• Associate Producer Tim O'Connor

Moe Norman Trashes Mickey Rooney Performance

Moe vs. Mickey: Associate Producer Tim O'Connor tells the humorous story about a run-in between two icons

Mickey Rooney competes in the 1989 Bob Hope Classic in Palm Springs

One of my favorite Moe stories centers around actor Mickey Rooney, who ironically looked a little like Moe in his later years: short, squat and jowly.


Ben Kern, a former PGA Tour player, was giving Rooney a lesson at the National Golf Club of Canada in the 1990s while the actor was in the Toronto area doing a dinner theater production.


Kern said Rooney’s acting ability extended to his golf. He didn’t have a very good swing, but he could fake a great finish with the club perched elegantly behind his head.


Mickey Rooney finishes his golf swing


Kern said that at one point in the lesson, a sound drew their attention. They both looked toward the club’s parking lot, and then at each other. Rooney scowled.


Kern finally figured out what the sound was—and he was mortified. It was Moe, who was walking toward them rhythmically bellowing:


“Artificial swings… for artificial folks. Artificial swings… for artificial folks.”

Kern hotfoot it to Moe until they stood toe to toe. Kern barked: “Moe cut it out right now. Either respect Mr. Rooney or leave right now.”


Moe turned around immediately and headed to his car, regaling everyone with more volume and gusto: “Artificial swings… for artificial folks! Artificial swings… for artificial folks!”


After my book—The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story—was published, Kern told me the story.


I asked Ben, “Why didn’t you tell me that story before?”


“Because you might have put it in your book.”


Sadly, Kern died in 2002 of cancer, and the anecdote appeared in the second edition published in 2017.


Adapted from The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story by Tim O’Connor.

Tim O’Connor is a golf and performance coach, writer, author of four books, and co-host of the Swing Thoughts podcast.


To book Tim for his webinar "The Feeling of Greatness: More Stories About Golf’s Eccentric Genius," email tim@oconnorgolf.ca. It’s 45 minutes of heart-warming anecdotes, bittersweet tales and insights about one of golf’s greatest legends.


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