Norwood, 66, helped golf writers tell stories
The lobby bar at the media hotel during a major golf championship will never be the same without Bev Norwood. That’s where Norwood, a longtime publicist and editor for IMG, held court drinking "a Belgian beer," his way of describing his can of Budweiser. Norwood, 66, died on Sept. 4 at the Cleveland Clinic after a short battle with cancer.
"Bev Norwood was a great storyteller, but he never wanted to be part of the story. He confronted his battle with cancer in recent weeks with a strength and fortitude that belied his small frame,” said Alistair Johnston, vice chairman of IMG, in a written statement. “His wit and whimsical sense of humor, that were always so appealing to his friends and colleagues, never left him. For over 30 years Bev served IMG and its golf clients from the 'great and the grand' to the merely mortal as a respected writer friend in an era before publicists or PR specialists were en vogue."
Norwood complained of a sore back at the U.S. Open at Merion. He thought it was simply back spasms. It turned out to be more serious. Norwood was absent from the Open Championship for the first time in years, during which he had further examinations to determine what was troubling him.
In his final email to his longtime friend, golf writer Dan Jenkins, Norwood wrote, "If it IS cancer, I just want you to know that I've been to 132 majors."
Norwood was born in Oxford, N.C., and graduated from Wake Forest. Arnold Palmer was his commencement speaker and came to know him well.
“I am very saddened by the passing, which came so suddenly,” Palmer said. “We will certainly miss his dry wit and the hard work he put into everything he has done for us over the years. He was a great guy and a good friend.”
Norwood became a sports writer at the Winston-Salem Journal, where he covered the 1974 PGA Championship at nearby Tanglewood Golf Course. But when the paper decided to cut back its golf coverage, Norwood looked for another job. Mark McCormack hired him at IMG to rescue Golf Weekly, a periodical based in England. While living in London, Norwood met Bernadette, whom he called “Bernie,” and became his wife.
Norwood returned to the U.S., and spent the majority of his career in Cleveland at IMG headquarters. In 1979, he started specializing in producing programs for IMG’s golf tournaments, most notably Palmer’s PGA Tour event at Bay Hill, which was launched in 1979 as the Bay Hill Citrus Classic. For this inaugural tournament and for many years thereafter, he was responsible for overseeing and managing the media center as the event morphed into today’s Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Norwood served as editor for various publications such as the annual World of Professional Golf and books recapping the U.S. Open, Open Championship, Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. He also was involved with many literary projects, including books on Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Tiger Woods, and paired other IMG personalities with noted writers to pen “As-told-to” books, including former NFL coach John Madden and New York Times sports writer Dave Anderson.
One of Norwood’s closest friends in the golf world was former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette golf writer Marino Parascenzo. They first met at the 1976 Memorial. Norwood was seated a row in front of him in the press center.
“He turned around to me and said, ‘Let’s go out to No. 12 and watch them hit it in the water,’ " Parascenzo recalled him saying of the par-3 fronted by water. “It was one of those slow lines that get you. So we did. We became friends, and we went to a lot of places together.”
Norwood transitioned from golf writer into a respected figure in the media room. He never played favorites. There was the time Parascenzo chased the story that Woods was planning to turn pro after the 1996 U.S. Amateur. Parascenzo asked if any IMG agents would be in Milwaukee for the PGA Tour’s Greater Milwaukee Open. If they were, it would indicate to Parascenzo that Woods would turn pro there. Norwood wouldn’t give his close friend a hint. That is until Norwood phoned Parascenzo shortly after Woods had declared, “Hello World,” in Milwaukee.
“I answered and said, ‘Yeah, Bev, What’s up?” Parascenzo recalled. “He said, ‘Yeah, it’s true. He’s turned pro and he’s with IMG.’ ”
Norwood served as media liaison for Woods, producing what writers called the “Bev book,” a regularly updated guide of statistical information on Woods’ career.
“Bev wasn’t your typical press agent for Tiger," Parascenzo said. "I called him Tiger’s babysitter and told him his principal job was to say, ‘No,’ to all the requests for interviews and ribbon cuttings at some county fair. That kind of thing. I said all you have to do is write, ‘Dear, Mr. Jones. No!’ ”
Parascenzo and Norwood planned to cover the Presidents Cup in October together.
“By this time I realized he had cancer. I found it ironic that we met at Muirfield Village at a golf event and that our final golf event probably would be there, too,” Parascenzo said. “I had no idea this was progressing so fast until about 10 days ago.”
Parascenzo knew the situation was grim when Norwood hadn’t called to needle him about politics. The last time they spoke, Norwood said, “I may not have long to live. Don’t pity me. I don’t want any pity.”
So we won’t. But it is a pity he is gone.