A biography of the humble Texas golfer who taught greats of the game and whose little instructional guide became the best-selling golf book of all time.
When Harvey Penick (1904-1995) died at age 90, Ben Crenshaw, one of Penick’s students, was preparing for the Masters. He immediately flew home for the funeral; such was his love for Harvey. He would win the Masters for the second time later that week. Austin journalist Robbins’ (Journalism/Univ. of Texas) first book is a gracious and endearing biography of Penick, about whom fellow Texan Byron Nelson, one of the game’s greatest players, proclaimed, he “knows as much about the basics of golf as any man in the world.” Penick was born and raised in Austin and lived near the city’s first golf course his entire life. In 1913, when he was 8, he began caddying at the course to make some money. Robbins writes that the young boy now “knew right where he was supposed to be.” He practiced hard, with purpose. Always the student, he memorized the “variables that produced the best shots” and meticulously wrote down his thoughts in a small notebook. At 12, he was made shop assistant and automatically became one of America’s first pros. At 17, he played in his first tournament and later competed against Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen. Club members—and pros—were anxious to get lessons from the quiet, circumspect young pro who studied swings like an “anthropologist…encountering a new civilization.” In 1992, three years before he died, a publisher paid a large advance for his Little Red Book. Robbins seems to have interviewed everyone who ever knew Penick, and he provides great anecdotes and stories about and from his most accomplished students, including Betsy Rawls, Mickey Wright, and Tom Kite.
This thorough, absorbing biography is also a history of golf in America and how one man taught so many how to hit a golf ball so well.