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Legends of Golf: Ben Crenshaw

 

American Ben Crenshaw is widely regarded as the greatest putter of his generation, a golf legend known for riding his silky putting stroke to two Masters wins.

While most remember two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw for his incredible ability on the green, he is also remembered for one of the most emotional scenes ever witnessed on a golf course.

 

Ben Crenshaw's famous Masters win

The setting was the 1995 Masters, and Crenshaw, a perennial crowd favourite, was well on his way to being a golf legend reaching the twilight of a glittering career that had seen him sew up 19 US Tour titles, including the 1984 Masters. That week was a particularly testing time for the 43-year-old, who had been a pallbearer at the funeral of his friend and mentor Harvey Penick the Wednesday and was tied for the lead of the Masters by Sunday. By the time he sank the winning putt to edge out Davis Love III, there was barely a dry eye in the house. After his final putt, Ben Crenshaw collapsed into the arms of his caddie Carl Jackson while the tears flowed.

“I was just trying to put one foot in front of the other when the week began,” he said. “I can’t explain what happened. My heart was so heavy. I don’t know how I did it.”

It was to be Ben Crenshaw's last win on the US Tour.

‘Gentle’ Ben is also credited with inspiring the 1999 US team to one of the greatest comebacks in Ryder Cup history.


Ben Crenshaw's rise to becoming a golf legend

Ben Crenshaw was always destined for greatness on the golf course. His father was a scratch golfer and Ben would accompany him to his home course in Austin, Texas, on most weekends. By the time he was nine, he had already won his first tournament and within a few years he was down to playing off scratch.

Even more influential in Crenshaw’s career was the pro at Country Club of Austin, Harvey Penick, the legend golf instructor and author of Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book: Lessons and Teachings from a Lifetime in Golf, the biggest selling book in the history of golf. 

Ben Crenshaw would regularly consult with his mentor and it was from the professional that he learned his graceful putting stroke. “The ball which arrives at the hole with the proper speed has an infinitely greater chance of falling in the hole from any entrance,” Crenshaw explained. “Harvey Penick taught me the value of this method at an early age. This is what he meant by ‘giving luck a chance.’“

While still in high school, Crenshaw becoming a legend of golf already seemed to be inevitable, placed 32nd in the US Open, ahead of Player, Nicklaus and Palmer. The feat prompted Lee Trevino to call him “the best 18-year-old golfer I’ve ever seen.”

While at the University of Texas, Ben Crenshaw racked up victories and it was no surprise when he turned professional in 1973 with no fewer than 12 amateur wins under his belt. Having resisted the temptation to turn pro in favour of completing his studies, Crenshaw eventually gave in and romped to a 12-shot win in the PGA Players School competition to earn his tour card and started his a reputation as a legend of golf.


Ben Crenshaw's tournament history

His first tournament in the paid ranks was equally impressive. In the 1973 San Antonio Texas Open, Crenshaw shot 14 under to win by two shots in his first start as a pro, becoming just the second player after Marty Fleckman in 1967 to do so. Since then only Robert Gamez (1990) and Garrett Willis (2001) have achieved this feat.

In just six weeks on the tour, Ben Crenshaw captured $76 749 in prizemoney. His seemingly effortless game and easy-going manner earned the respect of other pros and golf legends, and his boyish good looks attracted a faithful following of young women groupies dubbed ‘Ben’s Bunnies’ or ‘Ben’s Wrens’.

But it was not until 1984, in his 44th Major, and after nine US Tour wins, that Ben Crenshaw finally claimed his first Major championship, verifying his reputation as a legend of golf. Trailing Tom Kite by two strokes going into the final round, he shot a solid 68 to win by two over Tom Watson.

Ben Crenshaw continued to win regularly on tour and the last of his 19 US Tour wins came in that emotional Masters victory in 1995.

Now 60, Ben Crenshaw has turned his attention away from playing to designing golf courses in partnership with Bill Coore. Ben Crenshaw was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2002 and into golf history as a prominent legend of golf.


GOLF LEGEND: BEN CRENSHAW

Born – 11 January 1952

Career wins – 30

Majors – 2

Masters won – 1984, 1995

US Open – T3 1975

Open Championship – T2 1978, 1979

PGA Championship – 2nd 1979


BEN CRENSHAW'S QUOTES

■ “Golf is the hardest game in the world. There is no way you can ever get it. Just when you think you do, the game jumps up and puts you in your place.”

■ “I was about five inches from becoming an outstanding golfer – that’s the distance between my left ear and my right one.”

■ “I enjoy playing here so much. It’s meant so much to me. I’ve been fortunate to be a champion here. With Carl, my caddie who is just a great friend, a wonderful person. We’re just enjoying being here, really.”

■ “I still feel like I can win out here. It’s just a matter of putting a few rounds together and getting some putts to fall in.”

■ “The reason the Road Hole is the greatest par four in the world is because it’s a par five!” 

 


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