He liked my waggle. He said, "Only eight percent of all golfers have a good waggle." If he liked anything else, he did not say. He had no use for my takeaway. I said, "I feel as if I'm trying to imitate Davis Love in the takeaway, low and long, no wrist break." Dewey said, "You're not."
Marc Dewey Arnette is the son of an air-traffic controller (his father) and a devoted churchgoer and pumpkin-bread baker (his mother), who fixes stickers with Biblical passages on her loaves. Dewey's first sport was baseball, and he learned golf for real in his 20s from three icons of the game, all now dead: Bert Yancey, Gardner Dickinson and Davis Love Jr. Davis III told me that his father regarded Dewey as one of the most inquisitive and passionate students he ever had. Mike Donald, who played the Tour in the 1980s and '90s, views Dewey as a fundamentally strong, perceptive and exceedingly truthful teacher. Dermot Desmond, the Irish businessman who pointed Clarke and Harrington to Dewey, said the same thing in a different way. Both British Open winners, Desmond said, "got a great deal from Dewey, but the fact is professional golfers don't want to hear hard truths. Dewey cannot tell a lie." Desmond, who can shoot 73 on a difficult course, said that Dewey got him through the "psychological roadblocks" that were inhibiting his short game. I asked him how. "He taught me that the leading edge of the sand wedge is hell and its bounce is heaven."
Desmond has challenged Phil Mickelson to take on Dewey in a short-game contest and Ping-Pong match. Desmond, with all due respect to the soon-to-be Hall of Famer, thinks Dewey can sweep the doubleheader, which might be held next week at the Players Championship. Last week Dewey was on Canouan Island, near Barbados, advising Desmond on how to improve a course he has bought there.
The starting point of Dewey's advice for me was to begin the backswing more inside, with the toe fanning opening right from the start. He demonstrated by hitting some beautiful six-irons. He made 64 Tour starts and can still play. When it was my turn to hit shots, Dewey was on his knees in the damp grass, rubbing his hands through the turf to remove spent grass. The tops of his hands are burned red from the sun. The bottoms are bleached white, I imagine, from years of running them over Windsor's fertilized bermuda grass driving range. Before our session was over, he looked at my chipping, my bunker play and my putting. He liked my new-to-me lefty stroke and my Bulls Eye putter but not the fat K.J. Choi grip on it, a "trophy," he said later, from my days as a righty yipper. He saw that my alignment was lousy and told me to square my head to my shoulders at address, as Tiger Woods does so well.
Before we left we played Ping-Pong on a clubhouse table. My father and I have played a fair amount of basement Ping-Pong, most of it in the 1970s, standing right at the edge of the table with hard cheapo paddles, winning points only when the other player made a mistake. Dewey's game is nothing like that. He has one serve—the Tomahawk!—in which, at its start, the only part of his body you can see is his head. He got me to where I could actually get my borrowed, richly padded, leather-gripped paddle on the ball. He's a good teacher.
On the long drive back to his house we never lacked for conversation. He's intensely verbal. A couple of hours into the trip, we were talking about Hank Haney's book on Tiger and whether it violated some unwritten teacher-student code. Dewey said, "You know how you told me how you and your father used the same three-star Halex Ping-Pong balls in your parents' basement for 40 years? I consider that so personal that, if I was writing about you as my student, I wouldn't even use that." I was awed that he even remembered my telling him that.
Early in the drive he told Patti that he'd be home at 8:04 p.m. He stopped at a Dairy Queen for a predinner Oreo Blizzard, part of his daily routine. "Have you ever had a Blizzard?" he asked. "They're excellent." We arrived at his home at 8:06.
Patti, a former ballet dancer, came to the driveway. They met as seniors at Bishop Kenny High in Jacksonville in 1975. Dewey was in a basic English class, tailor-made to keep him eligible for baseball. Patti, having run through the entire English curriculum and looking for more, was in there too.
Our plan was to go out for dinner, but I could not find my car key. It was a single loose key, and Dewey and I turned his car inside out looking for it. My guess was that key was on the Windsor polo field or in the Dairy Queen parking lot. The Arnettes invited me to spend the night.
We went for dinner at The Loop in San Marco. As we left, I said, "Do you think we should try praying to St. Anthony?" What possessed me to say that I cannot imagine. St. Anthony, patron saint of lost items, is not part of my canon. I had only one experience with him, circa 1975, at my friend Paul Underwood's house. I had lost something important, likely a key but maybe a mimeographed homework sheet or my MacGregor glove. Mrs. Underwood prayed to St. Anthony. Voilà.