My Shot: Moe Norman

Weeks before passing away, Pipeline Moe, the straightest hitter who ever lived, offered a lasting testimonial to the game he loved.

Moe Norman

The late Murray (Moe) Norman, photographed at Carlisle Golf & Country Club near Toronto on Aug. 30, 2004.

November 2004

Golf-swing genius

I'm good with numbers. Number of courses played: 434. Number of courses I can remember the exact hole yardages: 375. Age when I saw my first doctor: 68. Number of two-stroke penalties in one 11-year period: only one—I hit a drive that went out-of-bounds by two feet. Most balls hit in one day: 2,207. Total balls hit in my lifetime: About 5 million, not counting chips and putts.

I don't go to church, but I certainly pray a lot. Always have. One of my sisters was a nun, and when I was young my parents dragged me to church by the seat of my pants. God is real—He has to be, because no man could develop the talent I have on his own. I am the world's best ball-striker and teacher because it was His will. Why did He choose me to be the best who ever lived? I don't have the faintest idea. That's why there's a hereafter—so one day I can find out.

One day I met Dave Pelz, the short-game teacher. We were debating, and I told him I could drive the ball straighter than he could putt one. He looked at me funny, and I told him I was serious. "Let's put a post out in the fairway 250 yards away. You choose a hole to putt at from 80 feet away. We'll take turns, and I bet I'll hit the post before you hole a putt." Dave turned down the bet. Dave is going around telling this story, so you know it's true.

I hated putting, and so did George Knudson, another really good ball-striker on tour. We played against each other in many betting games where putting didn't count. If you missed a fairway, you owed the other guy $20. If you missed a green, you owed $20. If you hit the flagstick, you won $100. When we got to the green we just picked up our balls and went to the next hole. George was very good, but I got the best of him. My best day, I hit the flagstick six times.

One year I was leading the Saskatchewan Open by three strokes. I was putting for birdie on the last hole, but just to see if I could handle the pressure I deliberately putted my ball into the bunker. I looked at the side of the green and saw two guys with the blood drained from their faces. After I got up and down for a bogey to win by two strokes, I walked over and asked them what was the matter. "We had a huge bet on you to win," one of them said. "Sorry," I said. "I needed the variety."

Working on your swing is the greatest joy in golf. Tiger Woods must be having a wonderful time searching for that one little thing he's doing wrong. I wonder when he'll notice it—the way his right heel lifts straight off the ground now instead of coming up and toward his left. His weight shift is terrible right now, that's all. Don't tell him. It'll ruin his fun.

I'm 75 and I've never owned a telephone. Never needed one. You reached me, and here you are, right?

My given name is Murray. When I started out as a caddie, a guy started calling me Moe. Actually, he called me "Moe the Schmoe, the Pinochle Pro." It made no sense, but it stuck.

I'm good at tapping the ball on the face of my driver. One day a guy accused me of showing off, and then he wanted to make a bet. He said he'd give me a dollar for every bounce over 100. I got well over 100, and the guy's face turned white as a sheet. I was laughing so hard that I stopped at 192. I didn't have the heart to take more than that off him.

I hit so many balls I tend to build up a huge callus on the meaty part of my left hand. It gets so thick that from time to time I take a pair of scissors and cut it off. The edge of the callus gets very sharp—if I dragged it across your face I'd draw blood.

Speaking of calluses, the first time I saw Ben Hogan was at the Carling World Open at Oakland Hills. He was on the range, and all the players gathered to watch him. Hogan didn't notice because he was really concentrating, but when he finished he looked up and saw all the guys watching him. As he walked away he said, "I can see why you guys are no good—you've all got calluses on your asses."

I shot 59 three times. The best of them I shot playing with the future U.S. Amateur champion, Gary Cowan, at Rockway Golf Course [in Ontario] in 1957. It could have been lower if I hadn't three-putted the 10th hole. In fact I didn't putt all that well that day. I hit the ball close a lot, is all.

I just learned to putt a short time ago, and now I putt so well it would make you cry. It's the best part of my game, and that's saying a lot.

My childhood was very difficult. We were poor. Me and my brothers used bobby pins to hold our pants up, and we taped our shoes to hold them together. Our father was very strict. When I got a set of clubs together, he wouldn't let me bring them in the house. I knew if he got his hands on them he'd throw them out, so I kept them under the back porch, through a little hole where he couldn't get at them because he was fat. He was pleased when I started getting my name in the newspaper, but he never saw me hit a golf ball, even in our hometown when I became well known.

Subscribe to Golf Digest
Subscribe today