- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
For three weeks Crenshaw, who had played golf almost every day of his life for 20 years, didn't play at all. "I just didn't want to," he says. But Charlie Crenshaw, Penick and Ben's good friend Brent Buckman, who was his teammate and roommate at Texas, went to work on his head just the same.
"I sensed he was lost inside," says Buckman, now the head pro at Onion Creek. "He didn't know which way to go. He'd forgotten how he used to do it. I just said to him, you're the same person you've always been."
"Ninety percent is in your mind," says Penick, now 79 and semiretired, but still tutoring Crenshaw and giving 20 lessons a week. "They put it in his mind that his swing was too long, but some of the greatest players have had long swings—Hogan, Vardon, Jones. It can get in your mind, some of these things. I think it was Jack Nicklaus who said the best needle of all is to get a guy wondering where that club head is at the top of his backswing."
"You can't think about much while you're swinging a golf club," says Charlie. "The thing to do is think about the back of the ball and hitting it. As long as he played that way he was very good. After he got out on the tour he began to wonder what he was doing."
Charlie suffered with Ben through the bad times. "It was just like it was myself almost," he says, wincing. Worse, Charlie felt partly responsible for Ben's troubles. "Seven or eight years ago I told him he had learned enough out there to depend on himself. I told him, 'You don't need to come running back to Dad and Harvey anymore.' So he listened to me, and then he got mixed up."
Just being in Austin was the beginning of Crenshaw's comeback. He's very fond of his hometown and comfortable there. Then his father, Penick and Buckman began the nurturing process. "All three of them told me, 'Look, you think your swing's too long? Just look at Bobby Jones in his prime or Sam Snead in his or Ben Hogan in his, or even Don January—they all took the club back past parallel. They haven't done too badly.' They were like psychiatrists, saying positive things to get me to believe in my game again, in my method, in my swing."
Slowly Crenshaw began to work his way through the accumulated clutter of nine years. At Penick's suggestion, he tried to concentrate not on his swing but on his setup, his alignment, his feet, the position of the ball, which had been fluctuating wildly as he tried different approaches to his swing. "In its simplest form," says Crenshaw, "you want the ball to fly in a certain way and you want it to finish in a certain place, so naturally you have to aim it first before any other stuff can happen. That's what I was overlooking. It's so simple...really simple. My swing hadn't changed that much, but the position of my feet and the position of the ball made it look like it had."
Although his game gradually improved, it wasn't until February 1983, at the Hawaiian Open, where he had a shot at winning, that the old Crenshaw, the natural, began to surface. "Starting after the Hawaiian Open," he says, "I haven't thought about my swing one iota. After all those years I was determined to aim more consistently, to allow my instincts and my muscles to work. Take instinct away from golf and there's nothing. You can't play any kind of shot. How can you chip over a bunker that's 40 yards away? How can you hit a ball in a wind—all that stuff? You can't do it by mechanics."
One day, about this time, perhaps sensing that his pupil had cut through the final layer, Penick once again touched Crenshaw in the right place. Penick said, "Ben Hogan didn't have the prettiest swing in the world, but Ben Hogan knew his game better than anyone else knew theirs."
"What Harvey was saying was 'Get back to your game, play it, live by it, do not change it,' " says Crenshaw. "It hit home."