Murray Irwin “Moe” Norman (July 10, 1929 – September 4, 2004) was a Canadian professional golfer. His accuracy and ability to hit shot after shot perfectly straight gave him the nickname “Pipeline Moe”.
Born in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, Norman developed his golf from childhood at the Rockway municipal course in that city, starting as a caddy in his pre-teen years. He refined his skills competing against talented area players such as Gary Cowan and Gerry Kesselring. He won back-to-back Canadian Amateur Championships in 1955 and 1956. He turned professional in 1957 and played briefly on the PGA Tour, but due to shyness, bullying he encountered from certain pros, and a preference to stay in Canada, he stayed primarily in Ontario rather than travel extensively outside Canada. In the 80s, Norman also played several events on the Senior PGA Tour.
Norman’s play, along with his way of dressing, were both described as unconventional. He devised what is known as “The Norman Swing” —- rigid arms extended far from his body, a very wide stance with minimal knee bend, shorter-than-usual backswing and extended follow-through with minimal hand action, which produced amazingly accurate ball placement. He played extremely fast, sometimes not slowing to line up his putts. He was inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in 1995. He was self-taught and never took a golf lesson.
Norman was known for sometimes unconventional behavior on the course. It is said that on one hole his caddy told him he could get to the green with a driver and a 9-iron. Naturally, he hit off the tee with his 9-iron and then hit the green with his driver. In another event, rather than lay up short of a creek hazard which could not be carried, he bounced his drive across the bridge which crossed the creek.
Norman’s skills as a ball striker are legendary. Sam Snead, himself one of the all-time greatest golfers, described Norman as the greatest striker of the ball. In January 2005, Tiger Woods, the biggest golf star of the modern era, told Golf Digest‘s Jaime Diaz that only two golfers in history have “owned their swings”: Moe Norman and Ben Hogan. Stated Woods, “I want to own mine.” Late in his life, Norman found better financial security when Titleist, a major golf manufacturer, signed him to a lifetime contract to perform golf exhibitions across Canada after he allegedly told a reporter, “Titleist never did nothing for me.”
Norman died in a Kitchener hospital from congestive heart failure, having suffered from the condition since heart bypass surgery six years earlier. He also had a heart attacktwo years before his death.
- Canadian Amateur Championship winner (1955, 1956);
- 55 career Canadian Tour and other Canadian event victories;
- Canadian PGA Championship winner (1966, 1974);
- Canadian PGA Seniors’ Championship winner (1979–1985, 1987);
- 33 course records;
- 17 holes-in-one;
- Several exhibition rounds under 60 (perfect round);
- Inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in 1995;
- Inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 1999;
- Inducted into the Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2006;
- Two appearances by invitation as an amateur in the Masters Tournament: 1956 scored 75-78 then withdrew; 1957 scored 77-74 to miss the cut by one stroke.
According to ESPN, Norman played the PGA Tour beginning in 1959. After a tournament in New Orleans, PGA officials gave Norman a dressing down regarding his playing antics. Feeling let down by the PGA’s attitude towards him, Norman returned to Canada to play golf.
According to the PGA Tour web site, the following is Norman’s record on the PGA Tour:
- 27 total events played, with 25 cuts made
- 1 top ten finish and 7 top 25 finishes
- $7,139 in tournament prize money
Additionally, Norman played on the Senior PGA Tour events from 1981 to 1984. According to the PGA Tour web site, the following is Norman’s record on the Senior PGA Tour:
- 5 total events played, making the cut in all 5 events
- 1 top three finish and 2 top ten finishes
- $22,983 in tournament prize money
- A tie for third at the Peter Jackson Champions tournament in 1982, finishing with scores of 70-69-69-69, and winning $10,133 in prize money
Books and film about Moe Norman
Moe Norman’s golf achievements and eccentric personality inspired many articles and three biographic books: The Feeling of Greatness – The Moe Norman Story, by Tim O’Connor (ISBN 1-57028-086-X) and Moe Norman: The Canadian Golfing Legend with the Perfect Swing, by Stan Sauerwein (ISBN 978-1-55153-953-9) and “Moe and Me Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius” by Lorne Rubinstein (ISBN 1-77041-053-8) and The Single Plane Golf Swing, Play Better Golf the Moe Norman Way by Todd Graves with Tim O’Connor (ISBN 978-1-61254-192-1).
- World Cup (representing Canada): 1971