The first time most of us at SPORTS ILLUSTRATED got a look at Dan Jenkins was in 1959, the year Jenkins, then a columnist for the Fort Worth Press, won the Golf Writers Association of America championship and was saluted in our FACES IN THE CROWD section. Several years later we decided to hire him, on the assumption that anyone who could play scratch golf while carrying a typewriter had hidden depths, to say nothing of a certain breadth, and we were right. Not only has Dan proved to be one of SI's most prolific writers (his coverage of last week's Steelers-Browns game appears on page 30), but he has also won considerable acclaim for novels such as Semi-Tough and Dead Solid Perfect.
But that is not the extent of Dan's prolificness. Little did we realize back in 1959 how the crowd around Dan's face would grow: twins Sally and Marty Jenkins were born in October 1960, and their arrival was followed in October 1961 by that of brother Danny.
Last week came the unsettling news that little Sally Jenkins had left for Stanford. "I don't know about this," said Jenkins p�re. "You have a few babies, go see a couple of football games and golf tournaments, and the next thing you know one of your kids is getting on a plane to go to college."
As for sons Marty and Danny, they are now about seven feet tall and play football for the McBurney School in Manhattan. In the grip of his revelation about what happens to babies, Dan realized that they had not played a single down in front of their father. "The one game I had a chance to see got rained out," he says. "Frankly, it was the first time I'd ever heard of a football game being rained out." Last week he decided to get in shape for watching the Steelers by looking in on one of McBurney's practices in Central Park, where the team customarily works out before an assortment of winos, purse snatchers and urban guerrilla softball players.
It was a change from the crowds Dan ordinarily hangs out with, in the clubhouses of the country's better golf courses, or in New York, at the Summerhouse, a restaurant of which his wife June is a founder and part owner, and at that standby of the gossip columnists, Elaine's. This sort of thing is presumably essential to the completion of his new novel, an opus he describes as "about the bar in Texas where I grew up."
"Writing novels is my hobby," Jenkins says, "but mostly I'm a journalism junkie." This is obviously true. Reporter Myra Gelband, who has worked with Jenkins on dozens of golf assignments here and abroad, has said of him, "A lot of people think Dan just sits around the grill or the press tent at golf tournaments. But I may walk 36 holes on the course and come back to find Dan already knows everything I do. He has some marvelous antennae that tell him when to get up and watch a hole, and he is never wrong."
Which, for 14 years, is what has kept our man Jenkins from being just another face in the crowd in the press box.