Aging & Other Errata
We have a tendency to praise the elderly, even wax lyrical. I don’t get it. Getting old doesn’t always make someone better. Take old Joe Stalin for example. Personally, I like Harry Truman’s take. Truman had trouble with Douglas MacArthur, one of the most arrogant men of the 20th Century, called “el Supremo” by his staff. MacArthur didn’t respect Truman, made it obvious. Eventually Truman had enough, fired him, forced his retirement. When MacArthur died the reporters hanging around Truman – always good for a quote – asked him to say a kindly word. Truman refused. When they pointed out the general was dead, Truman’s response was terse: “I’m an old man too; I’m going to die soon. MacArthur was an SOB in life and he’s still an SOB.”
In recent years there’s been reminiscing on the likes of Snead, Hogan and Nelson; they’ve gone golden in history. Huh uh. Snead was cheap, rude to everyone around him, famous for walking in the putting lines of younger players. Hogan was a horror of rudeness. An amateur who’d played with him once introduced himself deferentially, saying, “Ben, you probably don’t remember me…” Hogan didn’t bother to look up from his card game, said only, “You’re right, I don’t remember you.”
Neither man experienced the graceful departure of Byron Nelson, a man of religious conviction, and a better mannered fellow. But Nelson wasn’t held is such esteem back in the day. I remember reading a book about him in the ‘70’s. The writer pointed out, rightfully so, that Nelson liked to dismantle the swings of a lot of young players silly enough to seek him out. In today’s world, if a guy has talent, the kind that wins tournaments, the talking heads on TV rightfully say the guy’s swing is his own, it wins. No matter how far it departs from the norm, he’s to be left alone.
One Nelson Story concerned Marty Fleckman. I decided to check it out, looked up Fleckman, one of the greatest amateurs of his day, supposedly wronged by Byron Nelson. I sent an email, got one right back, suggesting I call for a personal conversation. Fleckman was anxious to discuss Nelson in detail; the man and the golfer. He agreed the sports writing world of his era had in fact, suggested Nelson’s effect was negative. Such was never the case. Fleckman said his struggles were of his own making. Humble stuff.
To this day, Fleckman holds Lord Byron in the high esteem, said he was overwhelmed when his college coach Dave Williams was able to put him with Nelson for needed refinement as he was finishing up his vaunted amateur career. Fleckman spoke of Nelson’s impact on his life as well as his golf, said Nelson was like a second father, a person available, always willing to help, adding he’d never known him to turn down a request from anyone. He said knowing Byron Nelson was one of the singular experiences of his life.
Fleckman said he’d been captivated by Nelson, tried to copy Nelson’s swing, his tempo, his style. He said he could actually make it work – on the practice range. But on that hundred yard walk to the 1st tee it unraveled; his mind was unsettled. What worked on the practice tee, didn’t work when it was time to go to work.Thank you Marty Fleckman. In this day of reality television, it’s nice to hear someone correct such long held misinformation.