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The President reached the club as soon as he could. After a brief stint of work in his office at the War College on Coasters Island he would board the Barbara Anne for the trip across the harbor to the Fort Adams dock, only four minutes from the links.
Greeted there by Mr. Cushing, he would walk briskly with him toward a temporary practice range, where a pile of 30 or 40 balls awaited them. The first day the President played, no one realized that he would want to hit out practice balls until, after being presented with a club golfing hat, he looked around and said, "Fine, but where can I go to get my joints limbered up?" A pail of practice balls was hurriedly produced.
Palmer stood in front of him, nudging a golf ball out from the pile with a two-iron, giving it a good lie and then offering low words of compliment or advice as the ball arched onto the fairway. Palmer calls himself a teaching professional. An ex-ski instructor, he has been a golf professional for only four years. The game, though, has been an integral part of his life. Thirty-three years old, he spent most of his youth in a house adjoining the 7th fairway at Woodstock, N.H. At 6 he was caddying on the course.
His professional career started at Florida's Seminole Country Club, where he was Claude Harmon's assistant. He became the head professional at Newport last year. He plays in a pro-amateur tournament from time to time, but he is in a true sense a "home pro"—preferring to spend eight hours on a lesson tee nudging balls onto a good lie and teaching—deriving his pleasure from the improvement of his pupils. Palmer likes the President's game and found almost no faults in it which couldn't be blamed on bad timing.
Under Palmer's scrutiny, the President would hit out his practice shots with a six-iron, then a three-iron, a four-wood, and finally he would turn and chip four or five balls onto the first tee, which is adjacent to the practice fairway. He hit each of his practice shots with great deliberation, often so concentrated on keeping his head properly down that he would not lift his eyes to follow the flight of the ball. With the last of his chip-shots hit, the President would beckon to the rest of the foursome and stride across to the first tee. "Come on, victims," he would call out, as he fished for a tee in his pocket.
At the edge of the first tee and facing the players as they tee up stands a weather-stained sundial on which rests the statuette of a boy addressing a golf ball with a driver. Lady Cunier Richards, who did the statuette in 1917, took extensive artistic liberties with her subject. The boy's golfing outfit—a slouch hat and boots—gives him a marked resemblance to Huck Finn. His stance is curious as well. He holds the driver the way most people hold a putter—arms bent and elbows out.
A ballplayer's stance
But his stance is no stranger than some of those affected in the presidential foursome. Of these the most curious is that of Press Secretary James Hagerty. Hagerty stands up to the ball in what a golfer would call the ultimate of the closed stance. Right-handed he pulls his right foot back and crouches under his left shoulder in a position reminiscent of Heinie Manush at the plate. The image of a baseball player is furthered in Hagerty's case by a New York Yankee baseball cap which he wears in deference to the rabid attention he gives that team. From under the brim of this hat he peers down over his left shoulder at the ball, snatches his club head up, and with a convulsive start lashes down at his target. Hagerty wears faded yellow golfing trousers with attached back pockets that hang outside and bounce slightly as he swings. Somehow the stroke produces shots of extraordinary effectiveness, especially the long irons. The drives, though, are apt to be inaccurate; in fact, the President refers to his own flubbed drives as "Hagerty drives." A weak drive, and the President will say ruefully, "Well, there's a Jim Hagerty for you."
No less curious to watch is Howard Cushing's bizarre swing. He is a heavy man, powerfully built, well over six feet in height. The club looks like a willow switch in his hands. He hunkers down over the ball, staring at it with an intensity that knots his muscles until he seems as unsupple as an oak tree. The club head comes back, though, and descends in a swift scooping arc. On his follow-through, Cushing lets go of the club with his right hand, then re-grips it. Despite what Norman Palmer would call basic faults, he has grooved his swing, as has Hagerty, sometimes to excellent effect.
The picture swing of the foursome, other than Norman Palmer's, is the President's. It is neat and compact, if slightly stiff. The power in it is not as obviously generated as Hagerty's or Cushing's, but the ease with which he gets his distance would indicate that he gets the maximum effect. One oldtime Newport resident, out on the first day, was impressed enough to say, "Well, I must say he looks a damn sight better than Teddy Roosevelt ever did playing tennis."