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Penick says, "Pearl was a fine piano player. I think probably her nimble fingers have helped Ben a lot. And she knew children."
Charlie says, "Ben grew up in a home with a magnificent, marvelous mother and an older sister and brother, and we were all just filled with love for one another. My other two [Bonnie, 44, a high school librarian, and Charlie Jr., 33, a sales manager] are just as fine as Ben."
Crenshaw has a contemplative side. He's a bird watcher, for instance. He courts ridicule on the tour whenever he gets excited over spotting a scarlet tanager at Muirfield Village or a bald eagle at Ponte Vedra. "When I was about eight, I had a friend, John Staehely, who's now a very fine musician," Ben says. "Well, he started liking birds and I did, too, at about the same time. We just started studying them. I don't know why. But I've always kept it up. It's a little strange, probably."
He also likes to read. He cut his teeth, he likes to say, on Charles Price's The World of Golf, and now he has the golf library of a serious collector. From his reading has come a rare appreciation for golf's continuum. "Golf's an amateur game," he says. "That's how it began and that's its backbone. I think we're getting in trouble these days, leaning more toward the professional game. I mean, so many courses are being built for professionals. It's not right. It's very shortsighted. I guess when you get down to it, I'm a professional amateur."
Crenshaw's enduring hero is an amateur, Bobby Jones, the founding father of the Masters, "a man I love but I never met." Jones died in Atlanta when Ben was 19 years old. Crenshaw chose to read from Jones's Golf Is My Game at the March of Dimes function when he wanted to tell his friends how he felt about them. The large darkened room grew quiet. Sifford and Barber, over in a corner, moved closer to hear. A spotlight shone like the sun on Crenshaw's blond head and highlighted the broad planes of his face. He began to read from an address delivered by Jones to the citizens of St. Andrews, Scotland in 1958 on the occasion of his having been given the Freedom of the City, the only American since Benjamin Franklin to be so honored.
"When I say," Crenshaw read, "with due regard for the meaning of the word, that I am your friend, I have pledged to you the ultimate in loyalty and devotion...." The young Texas voice choked to a momentary stop over Jones's elegant words, but Crenshaw recovered and carried on. "...it is possible that I may be imposing upon you a greater burden than you are willing to assume...." And finally, "And so, my fellow citizens of St. Andrews, it is with this appreciation of the full sense of the word that I salute you as my friends."
The next day Brent Buckman said, "As soon as I heard that Ben was going to read Bobby Jones I knew he'd never make it. But Ben's no BSer. When he says something, he means it from his heart. I can also tell you that right now, he's happier than he's ever been in his life."
Crenshaw put it differently, though maybe he meant the same thing. "I can live with myself now," he said.