A Tribute To Dan Jenkins

December 13, 2011

I'm in over my head up here. It's the way I feel every time I'm around Dan Jenkins, and I know I'm not alone.

It's kind of Dan's curse in life. I'm guessing it isn't easy always being the smartest, funniest and quickest guy in the room, especially when you don't suffer fools real gladly. I know I've done my share to make Dan suffer, but he's been nice not to let it show too much. But I've listened a lot and I've tried to remember. It's been an education and an honor.

I first read Dan after buying the book The Best 18 Golf Holes in America. I was about 13, and I kept that book under my bed and re-read it every night for months. It was different and better than other sportswriting. It was so good, sportswriting itself would change to be more like Dan's.

What makes Jenkins Jenkins? The simple answer is that he has more talent than the other guys, just like Hogan and Nicklaus and Woods. He possesses genius humor for which there is no explanation. But in his golf writing especially, Dan's humor is always founded in truth and knowledge, and he knows the heart of the matter like nobody else. As he said in the Golf Digest Interview in 2001, "I just take pride in being right."

I think Dan has been most right on those rare occasions when he has chosen not to be funny. My favorite example is the last paragraph in The Dogged Victims of Inexorable Fate, when he captured exactly what makes Arnold Palmer special: "This is true, I think. He IS the most immeasurable of all golf champions. But this is not entirely true because of all that he has won, or because of that mysterious fury with which he has managed to rally himself. It is partly because of the nobility he has brought to losing. And more than anything, it is true because of the pure, unmixed joy he has brought to trying.

"He has been, after all, the doggedest victim of us all."

I wonder how thrilling it must have been to write those words, to finish the greatest golf book ever with the greatest kicker.

In an earlier chapter in that book, called The Glory Game, Dan writes hilariously about one of the golf partners of his youth, an idiot savant named Moron Tom.

Among other things, when Moron Tom hit a good shot, he would confirm it by saying "Cod Ee-rack Fockle-dim," the pronunciation of Cod Yrac Ffocelddim, which was Doc Cary Middlecoff spelled backward.

I have a proposal. From now on when any of us write a good sentence or headline or kicker, we should all pause and say "Nad Sniknej." Which is Dan Jenkins spelled backward.

It's a privilege for all of us to be on the same staff with Dan, to be around him like this at the majors, just to be able to say we know him. Thanks for being a beacon. And thanks for being your ownself: the best.