We don't know what
Eddie Lowery or Rodney Dangerfield or Byron Nelson thought about the game in
the gathering darkness, but we do know what Tom Hearn thought. He was an
insurance man and a duffer, and John Updike would have put him in his novels
had he ever known him. Tom Hearn spent a day when his days were numbered
assessing how golf fit into the last 66 years of his life, the freckled early
ones and the speckled ones at the close.
He was in a cozy
little room in his Hobe Sound, Fla., house. On the shelves were books about
golf and war, and on the walls there were prints of the great holes of
Scotland. He was white-haired and gaunt, but alert. His blue eyes, magnified by
glasses, were gigantic. His home course, the Jupiter Island Club, was down the
road. Very fancy, but he hadn't grown up that way.
It was a Tuesday,
a Tuesday with Mr. Hearn. He was remembering his final hole from his final full
round, the 18th at Jupiter, a par-5: "Driver, three-wood, three-iron that
ran up to the green. One hundred and sixty-five yards out, from the light
rough. I made a good turn and said to myself, That's the way you're supposed to
turn your shoulders."
A visitor asked,
"How many putts?"
Up went three
fingers and a smirk--a jock's smirk. Some things you carry forever; Mr. Hearn
was a football player in high school, in the late '30s and early '40s.
"Did the pleasure of the three-iron outweigh the disappointment of the
definitely," Mr. Hearn said. "I've three-putted thousands of greens,
but how often do you hit a three-iron to 30 feet?"
He was noting,
near his end, things that had not occurred to him before. You're driving, and
you see a sloping swath of green in the distance; you think it's going to be a
golf course, but it turns out to be a cemetery. Or, in Scotland and Hawaii in
particular, how often courses and cemeteries abut.
Mr. Hearn knew
about the Augusta National member who was buried in his club coat and the
tennis star who was laid to rest with his Ping five-iron. Ends are personal, he
said, well qualified to say so, but he had no desire to go out with a golfing
golfers speak of heaven as a place where you birdie every hole," he said.
"If there's a golf in the hereafter, I hope it would have the quality of
golf on earth, with its joys and disappointments." He felt a stronger
kinship to Hogan's recurring nightmare: 17 straight holes in one followed by a
lip-out. "That's golf," said Mr. Hearn, who made four aces. His best
score was a 78. That's it.