There’s still only one Moe Norman 1968
SCOTT YOUNG ON SPORT
There’s still only one Moe
After having sat in a yoga trance for three days, withdrawing so-called senses from all external objects and concentrating the mind on nothing but central truth, I have decided that the least altered local athlete in the last 10 years is Moe Norman.
Oh, Moe looks a little different. After all, he is 10 years older. Also, sometimes these days he has runs for winning that seem to surpass anything he did in the Past. But one must remember that Canadian pro golfers have a lot more to shoot for these days than 10 years ago. The Canadian Golf Tour with its carefully planned string of tournaments gives Canadian pros in 1968 the best money break they have ever had.
But look back to 1958. George Knudson was a boyish assistant under Bill Hamilton at Oakdale then, with great promise and little else. Gerry Kesselring was a much bigger name than Knudson. So were Jerry Magee, Stan Leonard, Bob Gray Brydson, a lot of others Al Balding was a budding genius of golf. But in those days, as in these, there was only one Moe.
It was 10 years ago yesterday that I laid eyes on Moe Norman for the first time. This was when he won the 1958 Ontario Open at Cataraqui. As often happens now, the most common gallery sound after he made a shot after laughter. Sometimes this laughter is incredulity at the way he walks up to a ball, grabs a club, merely glances at the line and still makes great shots look easy. Sometimes the laughter is caused by the way he sometimes talks even while he is swinging, right through the pop of the club hitting the ball.
Moe goes his best when he has an audience along, and a good straight man to play against. This first time i saw him, the Moe threesome included amateur Terry Malone from Toronto Rosedale, tall and young, a Bay Streeter, who functioned that day as part of the audience as well as playing good golf. Nobody laughed harder than Malone on one green where Moe was bouncing a ball six feet in the air off the face of his putter, and catching it in the left breast pocket of his golf shirt. He didn’t score well when playing with Moe, but he said later he loved it anyway.
The real straight man was the other member of the threesome, Jake Kleist of Syracuse, New York. He was burly and dark visaged man who played every shot as if he was conducting his own burial service. Jake told me later that he didn’t let Moe bother him. “I just kept giving him the old stone face,” he said. But this was such a wonderful contrast to Moe that the audience sometimes reacted as if it was an outdoor performance of Hellzapoppin.
Right on the first hole of the morning round this began. Kleist’s drive rolled into a deep grassy bunker known locally as the Snake Pit. His second landed in the rough down a steep bank behind the green. His third came out of there like bullet and would have gone haft way back down the fairway, except that it hit the flag about three feet up and dropped, dead. Three bad shots and he still had an easy one-foot putt for a par.
The gallery oohed, and Moe burst out laughing. He walked in circles laughing. Kleist climbed up the bank with a sombre expression and sat down. Moe lay- down on the grass and rolled around laughing. He got up, pointing his putter at Kleist, still laughing, Kleist never changed expression. Moe putted for a birdie and missed, taking a par as Kleist did.
A little later, Kleist’s drive on a short hole rolled up a steep of the green and hung there just on the upper level until Kleist, in some haste, marked it and picked it up. Moe said, “What’s the matter, you afraid it’ll roll back down?” Kleist gave him the old stone face again. This was the pattern for the whole match: the plodding Kleist, the tall and unaffected Malone, and Moe marching along with his hat set squarely on his fair hair, sweater pushed up off his freckled forearms, talking incessantly, bouncing a spare ball incessantly from a club face, breaking sometimes into short snatches of song. The gallery around thought he was the most relaxed man on the course.
That isn’t true, of course, and never has been of Moe. He worries, years his fingernails show it.
He is a little heavier now, 10 years later. He is still, in any tournament, one of the principal players to be reckoned with. He still kibitzes enough that many of the galleries this summer will be with him wherever he goes, from Laval later this month, then right across the country to return for the Canadian Pro Tour Championships at the Board of Trade club in September. He’s Moe, and there is only one Moe, and he is a Canadian institution among all those who follow golf.