In this unusual time of no live sports action, there are many sports fans pondering: Who is the greatest of all time in their sport?
At best, I think it is very difficult to judge greatness when different eras are involved. Is Tom Brady a better football player than Jim Brown was? Who was the better hockey player — Wayne Gretzky, or the NHL’s golden child, Sidney Crosby? Up until the Tiger Woods train pulled into the station, it was easy to say that Jack Nicklaus, the Golden Bear, was the greatest of all time. But then again, Bobby Jones fans can certainly make a case that he was the best ever, even though he never joined the professional golf ranks. In baseball, despite solid arguments for Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, and many others, Babe Ruth comes out on top more often than not. Ruth had plenty of hitting power in addition to his skill on the mound and in the outfield.
In reality, there is no sure-fire way to definitively reach a conclusion that would change the minds of those who have strong feelings toward any one athlete.
Unknown to many, Babe Ruth’s powerful swing has had a huge impact on how to swing a golf club. The techniques he implemented are still seen in a lot of the successful golf swings of many great players.
From 1929 to 1934, Sammy Byrd was also on the roster for the Yankees and would often come in for The Babe as a pinch-runner. Byrd was an average ballplayer, but was an exceptional golfer. Both Byrd and Ruth took full advantage of any time off, and played golf whenever they could squeeze in a quick 18 holes.
During that time, Byrd even got some swinging tips from Ruth. The number one tip that’s still in use in today’s game that came from The Babe is a swing can be improved if you keep your right elbow held tightly against the body. Ruth told Byrd that a good way to practice this was to place a handkerchief under his right armpit before swinging the club. Byrd improved to the point of being able to win a tournament against the best baseball players. He won by 14 shots.
During my years of talking to the players on the range, I’ve witnessed many modern-day players still using Ruth’s technique. Vijay Singh, Paul Azinger, Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson, and yes, even Tiger Woods can be seen practicing with a small towel or even a headcover under their arm. I’m pretty sure they never realized their practice tip came from Babe Ruth.
I can now say that I am fully recovered from missing my first Masters in decades. The good news is that live golf appears to be inching its way back. This Sunday, a skins game for charity will be broadcasted live on CBS Sports. Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson will be going up against Matthew Wolff and Rickie Fowler. It will definitely look a bit odd, to say the least, with no spectators allowed on the course, but if these high-profile players have to carry their own bag or, worse, have to wash their own golf balls, that will really look bizarre.
While many are looking forward to some live golf on television, McIlroy, Johnson, Wolff, and Fowler might not be the main attraction. It might be the very private Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, FL, where the match is going to be played.
It’s no secret that there’s a super-elite list of golf clubs that are very difficult to join. Augusta National Golf Club, National Golf Links of American, Pine Valley Golf Club, and Shinnecock Hills Golf Club are also up there. None of them offer the option of pulling up and requesting an application to join, so getting to see them, even if only on television, will be a welcome experience.
Seminole is a little different from most of the exclusives. In order to be considered for membership, the applicant must not only have deep pockets, but possess a single-digit handicap. This Seminole course is truly a gem, and, because of the TaylorMade Driving Relief charity match this weekend — benefitting COVID-19 relief efforts — golf fans around the world will get a chance not only to enjoy this incredible Donald Ross masterpiece, but be able to take advantage of a text-to-donate platform during the telecast.