My Shot: Tom Weiskopf

Who was that masked man? An enigmatic hero on guilt, flying saucers, toy trains, hangovers and the horror of open-casket funerals.


Tall in the saddle: Weiskopf revisits those thrilling days of yesteryear atop his steed, Whoosie.

June 2002

Age 59, Paradise Valley, Arizona

I can laugh at myself in some ways, but not when it comes to hitting bad shots. What's so funny about a shank?

I went to a Catholic high school. One day in chemistry class, a few of us took a silver dollar and heated it over a Bunsen burner until it almost glowed. Then we put it on an empty chair and asked a poor, unsuspecting kid, "Hey, is that your dollar?" Of course, it burned the kid's fingers when he tried to pick it up, which we thought was hilarious. But we didn't think it was funny for long. Within 15 minutes a priest was beating my bare backside with a hairbrush. I came away much worse off than the kid who picked up the silver dollar. To this day I have a great respect for priests.

The PGA Tour entertains people, helps them escape. I played a game for a living, but there was value in that. If all you thought about was your job, the economy, sick kids and terrorism, you'd go out of your mind.

My favorite actor? I've got to go with Clayton Moore. When I was little, "The Lone Ranger" dominated my life. The mask, the silver bullets, his friendship with Tonto, the little sermon at the end of each episode. That was very strong stuff. "Hi-yo, Silver, away!"

My dad took me to the 1957 U.S. Open at Inverness when I was 14. I wasn't a golfer yet. After we walked through the gate, he took me straight to the practice range and pointed out Sam Snead. The sound of Sam's iron shots, the flight of the ball, thrilled me. I was hooked even before I started playing.

The perfectionist who tries to play golf for a living usually ends up saying to hell with it. I'm a perfectionist, and I had some success, but only because I was persistent and had some talent. In the end the game ate me up inside, and I retired earlier than a lot of guys do. Perfectionists are determined to master things, and you can never master golf.

I stopped drinking 18 months ago. It was a serious problem for many years. It ruined my career. Every big mistake I've made can be traced back to drinking.

The most persistent feelings I have about my career are guilt and remorse. Sometimes they almost overwhelm me. I'm proud I won 15 times on tour and the 1973 British Open. I should have won twice that many, easy. I wasted my potential. I didn't utilize the talent God gave me.

Nothing cures a hangover like a milkshake followed by a cheeseburger, the greasier the better. First you drink the milkshake; it coats your stomach, and the sugar does you good. Then you eat the cheeseburger, slowly. The grease helps replace oxygen in your blood, the bread soaks up whatever's left of the alcohol, and the whole thing sits well in your stomach.

All things in moderation? Damn, that's hard to do.

My friendship with Bert Yancey taught me how helpless a person with mental illness can be. Here was a brilliant man with a genius for golf, who was rendered almost useless by his manic-depressive condition. He taught me to have compassion for those who aren't as strong or healthy as you are.

Tour pros would rather go through an IRS audit than play in a pro-am. Publicly they say they love meeting interesting people and how great the pro-ams are. In truth, they loathe them. They're out there for six hours, see countless bad shots and hear the same stale jokes. If Tim Finchem announced next Monday that pro-ams were henceforth eliminated, he'd find 200 cases of champagne on his porch Tuesday morning.

Ben Hogan had no calluses on his hands. The first time I shook his hand I was amazed. His skin was tough as rawhide, but there was no buildup anywhere. That's a sign of how perfect his grip was. The fact he didn't wear a glove makes it even more amazing.

With beer and wine you've got a chance. The high-test stuff, forget it.

My take on the Senior PGA Tour: The golf is good, the toupees are awful. I may be bald, but I'll never glue one of those divots on my head, and that's a promise.

I'll be damned if I can understand open-casket funerals.

I can't tell you how much I hated practicing my putting. It bored me silly. I loved to hit balls, though. Golfers tend to practice the things they're already good at.

My dad worked for the Newburgh & South Shore Railroad in Ohio. It was his job to hire and fire people; the stress it put on him was enormous. My dad was a sensitive man to begin with, and when he had to lay someone off he'd get depressed and go on a two-day drunk. The most terrible time of all came when he had to fire his best friend. There had been an accident in which a couple of people were killed, and my dad's friend was to blame. The guy was one year away from retirement and a full pension, and my dad fired him and the guy lost it all. This time my dad didn't get drunk for two days — he stayed drunk for three years.

I suppose it was a harder, black-and-white world back then. Me, I couldn't fire my best friend. I'd find a way to get the guy to retirement so he could get his pension. But for my dad it was a matter of doing the correct thing, which also was the hard thing.

I've thought about that 40-foot putt Jack Nicklaus made to beat me at the '75 Masters a thousand times. It went up a slope and broke into the middle of the hole, an absolutely unmakable putt. I refuse to believe luck or some cosmic force had anything to do with it, because you can't compete against those things. It was pure skill all the way.

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