With so many ideas on how to grow the game being bantered about, I can't help but think about the biggest day that golf in this country has known and the growth that came from it. In September 1913, Francis Ouimet, a 20-year-old amateur, beat two of the original triumvirate, Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, in a playoff at the U.S. Open, putting golf on the front page for the first time in the U.S. Within 10 years the number of public courses increased dramatically, and the number of golfers in this country tripled.
In 1912 three men who would become known as the American Triumvirate were born: Byron Nelson, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan. Each was introduced to the game as a caddie in the early '20s. Had Ouimet not won that Open, it's plausible the three would have had no one to caddie for and might never have gotten involved in the game.
Nelson won five majors, and in 1945 he had one of the most remarkable years in the history of the game with 11 consecutive victories. Hogan won nine majors, and who knows how many more he would've won had his career not been interrupted by a horrific car accident in 1949. Snead won more tournaments, 82 (including seven majors), than anyone. Countless players were inspired by these men.
I can't help but think the three legends were born at the right time, when golf was affordable and kid-friendly. So as we contemplate ways to grow the game, we should first think of ways to entice video-game-addicted kids with a less expensive, faster and easier game. A larger cup cut for kids on the other side of the green from the conventional hole would be a start.
August 20, 2012
Somewhere out there is another triumvirate of potentially great players waiting to be introduced to golf.
Brandel Chamblee is a Golf Channel analyst and a 15-year PGA Tour vet.