• Keenan Garrett

Moe Norman Cut A Swath Even In Masters Tourney

Moe's phantom-like appearance at Augusta National in 1957


Moe Norman hits a shot at Augusta National in 1956 during his first of back-to-back showings at the Masters Tournament


Digging for Moe Norman gold in archival research for the documentary has unearthed gems about the Canadian ball-striker, such as a 1957 newspaper article about his second appearance at the Masters Tournament.


The Calgary Herald's Bob Cooke attended the 1957 Masters in Augusta, Georgia, and later wrote about Moe's experience playing in his final round ever at the tournament. Moe a year prior had been the first Canadian Amateur champion to receive an invitation to the Masters. As the reigning Canadian Amateur champion with two straight wins, he made his pro debut at the 1957 Masters after being forced out of amateur status.


While Moe vanished from the grounds after the second round, Cooke followed his trail at Augusta to give us the following rare story of Moe at the Masters:


Moe Norman Cut A Swath Even In Masters Tourney


By Bob Cooke, The Calgary Herald—April 16, 1957


AUGUSTA, Ga. — He sleeps in bunkers on occasion. He hitchhikes to golf tournaments from Canada to Mexico. He has a backswing so rapid that it might be favorably compared to the speed of light. His name is Moe Norman and hardly anyone in the Masters Golf Tournament had ever heard of him.


A visitor in the locker room at the Augusta National course was making inquiries for Moe. “Who’s he?” was the invariable reply. Veteran tournament players like Shelley Mayfield, Ed Furgol, Jimmy Demaret, and Doug Ford shrugged a shoulder, as much as to say, “That’s a new one on me.”


“But he’s playing in the tournament,” the visitor would add, much to the astonishment of the assorted pros.


The search for the Mysterious Moe continued. John Miles, one of New York’s fine golfers, who was here as a spectator, was the first to throw some light on the strange case of Moe Norman.


HE SHOULD REMEMBER


“Sure, I know him,” said Miles. “Played against him in the Canadian Amateur last summer. I’ll never forget it. I was two under par after the morning round in my match with Moe. I was also 7-down. He carded nine pars and nine birdies. Eventually he beat me, 7-and-6, and was 13 under par for 30 holes. I’ll say I remember him.”


An hour or so later, after complete coverage of the grounds, Moe was discovered on the practice tee. He was due to play with Henry Ransom, the veteran pro from Bryan, Tex.


Conversation with Moe developed that he comes from Kitchener, Ont., that he won the Canadian Amateur two years running, that he turned pro last December, and that he would be happy to talk after he’d played with Ransom.


Watching Moe hit a golf ball is a treat itself. He isn’t like the ordinary pro. He hardly takes any time before hitting a shot, be it a drive, an iron or a putt. Without question he was the fastest player here.


Moe shot a creditable 74 in the Friday round, two bogeys and the rest pars. Typical of his play was a manner in which he negotiated the seventh hole, a par-4. His drive, a tremendous thing, landed behind some trees. It was impossible for him to chip to the green. Moe made no complaints. He purposely lined his ball into a trap beside the green and when the ball reached the white sand, Moe said:


“That’s just what I want.”

Then he blasted within a foot of the pin and picked up his par as easy as that.


Moe Norman's official invitation to the 1956 Masters Tournament


FAILED TO QUALIFY


At the end of the round, Moe’s two-day total, 151, was one stroke away from qualifiers. A score of 150 or less permitted a player to compete in the final two rounds. Moe wasn’t downhearted.


“I didn’t have enough money to stay here for two more days,” he said. “A couple of my buddies drove down with me from Canada and we got just about enough to take care of the gasoline on the way back.”


Moe is accustomed to limited means. He once hitchhiked all the way to Mexico to play in the Open Tournament they run down there. A year ago, on his way to the Masters, he stopped at Pinehurst and had to borrow a dime to telephone Dick Chapman. The latter challenged him to a round at $1 Nassaua. Moe didn’t even have golf shoes but he shot a 68, beat Chapman three ways, then declined to accept his winnings of $3 because Dick had been so hospitable to him in Pinehurst.


Moe would still be an amateur golfer today if it hadn’t been for some nosy Canadian golf officials. Seems that those in golfing authority got wind of a story that Moe was selling his prizes as soon as he won them. Television sets, golf clubs, and other bric-a-brac. The officials telephoned Moe’s father, inquired if this was true.


“Sure Moe sells ‘em,” replied his father. “What do you think he wants to run? A hardware store?”


TURNS PRO


So Moe was forced to turn pro, where the expenses for the struggling golfer come out of pocket. At the Masters, of course, Moe was invited. At most of the other tournaments, he can’t compete because it isn’t easy to hitchhike as it used to be, even if you travel light with only a golf bag and a satchel for your toothbrush and your Sunday shirt.


Moe went back to Kitchener last week, unhonored and unknown. And when they record the champions of Augusta National for the year of 1957, the name of Moe Norman will be listed as being among those present. The few who toured the course with Moe for the first two rounds will always remember the incident at the 18th green after Moe had finished his second round. A little boy rushed up to him, asked for his autograph, then requested a golf ball.


“A golf ball!” Moe repeated. “Heck, sonny, they cost $1.25.”

Moe Norman shows off his player card from the 1956 Masters during an on-camera interview for Golf Channel in 1996. The card is now in possession of Graves Golf.

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