"No one is born with a full set of clubs"
Or, "the happiness of the half-set"
The other day, a friend introduced me to a Lee Trevino quote I’d not heard before. It was used in the context of a conversation about personal strengths and weaknesses, but it also made sense to me in the original context, when the great Texan was talking, no doubt incessantly, about the scope of our golfing abilities.
“No one is born with a full set of clubs”, he said, although the dozens of other famous Trevino quips made it difficult to locate the exact quote in my extensive (read: momentary) google search. In the couple of weeks since, this notion has been a recurrent theme on a few different levels, but yesterday, as I took my clubs from the porch and slung them over my shoulder, heading for another stolen hour or two of evening golf, I started to think about it more literally, in terms of the actual arrows in this particular pencil bag quiver.
They say that handicaps and scoring have barely improved in the last few decades, even since I started playing, with blades and persimmon woods. But all around are the latest cavity back irons, and light, huge drivers that make the occasional glance down at the beautiful, varnished grain and rusting screws of my old MacGregor Eye-o-Matic 3 wood ever more delightful. Under the ubiqiutous, garnished putter covers hide modern, expensive tributes to Karsten Ping’s old classics, beside those funny wooden tour sticks that no one ever seems to actually use.
Each shiny bag has fourteen clubs, whose retail value would make half the world’s population weep, and trying to work out which of the three or four essential wedges to use for the next thin or fat always seems to take an age on the course. Regardless of what they were born with, most golfers seem to end up with more than they probably need in their golf bag, just like in every other corner of our cluttered, hurried lives.
But in thinking about Trevino, and this delightfully simple quote of his, I am uplifted by my own approach of late. My custom fitted, precision set are on eBay now, while the feather-light bag on my shoulder has only a few sticks in, all of which are proudly second-hand, and each one has a reason for being there that comes from my heart, not from my head, or my wallet.
I wanted an Eye2 lob wedge from the moment they were declared illegal, and despite trying probably a thousand other models in between, I found this old one again in the loft, and dusted it down. And wouldn’t you know it, I pitch better with this old friend!
These forged Marumans were the model with which a local hero growing up, Ian Woosnam, won the 1991 Masters, so I carry a few odd-numbered ones today, an incoming eBay delivery of late. A Ping Chipo helps me around the devilish green surrounds, its original, square-patterned grip now drier than the desert, threatening to disintegrate with every little chip.
My putter will vary, depending on which one of a vast number of charity shop and internet gems in the shed speak to me on a given day, but each is worthy of the term classic, and each will share some happy memories of the good times with my golfing psyche. Today’s weapon is a very old Anser, and again the grip is falling apart, but I hole a few this evening, and all is good in the world.
The last piece of my incomplete jigsaw would make Trevino smile, particularly if he’d seen my swing. “If you are caught on a golf course during a storm and are afraid of lightning, hold up a 1-iron. Not even God can hit a 1-iron”, he advised, and as someone who was famously struck three times himself by lightning, he was probably well-positioned to comment, and the last sentence has some sense in it, for the 1-iron is now as much a part of the golfing history books as the cleek, or the mashie. Or the stymie, for that matter.
But the thing is, Lee, I grew up watching Sandy rip his old Ping 1-iron down the fairways of Royal St George’s and Augusta, and if sport can bring us the joy of watching those wins unfold, or of Woosie smashing a Conductor over the water at fifteen, or of Liverpool overturning a 3-0 deficit at home to Barca, then maybe we’re allowed to dream once in a while, allowed to take a chance, to try against the odds.
So standing on the first tee tonight, with that same model Lyle used to split each fairway in half, I’ll overlook the fact that, to paraphrase a few more of Trevino’s many words, there are times when “my swing is so bad I look like a caveman killing his lunch”, and have a great time trying to hit it straight. And I will pick up this pared down bag of storied chums, and walk on, smiling all the way.
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In case you are new in these parts, here’s one from the archive that perhaps sits well with the search for old golf clubs: