In May 2012, Dan Jenkins was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame for his contributions to golf journalism over 60-plus years, honored in a ceremony alongside other inductees Phil Mickelson, Hollis Stacy, Sandy Lyle, and Peter Allis. Below is Jenkins’ World Golf Hall of Fame induction speech with an introduction by Golf Digest’s Editor-in-Chief, Jerry Tarde.
JERRY TARDE: Ladies and gentlemen, golf’s most influential writer who made us laugh even when it hurt, especially when it hurt, Mr. Dan Jenkins.
DAN JENKINS: I’ve read they put me up here first because Tiger Woods and I have an early tee time tomorrow.
I really enjoyed that video. I thought it was great, and it was perfectly accurate. That vase, by the way, in another life, that would have been filled with Scotch, but at this stage of my development, it’s going to have to be iced tea. Of course I’m delighted and overwhelmed and pleased and all those things to be taken into this society. It’s a great club. And I’m particularly pleased to be taken in as a vertical human. I may be the first writer that ever did that.
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I’m also happy about the rumor if I wear this blazer to my neighborhood drugstore I’ll get some discount on my medications.
The first person I want to thank, quite serious, everything I’ve had that’s been good in my life has come to me through the incomparable June Jenkins, who’s my bride of 52 years, my sweetheart, my secret weapon actually.
I need to thank an awful lot of people here and I’ll try to do it as quick as I can. But first I want to thank my kids for being here, my entrepreneurial sons Marty and Danny and my successful past winning sports columnist for the Washington Post, Sally Jenkins. She and I agree she’s been the best writer in the family for several years now.
I also want to thank all my friends who came here from Fort Worth and Colonial and Shady Oaks and New York and Boston and even some from Ponte Vedra, and probably a few strangers that I bought drinks for in New York who became their best friend.
I have to thank Deane Beman and Tim Finchem, two great commissioners who got this thing built, got this whole World Golf Village done. It was a marvelous idea and a tremendous undertaking, and they will be thanked several times tonight, but I want to be the first to do it. First of all, I don’t know how they did it, but they did, and it’s going to keep on growing.
I have to tell you if you’re a writer, a few years ago at the Atlanta airport this guy came up to me and said, “I know you.” I said, ‘I don’t think so.’ He said, “no, no, no, I’ve seen you. Why do I know you?” I said, ‘I’m just a guy catching an airplane.’ He said, “no, I know you. I’ve seen you somewhere. Who are you?” I said, well — I thought maybe he’d seen me on television — I said, ‘I’m a guy that writes for a national sports magazine and I’ve written four or five best sellers,’ and he goes, “well, you don’t have to be sarcastic.”
To justify my inclusion in this terrific society, I went back and looked at everybody who’s in it and did some statistics. It turns out that I have known 95 of these people when they were living. I’ve written stories about 73 of them. I’ve had cocktails and drinks with 47 of them, and I played golf with 24 of them. So I want somebody else to try and go up against that record.
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Just to drop a few names, some of the people I’ve played golf with were Ben Hogan about 40 times, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and even Babe Zaharias, and the ladies down here, these LPGA ladies will appreciate that. I played with Babe in 1951 at River Crest Country Club in Fort Worth in the old Texas Women’s Open. I was playing on the TCU golf team at the time but I was also working for the Fort Worth Press. I went over to Babe and saw her chipping and putting around the putting green and I said, ‘Are you going to play a practice round?’ And she just kind of looked at me. She knew me from a couple years earlier, and I said, ‘if you’re going to play a practice round, I want to play along with you,’ and she said, “how much you got in your pocket?” And I said, ‘well, I guess I could manage a $2 Nassau or something like that.’ So we played, jumped in the golf cart, played in about two and a half hours. I said, there’s no lady golfer going to out hit me. Well, she did, put that little low hook, went out there about 275, not only outhit me, she shot 71, beat me out of $8. But she wouldn’t take the money. She said, ‘I don’t mind robbing a college kid but I can’t rob a newspaper guy. We need you people.’
I know these other ladies have heard this story before, and she dropped one of her standard lines on me. We came around the golf cart, around the clubhouse to the putting green and we saw George, her husband, who was an ex-pro wrestler, and he was one of those guys who got wider the longer you looked at him, and she said, look at that, 12 years ago I married a Greek God. Now I’m just married to a damn Greek.
As for all those majors I’ve covered, it’s obviously a record that’ll never be broken because one day there’s not going to be any more magazines and newspapers in paper, and for that matter there’s not going to be any more people. There’s just going to be vampires and text messages and some voice saying, “turn left now.”
This was my 62nd Masters in a row, and that’s a lot of country ham and red eye gravy any way you look at it. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and I’ll be going to Olympic next month, where I’ve suffered several tragedies in the past as a sports writer. Every time I go there, Jack Fleck beats Ben Hogan, Billy Casper beats Arnold Palmer, Scott Simpson beats Tom Watson, Lee Janzen beats Payne Stewart, so I’m quite sure next month Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson are all going to lose in a playoff to Jack Fleck’s long lost nephew, and I’ll be there to cover it on deadline.
I have to cut to the chase here and get around to Ben Hogan because I knew him better than any other writer. I played golf with him over 40 times all through the 1950s when he was at his peak. He called me up one day, I used to watch him practice. He’d say, “let’s go play.” One day in 1956 he called me at the paper on the phone and said, “I’m going to play an exhibition for the U.S. Olympic fund, and I want you in the foursome.” And I said, ‘Ben, there’s got to be somebody better than me.’ He said, “no. You’re the one I want. We’ll have a lot of fun. My brother will play, there will be four of us.” ‘So I go out there, I work half a day. I expected maybe a couple hundred people. There are 3,000 people lining the first fairway. I somehow got off the tee okay down the fairway without injuring myself or anybody else, and then I topped a 3-wood, then I topped another 3-wood, then I top-scraped a 5-iron, and all I wanted to do was dig a hole and disappear. I could hear giggles in the gallery. Who is this idiot? How did this guy get here? Then I realized Ben was walking beside me as I dropped my ball and he gave me the greatest golf tip at the time under those conditions I’ve ever had. This proves he had a sense of humor. He said, “you can probably swing faster if you try hard enough.”
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That’s a true story. I must have looked like I was swatting mosquitos or something. I slowed it down and got around in something under 80, I think. But it’s true that he offered to give me a lesson one day after we played a practice round at Colonial. We were sitting around having an iced tea or a drink or something, and he said, “you can keep the ball in the fairway off the tee and you’re a good putter. I wish I had your putting stroke,” which is true, but he said, “everything in between is a mystery,” and I said, ‘yeah.’ He said, “if you will work with me three days a week for the next four months, you might be good enough to play in the national amateur, qualify and play the national amateur.” And I said, Ben, ‘I’m flattered and I appreciate that, and I’m embarrassed to have to turn down an offer of free golf lessons from the greatest player in the world, but I just want to be a sports writer. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to be.’ He looked at me like I’ve seen him look at other people, with that cold stare, and you don’t know whether you’re going to get a bullet in the head or a dagger in the heart, and you wait and it seems like an eternity, and then he smiled and he said, “well, keep working at it. “
That’s what I’ve been doing for the last 60 years, and I guess I’ll keep doing it until I topple over and they start to work on my tombstone. I’ve already picked out two things. The first one is going to be, “I knew this would happen.” But I’ve got a better one. The better one is, “You guys hold it down here, I’m off to the next great adventure.”
Thank you all.