One man played 18 holes just an hour and a half after his wife gave birth to their first child—with the doctor who delivered the baby. A 59-year-old woman played 100 holes in one day, carrying her own clubs. A fellow with 33 putters places five of them under his mattress the night before a tournament, then plays with the one he dreamed about.
They're members of a not-so-exclusive club called the Golf Nut Society of America (GNSA), headquartered in Coral Gables, Fla. Its logo is a walnut atop a golf tee, its official bird is the eagle, and its official handshake is the Vardon grip. The organization was founded in 1986 by Head Nut Ron Garland, a computer salesman who once made six swing changes during a single round of a tournament. Its notable members include Michael Jordan, Bob Hope, Bobby Rahal, Huey Lewis, Peter Ueberroth, John Havlicek, Kiki Vandeweghe, Jack Lemmon, Julius Erving and a few bona fide professional golfers: Peter Jacobsen, Amy Alcott, Calvin Peete and the Golfing Gorilla.
Through dues, gift items and various promotions, the GNSA raises money for charities, particularly programs for underprivileged and abused children. Over the years, the society has uncovered many Nuts, such as Ernie Vandeweghe, Kiki's grandfather and a former furrier. He was practicing in his backyard when he discovered "the secret." Vandeweghe had his wife drive him immediately to the course in their convertible so he could hold his club in the air without changing his grip. It was 7 a.m.
One Nut's upper arm was impaled when his three-iron snapped, yet he was still able to finish the round after tying a T-shirt around the wound. Another member of the society went camping to get away from his game, but ended up building a makeshift nine-hole course in the woods. Perhaps the bravest of all Nuts is the family man who played on New Year's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas in the same calendar year—and lived to tell about it.
A Loss for Baseball
Hall of Famer Cool Papa Bell dies at age 87
It is not true that he could turn off the light switch and be in bed before the room got dark, as Satchel Paige claimed. It is also not true that he was called out at second base when he ran into his own line drive, as Paige also maintained. But almost everything else they said about James (Cool Papa) Bell was true. He played center-field for six Negro league teams from 1922 to '46, and his peers said he was the swiftest player they ever saw. Jackie Robinson put him in his alltime outfield, alongside Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. A lifetime .338 hitter, Cool Papa batted .429 in his last season, at the age of 43.
But Cool Papa's greatest contribution to baseball may have been his memory. He was a gracious host and a mesmerizing storyteller to those fortunate enough to chat with him at his home in St. Louis or in Cooperstown, where he held court nearly every Hall of Fame induction weekend since his own enshrinement in 1974. A visit with him and his wife, Clarabelle, at their house at 3034 Cool Papa Bell Avenue was a baseball pi20lgrimage. Their house was filled with balls and bats and the weighty flannel uniforms of the Negro leagues. Clarabelle, who died last January, would complain about how tiresome her husband's ramblings had become, and then, after offering a guest something to eat, sit there with rapt attention while Cool Papa spun his stories. "There's a lot of unwritten baseball," he used to say.
He talked about how in 1922, as a 19-year-old pitcher for the St. Louis Stars, he had saved a game by striking out slugger Oscar Charleston. His teammates thought he had displayed remarkable composure, so they dubbed him Cool Bell. Stars manager Bill Gatewood thought that moniker didn't speak enough to the young man's maturity, so he added the Papa.
After his baseball career, Cool Papa worked for 21 years at the St. Louis City Hall, as a custodian and night watchman. But the days were left for baseball. "You try to get that game out of your mind, but it never leaves you," he said. When Cool Papa died last week, at 87, baseball lost not only one of its greatest players, but also an irreplaceable part of its history.