For 98% of the golfing public the name Moe Norman does not ring a bell at all, but for those truly schooled in the history of the game his name strikes a mystical resonant chord not dissimilar to Shivas Irons from Michael Murphy’s “Golf In The Kingdom”.Embed from Getty Images
As you can read in this 1995 Golf Digest article written by David Owen, one of the most observant writers about things golf, there are many layers to the story of “Moe Norman-Golf’s Troubled Genius”.
Norman spent most of his career in what would have to be characterized as golf obscurity. He was born in Canada and most of his considerable golf accomplishments, both amateur and professional, took place in the 1950’s outside of the lens of the American golfing public.
He never won on American soil, his quirky personality and vagabond lifestyle just did not fit among the Sansabelt crowd of the U.S. Tour. To many of the professionals of his day his unconventional swing, despite the purity of his ball striking, made him the object of derision rather then admiration.Embed from Getty Images
But to any of the professionals who were actually paying attention, Moe had an uncanny ability to hit a golf ball exactly the way he wanted to and where he wanted to, over and over again. He was a pure striker of the ball, a coveted characteristic at the top levels of the game. Guys who know it when they see it, Lee Trevino, Ken Venturi, and Paul Azinger, say he was maybe the purest ball striker the game has ever seen.
Certainly his stiff posture, constrained body rotation, and single plane swing path were an oddity, but many of the game’s purest strikers-Trevino, Azinger, and Furyk-had self taught unconventional swing mechanics that they could repeat and their winning aptitudes at all levels bear witness to the fact that the conventional way is not the only path to success in the game.
It is interesting to me that a more athletic version of Moe Norman’s approach has sprung onto the scene in the persona of Bryson DeChambeau. No one would teach his unique swing method to a young player, but his success, one rung from the top level of today’s game, reiterates the point that there are many ways to successfully manage a ball around a golf course.
As Owen’s tale reveals there is a semi happy ending to Moe Norman’s journey as a couple of well placed people in the golf hierarchy embraced the importance of Moe’s legacy and saw to it that he at least had some semblance of comfort and golf joy in his declining years.
Pull up a comfortable chair, set a spell, and enjoy this odd tale of one of the game’s true savants……you will be glad that you did.
David Owen (1995)