2004: Pair left memorable marks
Moe Norman and Harvie Ward couldn’t have been more different.
Norman was a social castaway, a Canadian golf vagabond who often slept in his car during tournaments. He lacked a formal education, his appearance was unkempt, his behavior unpredictable. Norman became known as the “Rainman” of golf, a reference to Dustin Hoffman’s idiot savant movie character.
Ward was a dapper North Carolinian, whom celebrated golf historian Herbert Warren Wind called “a consummate stylist.” His ebullient personality made him a fan favorite, particularly among the opposite sex. He was an NCAA champion at the University of North Carolina who went on to have a successful career in business and golf instruction.
Both men died Sept. 4. Norman, a native of Kitchener, Ontario, was 75. Ward, who was born in Tarboro, N.C., was 78. As different as they were, each left an indelible mark on golf.
Norman’s other nickname was “Pipeline,” because he rarely missed a fairway. His uncanny accuracy was achieved with a swing that was beyond unorthodox.
Paul DeCorso, president of Acushnet Canada Inc., tells a story of Norman making his monthly visit to Titleist’s offices and agreeing to be measured by a launch monitor as he hit balls.
“Some guys might be cocky and be able to guess what their numbers were after they hit a shot,” said DeCorso. “Moe would show up, and the guys couldn’t believe it. He’d get on the machines and give his launch angle, spin rate and ball speed. He would call the numbers out – and call them before he hit the shot. He was a phenomenal ballstriker, a man who hit the ball straighter than anybody.
“I find it quite ironic, and quite appropriate, that Moe would choose, or the Lord would choose to take him on the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Open. I don’t know that there is anyone like him in our time, a man so simple and so complex. The way he lived his life was a lot like the game he loved so much – simple and complex at the same time. . . . He was truly one of the special, special people in our game.”
As was Ward, a dominant figure in amateur golf during the 1950s, when he won back-to-back U.S. Amateurs, a British Amateur and a Canadian Amateur (in 1954, the year before Norman won two in a row). Ward competed during a sterling era of amateur golf, when leaderboards also posted the names of Frank Stranahan, Charlie Coe, Bill Campbell, Willie Turnesa, Dick Chapman and Sam Urzetta.
Ward’s reputation was tarnished in 1957 by the Eddie Lowery controversy, when the U.S. Golf Association Executive Committee member was found to be covering Ward’s tournament expenses. But the measure of a man is how he rebounds from adversity, and Ward went on to gain respect as a teacher of golf. He is credited with polishing the game of Payne Stewart, who went on to win two U.S. Opens and the PGA Championship.
The lives of Moe Norman and Harvie Ward are testaments to the variety of styles that succeed in golf. They enriched the game greatly.