• Alistair Tait

Would Herb Wind have followed through on golf today?

Roger Kahn’s passing has me thinking of the lost age of great golf writers. Kahn did in baseball what many of his day did in golf: told great stories.

I read Kahn avidly growing up, and his death somehow has me thinking of Herbert Warren Wind. Wind and Kahn belong in the same sentence. They both wrote on the game they loved, and did it beautifully. Wind’s excellent book “Following Through” was the first tome to make it into my golf library.

It’s hard to believe in this age of drivel posts, clickbait items and 280-character tweets on what Tiger Woods had for breakfast that there was a time when golf writers were given the freedom to express themselves. Wind, like Kahn, was given as much space as needed to express his views on this great game.

Thank goodness, or we wouldn’t have a treasure such as “Following Through: Herbert Warren Wind on Golf,” a book all serious golfers should have in their libraries.

This 414-page tome – that’s probably 100,000 tweets! – is one I return to repeatedly just to convince myself that this sport lends itself to great storytelling rather than a lot of the noise that passes for, er, golf journalism. The chapter simply entitled “Trevino” begins with an opening sentence of 67 words or 398 characters. Some current golf website editors would probably consider that a short blog post in its own right!

Wind’s excellent work contains 27 stories, dealing with subjects as diverse as the Masters, discovering links golf at Royal Dornoch and Ballybunion, Jack Nicklaus, St Andrews and devotes a chapter to another earlier golf writer given time and space to expressing his views on golf: Bernard Darwin, whom many consider the doyen of golf writing.

I’ve probably read Wind's book 20 times since my wife gave it to me on our first wedding anniversary. (Don’t tell her, but it’s probably the best anniversary present she’s ever given me.)

The chapter on Trevino is a fascinating look at one of the game’s true characters. Like the rest of the book, it contains insightful observations readers probably don’t get nowadays because so many golf editors are in such hurry to post a “story” that doesn’t read longer than four screens on a mobile phone.

Trevino played part of the fourth round of the 1967 U.S. Open at Baltusrol in scuba goggles. Wind tells us it was common for golfers from El Paso, Trevino’s home town, to play in “scuba goggles to keep windblown dirt out of their eyes.”

The chapter includes one Trevino’s greatest lines, which he quoted to former USGA executive director Joe Dey during the final round of the 1968 U.S. Open at Oak Hill:

“I’m just trying to build up as big a lead as I can, so I won’t choke.”

Trevino didn’t choke. He won the first of his six major victories. Wind tells us how, and goes on to pen everything anyone needs to know about one of the greatest ball strikers that ever lived.

Wind’s 41-page essay on the Masters 50th Anniversary is essential reading for anyone wanting to discover the early history of the game’s youngest major. Yes, 41 pages, and worthy of every, single, page.

So, get yourself a copy of Wind’s work. Pour yourself your favourite libation. Settle in your favourite armchair and read to your heart’s content.

Oh, and turn off your phone. Twitter and the rest of social media will still be there when you’ve finished, and you’ll feel sated on true golf literature rather than irked by empty blog posts that try to pass for golf journalism.

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