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Golf with Moe

The First Time I Played with Moe

by Carey Mumford

Moe Norman, long known as the greatest ever “ball striker.” This is about my first game with him. It would be better if I had room to tell about how we met, but we’ll do that another time.

The day we played, I arrived at The Canadian PGA’s Winter Quarters in Titusville, FL. Moe was waiting. Without a word, he proceeded to hit four balls. The first three were perfect. The fourth was outstanding.

To my surprise, Moe’s first three were so close together that my golf towel, literally, would have covered them. The fourth was 50 yards further down the middle. Club in hand, with the grip wrapped all the way to the hosel. Moe hit the first three in rapid succession, walked to the fourth, same club, and struck that one. We went to the green. He made three out of four putts.

To make a long story short, he did that, or close to it, all the way around the course.He began to speak on the back nine – all about the mental game and what he believed to be a lack of interest in that part of the game among his Canadian fellow pros.

Why me? As I learned later, it was my “work with the mental game, and my presentations for the Canadian PGA Education program,” or so Moe had told a couple of Canadian players I was coaching. Then he told them he wanted to play with me. Frankly, I was roundly shocked, though not enough to refuse the opportunity.

As an event, the whole experience was an exposure of the the myth that Moe is a bit “strange.” His behavior can be a mite off what most of us would call typical, but he is not “strange.” For instance, he has verified to me that the story about his arriving at a certain par four in a tournament, asking his caddie how the hole played, and getting the response “It’s a driver – wedge.” Whereupon, Moe hit his wedge off the tee, knocked the driver on, made the putt for a birdie, three. His words. “Oh yeah, I did that several times!”

What the world seems not to have noticed is that Moe, aged five, had a sledding accident, creating a head wound. Absent of medical records, there is no mention of that. However, his usual speech patterns show that he tends to repeat what he says. Most folks saw that, over the years, as another indication that he was “strange.” Admittedly, no one other than this writer has suggested that it more likely indicates something else. The head injury, I suggest, created a motor speech drive impairment, the chief symptom of which is repeating words and phrases. Furthermore, Moe is, in behavior style language, a Persuader – people person – who appears to shy away from close personal contact. What else would one who loves people do with the fact that everyone made fun of his speech and other tendencies? But that just became another mythological reason to call him “different.”

For those of you reading the newsletter, I pass on to you that Moe Norman is really a genius (I have his personal papers which he gave me on that first day), who deserves the respect and noteriety he is now getting at age 72. I shall always regard him as the “most unforgettable character I ever met.”

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