Frank Hannigan, the golf bureaucrat and jazz aficionado, liked to tell the story of Wild Bill Davison who played a wicked cornet early in his career until, abruptly and forever, he switched to the trumpet. “Why?” he was asked. Davison said the night he heard Bix Beiderbecke play the cornet he knew “there was nothing left to say on the cornet.”
Good thing I never used the same logic with golf. We all would have given up the game after watching Trevino check up a wedge or Crenshaw brushstroke a putter or Tiger sting a driver. There might be nothing left to say with any of those clubs, but we keep trying.
American golf came to a head in the Jazz Age of the 1920s, like Beiderbecke and Bobby Jones. It began the intersection of music and golf that continues today. Billy Eckstine hired Charlie Sifford as his personal pro. From Bing Crosby to Vince Gill, front men were scratch players. You always have a second chance, says the hip-hop artist ScHoolboy Q, an avid player. “One sHot don’t matter—it’s How you finisH,” he texted me. “It ain’t ova til it’s ova.”