The Greatest Golf Column Ever Written by Lewis Grizzard

(Blogger’s Note: The great Lewis Grizzard always has been, always will be, my favorite writer. Nobody tops Grizzard, long-time sports editor and columnist for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. And this column, published Monday, Nov. 20, 1989, is my favorite all-time column. I’m re-printing it, word-for-word. It’s his work. Not mine. And I dedicate it to my best buddy and golfing pal and partner, Brady Cornish, a.k.a., “The Fonz,” when we’re on the links. He and I share many good times, and often quote Grizzard’s description of the tee shot so memorably written in this column. Thanks, Lewis, for all the reading joy you’ve given me over the years. You’re still the best.)

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Golfing Foursome

From left: Cody Smith, Danny Smith, me, Brady Cornish

By Lewis Grizzard

St. Simons Island, GA – I made a hole-in-one.

Honest, I did. This isn’t some sort of make-believe column like I often write. For instance, I recently wrote a make-believe column about Jim Bakker meeting his new cellmate, Mad Dog.

But this isn’t anything like that.

I mean that I hit the golf ball on a par 3 and it went in the hole for a “1.”

Do you know the thrill of writing a “1” on a golf scorecard next to your name?

lewis grizzard

Lewis Grizzard

I’ve had my thrills in sports before. Playing for dear old Newnan High School back in ’63, I hit a jump shot at the buzzer to defeat the top-seeded team in the regional tournament.

That got my name and picture in the paper. (I wanted a kiss from a certain red-headed cheerleader, but she remarked how she detested kissing anybody covered in sweat.)

I also pitched a no-hitter in Pony League, finished second in a tennis tournament, hit a hard-way six on a crap table in Vegas, made back-to-back net eagles playing with Greg Norman in a pro-am tournament in Hilton Head and once had dinner with the girl who used to say, “Take it off. Take it all off,” in the old shaving cream commercial.

(I realize having dinner with a girl who made a shaving cream commercial has nothing to do with sports, but she made the commercial with Joe Namath, so there.)

But none of that compares with my hole-in-one.

Get the picture:

I’m on the par- three 12th hole at the lovely Island Club here in coastal Georgia. I admit No. 12 isn’t that long a hole, but I didn’t design the course, so it’s not my fault.

The hole is 128 yards over a small pond.

It was Saturday morning, November 4. I was playing in a threesome, comprised of myself, Tim Jarvis and Mike Matthews, two players of lesser talent with whom I often hang out.

It was a lovely morning, having warmed to the low 70s as I approached the tee. I was wearing an orange golf shirt, pair of Duckhead khaki slacks and my black and white golf shoes, the ones my dogs have not chewed up yet.

I was first on the tee.

“What are you going to hit?” asked Matthews.

“None of your business,” I said.

We were playing for a lot of money.

O.K., so we weren’t playing for a lot of money, but you never tell your opponent what club you’re hitting.

“Tell us,” said Jarvis, “or we’ll tell everybody how you move the ball in the rough when nobody’s looking.”

“Nine-iron,” I said.

The green sloped to the right. I said to myself, “Keep the ball to the left of the hole.”

(Actually I said, “Please, God, let me get this thing over the water.”)

I hit a high, arching shot. The ball cut through the still morning air, a white missile against the azure sky. (That’s the way Dan Jenkins or Herbert Warren Wind would have described it.”

The ball hit eight feet left of the pin. It hopped once. It hopped again. It was rolling directly toward the hole.

An eternity passed.

It has a chance to go in, I thought. But that’s not going to happen, of course, because I’m terribly unlucky and I’ve done some lousy things in my life and I don’t deserve it to go into the hole.

It went into the hole.

A “1.”

It was a joyous moment when my first hole-in-one fell snugly into the hole. But the best moment came at the next tee, the par four, 13th.

For those non-golfers, the person with the lowest score on the previous hole gets to hit first on the next hole.

I strode to the tee with my driver, teed up my ball and then said to my opponents, “I think I’m up, but did anybody have a zero?”

Jarvis and Matthews were good friends. I shall miss them.

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Lewis Grizzard: My Favorite Son of a Gun

“Never order barbecue in a place that also serves quiche.” ~ Lewis Grizzard

One morning a few weeks ago, Dana gave me one of the highest compliments I could imagine, though she did it quite unknowingly.

columnist lewis grizzard

Prompted by a national news story about a black couple who’d been refused a wedding ceremony at a “white” church in Mississippi (and a number of other personal experiences) I’d gone on a three-day blogging tangent about religious segregation in the South.

I asked Dana to read the post before it was published and give me her reaction.

“You’re not afraid to write about anything, are you?” she asked.

I’d never really thought about it that way, but, no, I suppose. What’s to fear in the truth, and why don’t more of us write about and discuss the things that make us most uncomfortable. What’s to be gained from the silence of injustice and human prejudice?

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By the time I was old enough to read a newspaper, (a ritual I formed daily by the seventh grade), my immediate attention went to the op-ed page where Lewis Grizzard’s syndicated column was published three times weekly.

columnist lewis grizzard

If I could emulate the style, tone and message of any writer in the world, it would be Lewis Grizzard, who’s probably as responsible as anyone for my career in journalism.

Known for his regional demeanor and commentary on the American South,  Grizzard, at 23, was the Atlanta Journal‘s youngest-ever sports editor, and later went on to become executive sports editor of the Chicago Sun-Times.

But Grizzard’s career was defined by his work as a columnist, and at the peak of his career, he was syndicated in 450 newspapers across the U.S.

Grizzard was an eccentric man. In all his career, he never typed a word on a computer. He favored the typewriter.

“When I write, I like to hear some noise,” he said.

In its “Best of Atlanta” issue, an Atlanta alternative newspaper had two categories: “Best Columnist and “Best Columnist Besides Lewis Grizzard.”

The author of thousands of columns and 25 books, Grizzard was the quintessential Southern writer. And he was fearless. Head on, he addressed politics, feminism, race, guns, Russians and anything else that would push the hot button of thousands of readers.

That’s why I love Grizzard. He never took himself too seriously, but he said what he damned well pleased.

Grizzard’s life gave him a plethora of writing topics to which so many of us can relate. He was married four times, born with a defective heart valve which ultimately took his young life at 48, highly opinionated, a recovering alcoholic and he loved sports.

“I finally figured it out. I finally figured out how to have some peace and happiness. I sure would hate for the man upstairs to take me now, but at least I figured it out.” ~ Lewis Grizzard

columnist lewis grizzardMy favorite Grizzard line comes from a column he wrote about his first hole-in-one. Watching the ball leave the tee he said, “it was as if it were a white missile against the azure sky.” Every time my best buddy and I hit the links, we cite the line at least a half-dozen times.

Grizzard wasn’t a hero to everyone. His behavior wasn’t always that of the Southern gentleman.

Many labeled him as “the author from hell” for his behavior on countless book tours.

But his writing was pure heaven to me. Grizzard would have had a field day with this thing we call the “blog.” I miss him every time I pick up the paper.

A few of his books you might enjoy:

“Chili Dogs Always Bark at Night”

If I Ever Get Back to Georgia, I’m Gonna Nail My Feet to the Ground

“My Daddy was a Pistol, and I’m a Son of a  Gun”

“Does a Wild Bear Chip in the Woods”

You may enjoy some posts on my secondary blog at www.latitudeone.wordpress.com

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