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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.
A follow-up. "Did the pleasure of the three-iron outweigh the disappointment of the three putts?"
"Oh, 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 artifact.
"I've heard 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.