After the U.S. Open Championship ends as it did so dramatically last Sunday, you might look forward to what the pundits on the Golf Channel or in the newspapers, golf magazines and blogs have to say. Years ago, if you followed golf faithfully, you waited patiently for Herbert Warren Wind’s New Yorker article. And you were never disappointed. Wind, who graduated from Yale University, and earned a Master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Cambridge, began writing for the New Yorker in 1941. He covered the major golf tournaments for the magazine from 1960 to 1990 when he retired, a period when television coverage was for the most part still limited.
Wind often wrote in the first person and his reports always described the scenes he witnessed most vividly. For example, writing about the 1956 Open at the Olympic Club, at a point soon after television coverage had ended by proclaiming Hogan champion,
“In the clubhouse—how sharp the picture remains!—Hogan sat slumped before his locker, patiently answering the questions of the press but sidestepping all congratulations with the reminder that his victory was not yet official, since some players were still out on the course.”
Later in the same paragraph,
“The news that filtered in was not hard and exact, but [Jack] Fleck was reported to have parred the thirteenth and bogeyed the fourteenth. Now, to tie he would have to birdie two of the last four holes. It was at about that time that I decided to get out on the course again.”
Catching up with Fleck on the par-3 fifteenth hole, Wind continued,
“As I was trying to find elbowroom in the crowd, a galvanic shout went up. Fleck, a frenzied man informed me, had holed from 9 feet for a 2. Now all he had to do was birdie one of the last three holes—not that this would be easy.”
With Wind’s retirement golf writing took a hit from which it may never recover.
As far as I knew, Wind confined himself to prose, so I was surprised to learn (from Bill Scheft, a Wind nephew) that Wind’s first contribution to the New Yorker was a poem. With Scheft’s help I found the poem on the last page of Herbert Warren Wind’s Golf Book. I offer it more as an historical artifact than great poetry. Wind’s prose will more than suffice.
The elevator man’s son counts:
1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,14 and so on.
And sometimes mezzanine.
The porter’s son counts by fives:
5,10,15, and carry one, 15,20,25, and carry two. Or
By tens should speed require.
The agent’s son counts by fractions:
1-1/10, 2-1/10, 3-1/10, and so on.
He does it in his bean.
The golfer’s son counts:
1,2,3,fore,5,6,7. And balks
At counting any higher.