fear into where we don’t want the ball to go.
That was exactly his point. Why would anyone worry about where they don’t want the ball to go? Just get up and hit it where you do want it to go.
Three different students reminded me of Moe’s words of wisdom about “hope and fear, hope and fear.”