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Two Wits Regale Reporters after Golf Hall of Fame Ceremony
Two figures from each side of the Atlantic Ocean known for their rapier-like wit and golf commentary were inducted in Monday's World Golf Hall of Fame ceremony. Veteran BBC broadcaster Peter Alliss and the inimitable American sportswriter Dan Jenkins were among five inductees in the 2012 class; the others included golfers Phil Mickelson, Hollis Stacy and Sandy Lyle.
Though Alliss is known perhaps more for his trenchant commentary, he was a pretty good player in his day, making eight straight Ryder Cup teams as a British professional between 1953 and 1969. Jenkins, who covered a variety of sports with a main focus on golf, was recognized for his outstanding writing career.
"How could anybody get it so right, so fast, so good?" asked Jenkins' editor at Golf Digest, Jerry Tarde, who introduced Jenkins during the ceremony. "He is golf's most influential writer."
Here's what the Alliss and Jenkins - two of golf's all-time raconteurs - had to tell reporters following their big night at the St. Johns County Convention Center in St. Augustine, Fla.
MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, our last two inductees of the day. We have Peter Alliss and we have Dan Jenkins, two legends.
PETER ALLISS: May I just warn you, ladies and gentlemen, that I haven't done this for 60 odd years, since the old king died, in fact. So if I appear to be a little bit slow and a little bit awkward, you'll have to excuse me. I say no more.
Q. You gentlemen got to see your exhibits behind glass today. Any profound thoughts on seeing your life before your eyes?
PETER ALLISS: Well, I think it's one of the most impressive facilities I've ever seen. I'm not saying that because I'm here and you're all here and it's all being recorded for posterity. We have nothing like this in Britain. Your country is a little bit bigger than ours, a little bit more expansive than ours. We have the museum at the R&A which is about a quarter of the size or less than that, which is interesting, full of goody things and nice things and interesting things, but I think the World Hall of Fame here and everything that goes on, the complex, the golf courses, the hotel, the clubhouses, the whole facility, the way it's run, is quite magnificent.
My wife did a wonderful job in finding any bits of memorabilia that I'd got left because I stopped playing sensibly in 1974, and so I didn't have much left. But the interesting thing, and some of you may wonder why my golf bag is all battered. I had eight Ryder Cup bags. But we used them. We didn't have a whole lot of things given. Now, a lot of the golf bags in there, the Ryder Cup bags, have only been used for four or five days. Mine was used for about five years, so it looks awful.
And the shoes, you actually wore the shoes and you wore the sweaters because we didn't have anything else, and we wore them with great pride. And to see the bits and pieces that my wife has put together, it makes you very proud of your family and what you've done in your life and what your father did. The only reason I went into the game of golf was because my father was a golf professional, and I followed on. It's a very sobering and a very humbling thing to see, particularly when it's been done so beautifully.
DAN JENKINS: Well, first of all, I feel like I ought to be sitting out there, where I usually am. But I'm delighted, of course, to be here. The thing that I'm pleased most about is that on that walkway out there where you have your signature, they had the good sense to put mine next to Ben Hogan, which is probably the main reason I'm here, really, or one of the main reasons. I mean, it's great fun.
I'll tell you, Deane Beman and Tim Finchem have really done a great job of getting this thing off the ground and getting it done. I've been frankly overwhelmed at what it's become. I'm not often overwhelmed, but I am here about all this and all the exhibits, and I love all the history part of it more than the showcases that those of us in here now have. But just to go through all that room with all the history, I'm still astounded at how they can get such clarity on those photographs that they blow up to the ceiling. Of course I don't know anything about mechanics or anything else. But it's a great experience, and it's fun, and like I say, when I walked through there, I feel like I'm walking through there like one of you guys, which I'm really a part of, and the fact that they wanted to take a living writer in, I'll represent all of you who are still living.
Q. Dan, did you go visit the exhibits of the other Fort Worth guys who are in there?
DAN JENKINS: Well, I glanced at Byron's driver and some of Ben's stuff, and I was amazed at what they had, still have, of Ben's, because most of his stuff is in the USGA and also at Colonial and Shady Oaks. There's a little bit left. But somebody stole enough of it to put in here. By the way, there's a great set of clubs in Ben's locker. They're First Flight irons in a little bitty round bag, which no wonder he couldn't make it on the Tour that early with that kind of equipment. But this is before he signed with MacGregor, but it's worth looking at. You look at that and you think, Ben Hogan used those? Bring him on, I'll play him.
Q. This is what we asked some of the other ones. Was there a single item that you found for the exhibits for both of you that triggered a special memory for you or particular memory?
DAN JENKINS: Of my stuff? Well, my TCU golf letter and my high school basketball letter is hanging in there. That was one of the things I wanted to get rid of. But they just picked and chose. They took everything they wanted, and some of it makes sense.
PETER ALLISS: There's not an awful lot of - the Ryder Cup bag, I think, from 1957 because that was one of the years we won. We should have won in 1953, and we should have certainly won in 1949. But we didn't, and so we were on this run of losing, and in '57 we managed to win. So that golf bag holds very special memories for me. But Dan mentioned it last night, that probably one of the most poignant things in the exhibition is the uniform of Larry Nelson's when he performed his gallant duties in the Vietnam War. I think one tends to forget, if you go back, I was only nine, ten when World War II started, and of course many thousands of men and women who were either in business or sport or whatever, it blighted the lives of millions of young people, and there in relatively modern times, there is a man's uniform who really was part of a bloody campaign. It makes you just think that there's more to knocking the little white ball about.
DAN JENKINS: My favorite picture in there is Bobby Jones putting on a green, I don't know which hole it is. It's Sandwich, but which hole, the big mountain?
PETER ALLISS: Third, fourth.
DAN JENKINS: It had to be a Walker Cup because he never won the Open Championship at Sandwich. But it's a great, wonderful picture. It covers the whole wall. That's one of my favorite things in there.
Q. A question for both of you guys. Your careers have spanned six decades, and I'm curious how much nowadays, what you do for a living, how much has it changed from when you started doing it six decades ago to now?
PETER ALLISS: Well, you can't compare then and now. As I said, I only came into golf because my father was a golf professional, and I couldn't do anything else. I left school when I was 15 and went as his assistant and followed on from there, and golf professionals or people in sport weren't idolized as they are today. Football, or soccer, we call it football, they were idolized because it was a game for the workers, and they used to get big teams, Everton, Liverpool, they used to get 60,000, 70,000 people, home games every two weeks, and the players were paid £8 a week, and they were performing to audiences of 70,000 or 80,000, and they had to go to work on the bus and clean their own shoes.
It was a different world, a different time. And you try and explain it to young people today, they don't know what you're talking about. Even my children, we've had to - we sit down to eat at our house, which is we think quite civilized, but a lot of people think it's very old fashioned to sit around the table, and we talk about things. Our postage rates are going up alarmingly in Britain. No one will write letters soon. No one will be able to afford to write letters. I said to one of them sitting here, my senior son sitting here, and I said, how many letters do you think you could send when I was 16 years of age for a pound? And they thought for a minute, and they said, oh, 10, 12. And I said, 240. So they looked at you as you were a bit potty, you were a bit crazy. But that's how many pence there were in a pound. You could send a Christmas card for a penny, and now you can send one. So if you're looking for something to illustrate inflation, that's it. 240 letters for a pound; today, one. Thank you.
DAN JENKINS: The biggest change for me in covering the majors is that I used to park at the clubhouse and the players used to talk to me. (Laughter.)
PETER ALLISS: There's a lot of truth to that, really. There was - it's very easy to put fancy words on it, camaraderie, friendship, all that bullshit really, but it was like that. And the golf writers when Dan began, and I was there at that time playing at the highest level, we used to go out with them in the evening if they were in the same hotel, and we used to have a few drinks or a talk, and we'd put a few of them to bed sometimes and sometimes they'd put a few of us to bed. But it was never written about. It was never a great thing. Today's keyhole journalism I think is one of the sad things not only about sport but about life, that somebody can be a promising young person, boy, girl, whatever, and the editor in today's society wants to find out if they ever did anything naughty when they were young. Did they ever steal something from Woolworth's, a packet of sweeties, or did they ever have a boy boy relationship when they were at college or girl girl relationship, and have you got any photos. That's the way it is.
DAN JENKINS: We did a dog and pony show yesterday afternoon. We got a big laugh when we got the question what do you think of the belly putter, and I said, the person who invented the belly putter ought to be in prison, and then Peter said -
PETER ALLISS: Well, I tried to make it quite serious. I said, well, I've known Dan for 50 odd years or whatever, and I said, I've disagreed with him a few times before but not too often. But on this occasion I just disagree with him because he's talking rubbish. Belly putters, sending a fellow to prison. He should be flogged first and then sent to prison.
DAN JENKINS: That's our best sound bite.
Q. Dan, I was just wondering what that bling ring is on your hand, if you won a Super Bowl I didn't know about or what.
DAN JENKINS: I'm going to take it off. TCU Rose Bowl.
Q. Have you noticed a difference how touring pros play from the beginning of your careers until now?
PETER ALLISS: You can't compare then and now. I've just tried to explain footballers getting £8 a week. It's a great thing. How old are you, 15, 16? Well, when I was your age, it was a great thing to save up to buy a bicycle, and if you were a precocious child, boy, girl, at ice skating, golf, whatever, whatever, then you might do a paper round, as well, earning a pound a week delivering papers at 6:00 in the morning. You saved your money and you bought a bicycle and then you got a little bit older and you saved up and bought a wreckedy rackedy secondhand car.
And now if you have a precocious talent and you're 18 or 19, you go to Italy and guy a Ferrari and you spend $250,000 on a car because it's there. Those are the opportunities that are offered today in a lot of sports. I don't really follow American sports, the three great sports here. But I read about contracts for millions of dollars, some lads from Puerto Rico or somewhere, 20, 21 years of age getting millions, and it's very hard to comprehend how they look after that money. Is somebody helping them with it? It's one of the great difficulties. It's very easy spending other people's money, and it's very hard to look out for your own money, particularly if you have a lot. If you're a bit careful like Seve Ballesteros, a dear friend of mine, he was the tightest duck assed fellow I ever knew in my life, but I loved him dearly. But he had millions. He had two cars in his garage. He had a Lamborghini and a Ferrari, and I think they both had about 3,000 miles on the clock. And a Range Rover. I'm going back 12 years. He said, "They use too much petrol. I can't afford that petrol." And he was the 840th richest person in the world or whatever it was at that time.
So it's just a different world. We were given, when I was a good player, three golf balls. I worked for Slazenger, but there were Titleist and MacGregor. Three golf balls for two rounds of golf the first two rounds, and we played on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 18 holes, and if you qualified you played 36 holes on Friday. 36 holes. And you were given an extra three golf balls. Now I think I'm right, every locker has three or four dozen balls in every week, six gloves or whatever. It's just a different world, and I just hope they enjoy it and they appreciate it and they write an occasional Twitter thank you now and again to somebody.
DAN JENKINS: I can't speak about hard times because I come from a very wealthy, highly educated family and I just do this for a lark.
PETER ALLISS: And do it very well.
DAN JENKINS: I will tell you what I think the difference is. I believe, and I said this yesterday, I believe that the athletic heart can transfer eras. It can move from one decade to the other. You don't know what's inside - Trevino said this better than anybody. You never know what's in a guy's heart. How big a winner is he going to be? I don't know because I don't know what's in his heart.
You don't know that about people. But if you're a competitor, if you're a great athlete, you can move from one era to the other because you're still people, and it just depends on - the thing I've always thought, and I don't know whether it's true or not, but everybody wants to win and everybody says they want to win, but the great champions are those who absolutely despise the idea of losing, and I think that's what Ben Hogan had. I think that's what Arnold had. Jack certainly had it. I frankly don't know that Tiger Woods has it or not because he's never had to come from behind. Every major he won, he was in front, and everybody else, most of them dropped dead. So we'll see.
PETER ALLISS: It's very interesting because I played against some of the toughest golfers, although I can't speak about other sports, but the great thing about the great champions as far as I was concerned, apart from one or two, they were gracious to an opponent. They were gracious. And if somebody played a good shot, they weren't against saying, "good shot." They didn't go around, boo, like that, without communicating. And it's no weakness to show courtesy to an opponent. I think Billie Jean King summed it up at this year's Wimbledon talking about great players, and she said, the nearly players are frightened of winning and the great players are frightened of losing, and that summed it up.
DAN JENKINS: A lot of people, they want the money but they don't want the burden of carrying around that No.1 thing. That's what I think I've observed over all these years. Some of them love it, thrive on it like Jack and Arnold did, like Ben and Byron and Sam did. I'm sure Bobby Jones did. But they carry it well. They can't imagine not being the guy, right? How many guys out there today want that? I don't know. That's why we all cover the game. Who doesn't?
PETER ALLISS: American golf to me, and I've played in many, is Billy Casper. They all talk about the big three. Casper was one of those just behind, and I think I'm right, and Doug Sanders was another one, I think they won, or Casper certainly won over a period of two or three years, he won as many if not more tournaments himself than the big three won collectively, and it's all sort of forgotten or not remembered for whatever reason. And it's quite remarkable really. Dan puts it very well when he says that the great, great players had some desire, and it wasn't always a bullish bullying desire. Some of them were very gracious. But by God, they were as tough as old nails.
DAN JENKINS: The other thing is that I like this gracious thing, too, because we've own known the great champions and the ones that we've known were the most gracious losers, and I've always thought, it's easy to be a gracious loser when you've won 18 majors like Jack. He's a great loser. His best interviews were always when he lost.
PETER ALLISS: But equally, this is where, again, rather like my flogging, I think Jack was a gracious winner.
DAN JENKINS: He was.
PETER ALLISS: You can be a pain in the ass and win everything, and you can be gracious when you lose everything. There's a gracious loser and there's all the old silly clichés about show me a good loser and I'll show you a good loser and all that old nonsense. But gracious winners, it's hard not to be yah da da da da, and you're a pain in the neck to other people. It's very hard to be gracious. You know you've done well, you accept the accolades, but you get on with it. Next week is another week.
DAN JENKINS: The other thing is that in a sense, and this is probably the secret that all of us in the press have kept to ourselves all these years, that it might be easier to win majors than it is something else because there are fewer people in the field who think they should win a major. There might just be 20 guys out there who think they deserve to win a U.S. Open, but anybody can win a Tour tournament. Look at the record book. You can prove that.
Q. Peter, I'd be curious your views on the Ryder Cup just from the perspective of somebody who played on a team back when Britain never won -
PETER ALLISS: I beg your pardon? When Britain never won?
Q. Dan, interject here, please.
PETER ALLISS: Ryder Cup has become one of the biggest sporting occasions in the world, and a lot of people talk and write about it as if it happened when Britain encompassed the matches with Europe. And I remember it very well when the first time we had Europeans playing. I think it was either '79 or '81. '81 was at Walton Heath, and it was not a success. '81 was - you had probably, arguably, one of the best teams ever assembled. But up until the last day, the home team was holding its ground. I think there was only a couple of points in it, which is, again, conveniently forgotten.
But you crucified us on the last day. I think you won - if there were 10 matches you certainly won nine of them. And that sort of led to sort of complacency, and I think Jack Nicklaus is one of the people who went to Lord Darby who was the president of our association and said, these matches are becoming very boring and we're winning too often, and you've won three or four over the last 40 years, but it's not enough, and what can be done about it, otherwise people here would lose interest, sponsors would lose interest or whatever. And that's how the European boys became involved.
And they went on from there and started producing young players. At the moment the European - you all talk about Faldo and all the rest over here and a few others, there are probably 10 youngsters in Europe, 16, 17, 18 that have the possibility of becoming the next Rickie Fowler, the next McIlroy. But I think the Ryder Cup is okay. It gets a little bit too passionate at times and a bit too sort of sycophantic and a bit too rah rah rah. It's only a game, and everyone says there's no money involved. There's millions involved. They say the players don't get anything.
I think about six years ago, the women, I think, on our team, I think they had about £20,000 of goodies each, have a dress, have some shoes, have a handbag. So it wasn't for nothing. And the players would get £5,000 to give to their charity or whatever it was, and they all pretended they played for nothing. But I still think it's a wonderful event. It's very nerve racking, and I think that the players battle to get into the teams, and I think that's a good thing. And I think Europe has brightened it up a lot.
DAN JENKINS: What was it like when you were playing and losing all the time?
PETER ALLISS: Well, I played on eight teams and we won a couple and we halved one. We should have - '49, we should have killed you in '49. '53 we could have won. I took four from the edge of the last green. Bernard three putted and we lost that won. And we won in '57. But you were so much better than us. We had funny rules and regulations. You couldn't take your wife. You came over with your team in the days when they came by sea, and the wives were all wearing beautiful clothes and fur coats when fur coats were acceptable, and they were all elegant and coiffured and beautiful fingernails, and ours had a cardigan on and flat shoes and three kids trailing in the background with snotty noses, and so it looked very different. You overwhelmed us with your equipment. It all looked better than us. We were really second rate citizens or were made to feel that way through no fault of yours. But that was just the culture of the time.
DAN JENKINS: You know, you used to have ugly shirts, but I think we're in danger of catching up with that now with all the new designers getting involved. Our colors used to be red, white and blue, but I don't know what they are now.
Q. Drawing on your collective wisdom, does Tiger win five more major championships?
DAN JENKINS: No. Next question?
Q. Can you talk a little bit about your presenters tonight, and do you know what they're going to say and how they're going to present you, and if you were presenting them, what would you say about them from a personal perspective?
PETER ALLISS: I'd have pretty well nothing to say about mine, Terry Jastrow, who I've known since he was a boy. He was Henry Longhurst's gofer. I first met him at Medinah in 1975 or something like that. He was just out of college and drove Longhurst around, and that's when I met him, and he went on to become a producer of golf for ABC, married Anne Archer, the film actress, 36, 37 years ago, which I find hard to believe, and live in Los Angeles, and he started he worked and produced the Jack Nicklaus Productions golf business, which did Shell, then he went on to Gaylord Promotions. He's just written a play which is going to start up in London, story of Jane Fonda and her battles against the Vietnam War. Very interesting, good friend, pushy, very masterful. I said to him once, Terry, I really do in a male way love you dearly, but I know, I just know if you and I were in a belt and the sea got rough and there was one lifebelt, I would not get it. That was the end of that. Work it out.
DAN JENKINS: Back to Tiger for a minute, it's going to be a great story if he does win a major because he'll be the first guy that ever did it with three golf swings. It'll be a great story for all of us. We had Oliver Moody do it with a cross handed putting stroke and we had Keegan Bradley do it with the belly putter last year. We had Hale Irwin do it with contacts, as I recall, contact lenses. But a guy has never done it with three golf swings.
PETER ALLISS: I find as an old player and the son of one of the best players of his time, who was also a very good teacher in a simplistic way, I do not understand the thinking of Tiger Woods. I think his golfing brain for some reason or other is completely addled. Perhaps the good part of his brain for a period drained from here (indicating side of head) down to here (indicating lap), and that caused him great distress, probably a modicum of enjoyment at the time. But he's gone. And for somebody who can play and did play, he hit a few wild shots, but he was Gulliver in a land of Lilliputians. We're talking about Nicklaus, Palmer, Player. There was Floyd and Trevino and Casper and another 10, 12 competitors. He didn't have one real for 10 years. He didn't have a real chaser, a real competitor. He dominated everyone. He frightened everybody. Then he gets into this trouble with the ladies, and seemingly he loses it, and then he has to start again. I'm not saying I'm a great teaching guru. I'd love to have a half an hour. If I couldn't put him right - if he can get this right, if he couldn't be put right in an hour, I'd go home and stick my head in a bucket of ice water, because to me it's so simple. You stand and you swing.
Last year's Masters, I've known Arnold Palmer since he was a boy, and we've had some great battles, and we were sitting at the end of the new practice ground at Augusta, and there 50 yards away is Tiger Woods at the green nearest the television facility being shown how to chip. You must do it this way, this way. And I said to Arnold, are we seeing - are we going? He was the greatest chipper in the world for a period, and this guy is teaching -no, don't do it that way. It's like Pavarotti saying I'm fed up being a tenor; I think I'm going to sing as a baritone. Land sake. That's as stupid as that in my opinion. That's not a criticism, it's an opinion. But that's why he's fuddled and befuddled. As Dan says, three swings, Gary Player, talking to him this afternoon, doing all these sort of things. Trevino played that way and thank God never had a lesson, otherwise we never would have heard of him maybe. But he's gone. He's gone at this moment.
MODERATOR: Guys, thank you very much for coming out today.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.