Crenshaw win worth a good cry WEARING OF THE GREEN, '95

April 10, 1995|By JOHN STEADMAN

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Moved by the respect and love for the man who once held his hand, taught him the game and pointed the way, Ben Crenshaw had a motivation stronger than any inherent desire to win a golf championship -- even one so regal as the coveted Masters tournament.

Yesterday's scene of Crenshaw holding his head in his hands and crying his heart out after the final putt dropped in the cup will be an unforgettable tableau forever etched in the minds of those who accompanied him on this moving sentimental journey to "win one for Harvey."

It was an emotionally wrenching but immensely satisfying scene that penetrated deeply into the soul of all America. If you shed tears that denoted pride, rather than sorrow, along with Crenshaw, then tell yourself there was a full justification for emoting such feelings.

This tender, moving climax on the 18th hole will be reserved as one of the most memorable moments in all of golf. It will be a companion piece to the feeling generated in New York's Yankee Stadium when Lou Gehrig, hit by a fatal spinal disease, offered his final farewell to baseball and also to life.

Harvey Penick was Ben Crenshaw's inspiration to win his second Masters crown, which the record book tells us he previously won in 1984. Only last Wednesday, the day before the Masters was to commence, Crenshaw helped carry an "old pro" to his eternal resting place in the clay hills of Texas after funeral services were held in Austin.

Harvey Penick was the always-encouraging father figure that gave Crenshaw an inner strength on this occasion to reach into his deepest reservoir of resolve and made it happen by sheer will. It was his lasting gift to the memory of a revered tutor, a man admired for his goodwill toward all men regardless of their station in life.

Harvey was humble, modest and well-mannered. He didn't know how good he was at communicating the complex elements of what looks like a simple kind of a sport, this trying game called golf. Penick underrated himself to such a degree that he was still charging $5 for a golf lesson while contemporaries were asking and getting $50 and up.

Crenshaw and Tom Kite were two professionals of high standing that he met when they were mere children, the sons of members at the Austin Country Club in Texas. He showed them how to hold a club, to swing it and execute the other fundamentals.

But, more than that, he explained much about life in his simple down-home way, often talking in parables that they understood and implemented. "Think of the greatest person in life you have ever heard about or known and you have Harvey Penick," said Crenshaw in tribute.

On Wednesday, Crenshaw and Kite were pallbearers for Penick, who died at age 90 only a week ago. So contrast the feelings of Crenshaw -- losing his older pal, Harvey, one Sunday and then winning the Masters in a memorial to him on the following Sunday.

Thus, this was more than a golf tournament, even if it was the grandest of them all, the Masters. It was a love affair, the 42-year-old Crenshaw paying a debt to his friend and teacher.

When Ben last visited with Harvey, then bedridden, only 10 days before his death, they had a discussion about putting. And the putter they used on that occasion was placed alongside Harvey in his coffin for the trip to the eternally green fairway where he rests in peace.

There was such a profound feeling and warmth for Crenshaw and why he so much wanted to succeed in his ambition to "win for Harvey" that the concluding round of the tournament, played intensely, was almost forgotten in the aftermath of what was a tearful but joyous triumph.

Fondly poetic was the fact his nearest challenger in the quest for the prize was Davis Love III, whose late father, a golf professional, was coached by Penick when he was a student at the University of Texas. Young Love had met Penick as a child, but didn't have the relationship with him that Crenshaw and Kite enjoyed.

Still, Love was prepared to attend his funeral when Crenshaw told him that it wasn't necessary and felt Harvey would have wanted him to remain in Augusta and practice.

Love threw the best round of the day, 66, at the closely contested field and finished one stroke behind Crenshaw, who had a closing 68. This gave him a total of 274, the right to ownership of a second green jacket, emblematic of the Masters, and a first-place check worth $396,000.

Love, as gracious in defeat as any man has ever been, said it all so appropriately when he remarked, "There couldn't be a better end to Harvey Penick's life than to have Ben win the Masters the Sunday after he passed away."

The kind and wise Crenshaw, at age 43 the second oldest ever to win here, said he didn't know if he would ever score a repeat in the Masters. "I just have to believe in fate," he added. "Yes, fate decided another championship here as it does so many times."

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