Chip Shots

Take Dead Aim

Keep it simple. Hit it straight. That’s the best advice you’ll ever get. And it came straight from what many say was the best teacher and coach in the game, Harvey Penick. You too can take advantage of Harvey’s wisdom and teachings. It’s all there in The Little Red Book.

Harvey got his start in golf at the ripe old age of eight. The Penick home was just a few blocks from the Austin Country Club, established in 1899. As an eight-year-old, Harvey loved to caddie and gave whatever money he earned to his dad. After just five years, the club made Harvey the assistant professional at 13. After graduating from high school in 1923, Harvey, just 17, was named the head professional and stayed in that role until 1973.

In 1931, Harvey was named the golf coach at the University of Texas. He loved to teach and ended up teaching five Golf Hall of Fame inductees. Two of his most prized pupils were Tom Kite, US Open Champion, and two-time Masters winner Ben Crenshaw. A lesson from Harvey was very special.

I may very well be the only student Harvey could not help, but I so enjoyed my lessons from Mr. Penick. It’s simple, really. If you want to improve your golf game, just do what Harvey preached: “Keep it simple and take dead aim.”

In 1973, Harvey’s son Tinsley took over as the head pro. Then, when Tinsley retired, Dale Morgan took over. Dale, beyond any question of doubt, is the best-dressed head professional in the country. It’s incredible to think that Austin Country Club has only ever had three head pros.

This past week, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship, the only match play event on the PGA Tour schedule, was held at Austin Country Club. It was a fun week for me staying with my longtime friend Sonny Rhodes, who has been an Austin Country Club member for many years and was Harvey’s close friend. In fact, Sonny served as a pallbearer along with Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw at Harvey’s funeral during Masters week in 1995.

Another highlight for me was having dinner in a restaurant owned by the Foles family. Yes, that’s Nick Foles, the winning quarterback in this year’s Super Bowl. Nick’s mother was a delight to meet. She is so proud of her son, not only for his football accomplishments, but because he will be going into the ministry after his football days are over.

Match Play is a lot of fun to watch, especially when there is a strong East End connection right in the thick of the action.

In the championship match, it was Bubba Watson vs. Kevin Kisner. On the bag for Kisner was East Hampton’s own Duane Bock. It wasn’t a great day for Kevin as he lost quite handily to Bubba, however, Kisner still walked away with over $1 million for second place. That means Duane padded his bank account with a nice 10 percent of that for a week’s work. Not a bad job if you can get it.

We’ve waited seven months for a major championship and now the Masters is only a week away. This year promises to be one for the ages. A rejuvenated Tiger Woods has the excitement level at an all-time high, and Rory McIlroy can achieve a career grand slam with a win.

Wednesday practice round tickets are now selling for $1500 each. If you’re feeling really flush and want to attend Thursday through Sunday, be prepared to shell out more than $10 grand for the privilege. On paper at least, this promises to be a wide-open Masters, with at least 20 players having a great chance to add a snazzy green jacket to their wardrobe.

But, of course, once that final putt drops at Augusta, our attention will turn to Shinnecock and the US Open in June. By the way, the merchandise tent will be open for business beginning on Thursday the week before (June 7). Now for the good news . . . no ticket necessary to walk in and buy your US Open gear.

The player who keeps it simple and takes dead aim will have the best chance to join 1896 Champion James Foulis, 1986 Champion Raymond Floyd, 1995 Champion Corey Pavin, and 2004 Champion Retief Goosen, the last four winners at Shinnecock.