Updated: Jan 16, 2021
Producer Barry Morrow reflects on his first club talk with Moe Norman while preparing to write a Hollywood screenplay
(Left to Right) Executive Producer Todd Graves and Producer Barry Morrow play a round of golf with Moe Norman's old set of clubs in tow
Everyone has their secrets, and for Moe, one was his hidden stash of hickory-shafted golf clubs. It was in 1996, after months of prodding on my part, that I got Moe Norman to sit down with me for a series of interviews over 3-4 days in his hometown of Kitchener, Ontario. I had a notion, see, to write a Hollywood motion picture screenplay about this idiosyncratic golfer I had just learned of, due chiefly to a 1995 Golf Digest cover that proclaimed, “Moe Knows What Nobody Else Knows.”
'The Legendary Moe Norman' on the cover of Golf Digest in December 1995
As I’d just begun playing golf myself, I figured I’d first find out what exactly Moe did know, and then I’d write a movie about him. I know. It’s just the way I thought in those days. Anyway, then along came Moe.
“Where should we start?” I asked. “Oooh, wherever you like, wherever you like!” he sang. “It’s your show, buster!” Buster was an improvement over Knucklehead, as he had previously addressed me, and which, I was told by several sources, was simply a term of endearment and nothing more.
(Left to Right) Moe Norman & Producer Barry Morrow developed a friendship as Morrow worked on a Hollywood screenplay about Norman during the 1990s
I was green before green was cool, but I was straight with him, and Moe accepted that I knew little about golf. In other words, he pitied me. So I started with this. “What was your first golf club?” There it was, my opening volley. Moe’s eyes widened, his eyebrows arched, his lips puckered. “Ohhh, and wouldn’t you like to know!” I nodded. Waited. Nodded again. “Yes, I would,” I finally said aloud. “What was it? Your first club?”
He looked off, sadly I thought. Maybe it was a bad question. “Niblick!” he suddenly said, answering louder than expected. “Then a mid-iron.” He looked down and around. “Then another mid-iron… had to bend it… make it into a mashie.”
Moe Norman finishes an iron shot during tournament play in the 1960s
(Left to Right) Executive Producer Todd Graves watches Producer Barry Morrow hit a shot with one of Moe Norman's personal golf clubs
He might as well have been speaking a foreign language, but I had traveled a long way and was resolute to learn what it was that Moe knew – about anything, at this point.
“And how did you like those clubs?” I asked, my mind wandering into how Mike Wallace would have handled this, or even Feherty.
“Oh, horrible! Terrible! Balls went everywhere! Sheesh! Nobody could hit them, not in my day. No, sir, not in MY day. Just Jones. Bobby Jones. HE could.”
I came to learn that Robert Tyre, or “Bobby” Jones, Jr., not only won all four major championships in a single year, but did so with a bag of wooden-shafted golf clubs against fields of competitors using the new, more consistent, and infinitely better steel shafts. Except, as I just mentioned, Bobby won the 1930 Grand Slam and they didn’t.
“Tempo!” screeched Moe. “Oooh, boy, they (hickories) teach you that! You want to learn tempo? They teach you! Boy, and DO they! Just ask Bobby! Ask Bobby Jones!”
Unfortunately, golf’s greatest amateur had died some 25 years earlier. But not in Moe’s mind. In Moe’s mind, greatness can never die.
In my next installment, I promise to tell you where Moe kept his stash. And what happened to them. And what happened to me.
Producer, Director, and Oscar & Emmy-winning Screenwriter Barry Morrow leads the production team of the documentary.