When Larry Olson came up with the opportunity to bring Moe back to Augusta National, I wasn’t sure how Moe would react. But he responded in typical Moe fashion. When Larry asked Moe if he would like to go, Moe’s reply was classic.
“Who wouldn’t?” Moe said with a brevity that matched his backswing.
We picked Moe up in Titusville and what followed was a Moe experience easy to chuckle about now, but then was exasperating to Larry. The trip occurred while Larry was president of Natural Golf Corporation, and the itinerary called for us to put on a clinic in Tampa on the return trip from Augusta National.
As I tell this, I can’t describe the roller coaster of emotions that Moe took us on through that unforgettable sojourn. There we were, Moe, Larry and me with my not-so-curly hair, caught in a stooge like performance of the absurd.
Here’s how it went:
We met Moe in Titusville, left his car there and he rode in the front seat. Larry drove and I was in the back with a yellow shirt Moe hung there.
On the way, Moe told Larry he wouldn’t be able to perform at our scheduled Tampa clinic because of a letter he had received from US Internal Revenue Service.
Larry mostly ignored the subject. “My experience with Moe was that if a conversation turned difficult it could turn into a really Page 61
uncomfortable day, so I basically ignored his mention of the letter and switched the subject,” Larry reflected later.
We drove down Magnolia Lane and when we arrived at Augusta National were met by our host Dr. John Reynolds, the CEO of Club Car, Inc. and Professional Dave Spencer.
Spencer, a long time Moe Norman fan shared a Moe story worth repeating. He told me that when he sought out Moe at a Canadian Tour event several years ago, Moe told him he had a million dollars in the trunk of his car and wanted to show Dave.
Perplexed, Dave followed Moe to his auto whereupon Moe produced an Augusta National Masters towel he had been given in 1956 when he competed.
“I sit on it every day,” Moe said, “I wouldn’t sell it for a million dollars.”
And with that anecdote we begin to glimpse how important that event was to Moe.
True to form, however, Moe’s nose thumbing toward authority was on display when we got there, as I turned from our greeting group to see him bare-chested in the parking lot, changing his shirt, an Augusta National etiquette faux pas of seismic proportions.
Larry intervened and tried to get Moe to go to the locker room.
“What for? It’s a beautiful day?” was Moe’s rejoinder.
When we made it to the golf course everything changed. Moe was in his element and his ball striking genius was evident and frequently displayed. He did not make a real effort to putt. I guess Moe was just not going to pick that scab. His shots were pure. He was graceful and helpful. Page 62
On number 11, Moe knocked a 5 wood about 3 feet from the hole, then on #12, we walked across the bridge. “What a great feeling” he said “What a great feeling”.
On the infamous 15th, we each hit our second shots into Rae’s Creek from 225 yards away, attempting to earn eagle putts. Moe dropped his ball 140 yards from the green and deftly lofted a short iron to 8 feet.
I dropped near the creek and flubbed two more wedges back into the water, finally scoring a ten on the hole.
As I trudged to the next tee I heard Moe say, “Never drop there. Never drop there. Always where you can hit a full shot.”
Like every course he has ever played, Moe has memorized each hole and the correct way to play them. Augusta National was no different.
When the day concluded, I felt a sense of closure and hoped that Moe in his maturity had used the opportunity to douse the simmering coals of 1956 Masters disappointment. Moe seemed to enjoy his time at Augusta National.
I could only think of how much I enjoyed crossing Ray’s creek with Moe and how fortunate I had been to spend time with Moe as such at one of the most spectacular golf venues in the world.
On the return trip the IRS storm cloud blew back into the moment.
Almost immediately, Moe set an uncomfortable tone. I have often wondered if it was a negotiating ploy. He told Larry he couldn’t do the Tampa clinic because he had received a letter from United States Internal Revenue Service and they wouldn’t allow him to earn any more in this country.
From the back seat I could see the hairs on Larry’s neck start to stand up. For a long time as we drove Larry made well-reasoned arguments why Moe could continue to be paid to do clinics for us.
To each tack Moe in his automaton way would say, “Nope, IRS says no. No Moe.” Moe’s penchant for overstated drama had him in jail if he disobeyed.
When Larry challenged Moe to show him the IRS letter, Moe said he threw it away. That was the grenade that got Larry the former Marine to explode:
“Moe if you go to jail for doing clinics for me I will give you $25,000 and pay for the lawyers and do whatever it takes to settle this issue and I’ll put that in writing,” Larry challenged.
“Now you’re talking,” Moe said.
And at that, Larry pulled off the highway, stopped at a McDonald’s and wrote on a now double cheeseburger stained paper, the contract that described his offer to bail Moe out of the slammer and pay him 25 grand to boot if he got in trouble for doing clinics for us.
When we get together today Larry and I both grin about the ketchup contract incident in a way that only an eyewitness to the impossible can. Long story short: Moe did the clinic.
Larry keeps his copy as a unique memento of his treasured friendship with Moe. Larry Olson in his quiet way was a protector and advisor to Moe and in many ways made big contributions to Moe Norman’s late life resurgence.