SI Vault
Barry McDermott
June 18, 1979
Orville Moody, the 1969 U.S. Open champion, gamely plays on despite that Judas club and a decade of unbelievable frustration
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
June 18, 1979

The Putter God Forgot

Orville Moody, the 1969 U.S. Open champion, gamely plays on despite that Judas club and a decade of unbelievable frustration

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4

In the Plano restaurant Beverly took a bite of food and winced. "Darn!" she said. "I think I cracked a tooth." After a trip to the rest room, she returned to say that she had indeed chipped a molar. "I'll have to get that capped."

"Don't be talking about caps," said her husband. "Those caps cost $250."

Moody was only kidding. He has a dry, teasing sense of humor that he has learned to use effectively. There was a 1,050-mile trip to Columbus, Ohio coming up. Maybe Bev would drive part of the way.

If he hadn't won the Open, Moody would be collecting his Army pension now. At the very least he would have gone into the Army Reserves, which would have meant between $600 and $700 a month to him. Instead, he is an old man on the tour, shaving his expenses down to about $30,000 a year, playing in all the exhibitions and pro-ams he can, suffering because he is naturally warm-blooded and has to wear ice-filled hats and gulp salt tablets to endure the summer heat. Often he thinks back to the times in the Army when he regularly won service tournaments by 20 or 30 strokes. "I always had a lot of fun in those days," he says. "It seems all of my troubles started after I got out of the Army. Now I want to get a little ahead and get a club job somewhere. There's been two-three times when I got down pretty low, but it seems like I always win a little money when that happens. But if I get enough ahead, I don't even know if I'll go on in golf. I might get into something else. The thing is, I could still win if I got it all together."

Actually, things do look better for Moody. His performance and check at Houston gave him a little cushion, and his hay fever is under control now thanks to a shot he receives twice a year. In the past, Moody sometimes had to play tournaments wearing a surgical mask because of his hay fever. Naturally the newspapers ran pictures of him, and they had a lot of fun with captions of the Who's the Masked Man kind.

The Ol' Sarge still has the ammo from tee to green, and he has made 10 holes in one, including an ace at this year's Colonial that got him the use of a car for a year. And you should see his trick shots. He can tee off with a paper cup over the ball and outdrive most men, and his wedge shots dance like puppets on a string. He can run it, bump it, cut it, draw it, burn it and nail it better than just about anybody. If only he could putt it.

One of the few things saved from the fire that destroyed his house was a box containing scrapbooks of his career. His U.S. Open trophy, charred and warped from the fire, also survived. Once it was the symbol of his greatest triumph. Now it mirrored his travail. A few months ago, he was rummaging through the scrap-books and pulled out a yellowed newspaper photograph.

"Here, honey, look at this," he said to Beverly. "I was pretty handsome in those days." The face was young and smooth, the body was lean. Moody ran his fingers over text and pictures of 30 years ago.

"Look, here's one from when I played that exhibition with Byron Nelson," he said. So much has happened since then. Still, in lean years and fat, plain Ol' Orville has had what it takes to keep soldiering on.

1 2 3 4