Plantation Pines, a ragged nine-hole course tucked away at the
end of a long dirt road, has a full-time staff of one, a
clubhouse the size of a toolshed, two vending machines for
refreshments and a driving range where a bucket of 100 balls
costs $3.50, the same as the greens fee.
Spartan though it is, golfers of all sorts, from touring pros to
hackers, regularly make the pilgrimage to this clearing in the
woods on Johns Island, 18 miles southeast of Charleston, S.C.
They come not to play the scruffy course but to take lessons
from Henry Picard, who at 88, still hale and husky, is the
second-oldest living Masters champion (at 93 Gene Sarazen, the
1935 Masters champion, is the oldest).
On most sunny days Picard, who won the Masters in 1938, can be
be found seated on a lawn chair on the far side of the range,
whipping somebody's swing into shape. ``I'll be in the shop,
staring across at him,'' says the head pro at Plantation Pines,
Geoff Conine, 41, ``and I'll get goose bumps because I feel like
the luckiest fellow on earth. I'll think, Gosh, that guy's a
living legend. He won the Masters before I was born.''
Henry Picard (PICK-erd) also won the 1939 PGA and 23 other tour
events. He was the leading money winner in 1939, ahead of Byron
Nelson, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan with $10,303; was a member of
victorious U.S. Ryder Cup teams in 1935 and '37; and in a
sizzling stretch from 1934 to '35, broke or equaled par in 51 of
But Picard hated traveling -- mostly because he didn't like
being away from his wife, Annie, and four children -- so after
only 10 seasons he quit the tour and in 1945 went to work as the
head pro at Hershey (Pa.) Country Club. He went on to head-pro
jobs at some of the country's most prestigious clubs, including
Canterbury in Cleveland and Seminole in West Palm Beach, all the
while building his reputation among the sport's cognoscenti as
an outstanding teacher. Hogan, who rarely dishes out
compliments, calls Picard ``the greatest teacher I ever knew.''
With his glamorous credentials, Picard was one of the most
popular figures of his era. But he was also shy and never
enjoyed the spotlight, which is why he refused offers to teach
at many of Charleston's posher clubs. ``Money and fame, they
never meant a damn to me,'' says Picard. ``And I would never
want to intrude on another pro's turf. You don't do those
things. I have too much respect for other pros.''
Picard learned his brand of respect from his first boss, Donald
Binton. As a boy growing up in Plymouth, Mass., Picard was a
strong student who planned to study accounting, but that changed
when he was 18. ``It was 1925. I was caddying and working as a
steward at Plymouth Country Club,'' he says. ``Donald Binton,
who was the head pro at Plymouth, asked me if I wanted to go
south to work over the winter with him at Charleston Country
Club. I told him I'd have to ask my father. Dad said he thought
it would be a great opportunity.''
Picard never looked, or went, back. For the next five years he
apprenticed to Binton in Charleston, learning everything from
club making to teaching to managing the pro shop, meanwhile
improving his own game in the process. Binton retired in 1930,
and Picard succeeded him. The lanky kid with huge hands worked
arduously. He patterned his long, powerful swing after that of
Bobby Jones, whom he met at the Savannah Country Club. His
competitive gusto was forged by ambling on the course with
Picard won his first big tournament in 1932, the Mid-South Open,
and in 1934 he won his second, the North & South Open, which at
the time was considered almost a major. When Picard won the 1938
Masters, shooting 284 to beat Harry (Light Horse) Cooper and
Ralph Guldahl by two shots, he still thought the North & South
was a bigger accomplishment.
``I guess when they started the coat thing [the first winner to
get a green jacket was Sam Snead, in 1949], all of a sudden it
got bigger than anyone could have imagined,'' says Picard, whose
own green jacket now hangs in his closet. ``When I won I think
they had to take up a collection from the members to pay me. And
the prize money was $1,500. Now it's the best tournament in the
world. Going back to Augusta for the annual championsdinner is
the highlight of my year. It'sthe only time I get to see all
And Picard has a bagful to see. ``I love to sit next to Henry at
the champions dinner,'' says Sarazen. ``He's so congenial. And
he was an excellent player.''
``He's a truly wonderful man,'' says Snead. ``He was one of the
very best players on tour. He was such a good athlete, he could
have won some tournamentsone-handed.''
Picard is exceedingly generous, which is one reason he is so
well liked. He received $1,000 for winning the 1934 North &
South, and that night he gave the cash to a friend's son,
Willard Reynolds, so he could enroll in medical school. The same
night, Picard went to the home of Charleston's mayor to ask for
help in getting Reynolds into the school.
One of Picard's biggest benefactors was Hogan, who used Picard
as his swing coach for many years. In 1940 Hogan was battling a
wicked hook when, desperate, he asked Picard for help. ``Ben
came to me in a pretty good fix. He said, `I'm playing great,
but I don't win enough. What can I do?' '' The two worked
together at a tournament in Florida, then Hogan went to
Pinehurst in North Carolina, to practice. Picard rotated Hogan's
left hand a tad to the left in his grip. That summer Hogan won
the North & South and three other titles, and, of course, he
eventually conquered the world.
Hogan got more than golf advice from Picard. In the mid-1930s,
Picard was in the dining room at the Blackstone Hotel in Fort
Worth when he overheard Hogan arguing with his wife, Valerie.
Hogan didn't have enough money to take her with him to the West
Coast. Picard offered to lend him the money to help out, an
offer Hogan appreciated but never took him up on. ``He never
used a penny of my money,'' asserts Picard. ``It was the safety
of knowing it was there that kept them going together.''
Even though he didn't take the money, Hogan was so touched by
Picard's gesture that in 1948, he dedicated his first book,
Power Golf, to him. The dedication was especially meaningful,
considering Hogan's dispassionate nature. ``Henry is a very fine
man, and I was fortunate to have enjoyed his company and
friendship,'' says Hogan, who still talks to Picard on the phone
once or twice a year. ``He was a great golfer and he remains one
of my best and favorite friends. He was so kind and generous,
and his encouragement gave me the inspiration to keep playing in
my early years.''
Despite his legacy as player and teacher, Picard remains one of
the Masters' most uncelebrated champions. He has no videos, no
books, no signature equipment or course designs. While peers
like Snead, Nelson and Sarazen are still star attractions,
Picard is content on the sidelines.
But one day each year, Picard steps back into the spotlight at
the annual Masters champions dinner at Augusta National. Until
1980 Picard made the trip to Augusta himself, driving 175 miles
west on Route 78, but because of cataracts and a pacemaker, one
of his three sons, Larry, 59, now drives him.
``I never dreamed how important the Masters would be to me,''
Picard says. ``It was still a young tournament back then, but
over the years the aura has grown. It's tough to explain how it
feels being a champion, but it does feel good. No matter what,
I've got the jacket that everybody seems to want, and I love