Harvey Penick was to golf what Obi-Wan Kenobi was to the other characters of the original “Star Wars” trilogy, a sage mentor. Anyone who trod the Texas fairway knew of Penick, the head golf pro at the Austin Country Club, who imparted his wisdom to countless golfers, including two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw. Over many decades, Penick jotted his insights about how to play the game in a plain red notebook. Author Kevin Robbins examines Penick’s life in golf, which began as an 8-year-old caddy in 1912 and ran until his death in 1995. He also delves into the “timeless truths” of Penick’s unadorned approach to golf that have made his Little Red Book, first published in 1992, the sport’s all-time bestselling instruction book.
Here’s an excerpt from Harvey Penick:
“The first time Harvey saw [Mickey] Wright hit balls, he wondered how she ever finished second. Every swing was a reflection of the one before and a preview of the one after. With high hands and a tight turn, she played a soaring, delicate fade that landed like a cottonseed. She was one of the few players Harvey never tried tried to persuade to play a right-to-left draw. Harvey knew when to leave alone something close to divinity. He stood silently as she carved the Austin sky with balls.
“To Harvey, Wright’s swing represented everything he tried to teach his pupils and everything he tried to capture in his notebook. It was elemental. It was explosive. It seemed as organic as the stride of a sprinter and as potent as black powder. The way Wright swung a golf club was the motion Harvey imagined when he lay in bed at night, staring at the ceiling, trying to picture a connect-the-dots image of purity in motion.”