It was with great sadness, that I learned of the passing of Orville Moody, yesterday. Orville Moody was one of the finest ball-strikers of all time and a genuinely nice human being.
I first met “Sarge” as he was known in 1986. I was beginning my career as a club professional at Lake Arbor GC in Arvada, Colorado. Sarge had owned the golf course but had run into financial problems and had to sell his interest to the City of Arvada.
Sarge and I shared a common bond in that both of us struggled with our putting. Sarge showed me how to use a long putter, which at the time was a very new and strange device. Despite all the troubles and pressure he must have been under, he spent two hours on the putting green with me.
Things were about to change for the better for Sarge. At that time, the Senior Tour (or Champion’s Tour as it is now known) was in its infancy but Sarge had managed to win two tournaments in 1984. With the advent of big corporate sponsors, what was once a nostalgic get together of old friends, began to be a very lucrative endeavor. Sarge would go on to have a great career on the Senior circuit and won 11 times.
The most famous of his victories though, was his win at the US Open in 1969. After having served in the US Army for 14 years, Sarge had turned professional in 1968. His concerns about giving up his secure Army salary of $5,000 per year were quickly put aside when he won almost $300,000 in prize-money in 1969.
That win in the 69 Open would be his only win on the PGA Tour although he would have 5, 2nd. place finishes in the ensuing years. His putting was his downfall. It got to be so bad that players’ who he was paired with, couldn’t even watch. Sarge had one of the most chronic cases of the “yips” of all time. He would frequently miss one and two foot putts. That he was able to compete at all is testament to how superb of a ball striker he was.
The Senior Tour gave Sarge second life. After a series of failed business ventures, it provided him with financial security but more importantly, it allowed Orville, to show the world what a great player he was. One of the first proponents of the long putter, Sarge, was a new golfer with it. In one of those great golfing ironies, Sarage actually led the Senior Tour in putting statistics in 1989.
Caddying for him in many of those wins was his daughter, Michelle, which was one of the great joys of Sarge’s life. Michelle actually read most of his putts for him, which is also very unusual as most top players read their own putts and only occasionally ask their caddies for help.
“We are all going to miss ‘Sarge’ who was a patriot first and a professional golfer second,” said PGA Tour commissioner, Tim Finchem. “He embodied a bit of golf’s everyman whom we all could identify with, having risen from his Oklahoma roots as part (Choctaw Indian) and serving his country in a 14-year Army career.”
Sarge was one of the kindest and generous people you would ever meet. He was devoted to his family and unfailingly loyal to his friends. Golf lost one of his great characters, yesterday, when Sarge left us. He was 74.
Sarge, we salute; you.