Punch Golf

DINK CARROLL July 1 1936

Punch Golf

DINK CARROLL July 1 1936

Punch Golf

Nowadays even the girls are going in for "punch" on the fairway


ONE OF THE hardest worked words in the golfing gal’s vocabulary these bright sunny days is “punch.” Indeed, so much is this the case, according to their critics, that right now the girls are just a little punch-drunk, the sudden headiness having been brought on by an effort to pour too much punch into their golf swings.

By punch is meant power, and it first became a popular word in the golfer’s lexicon about the time the rabbit ball replaced the old gutty and steel was substituted for hickory in the shafts of clubs. The livelier ball and the steelshafted club paid off on power, and soon you began to hear less about timing and more about punch. Then came the matched sets, with the dubs so graduated that there was a different club for each shot from tee to green, all played with the same full swing. That was the clincher. Timing it was, punch it became, and punch it now is.

This was fine for masculine golfers. They had the necessary strength in their shoulders, backs, arms, legs, wrists and fingers to swing the club fast and still keep it under control. In fact, it was so much down their alley that it wasn’t long before a complaint was heard that the new equipment had taken most of the skill out of the game. There was no longer any need to learn the half-stroke and the three-quarters, the cut pitch and the run up, and so on and so on, when all you had to do was to select the right club from your scientifically matched set and give the ball a full bang.

There is justification for this charge, as a glance at the tournament scores of recent years will show, but it only applies to the very best golfers. The poor duffer, who makes up something like ninety per cent of the golfing masses, is still trying to learn to groove his swing, not forgetting to put plenty of punch into it, and until he learns to turn this trick his scoring will not improve no matter what he uses; he’ll still do just as well with a baseball bat as with the newest thing in matched sets.

But let’s see what’s been happening with the women players. Ada Mackenzie, of Toronto, the best woman golfer Canada has thus far produced, has had something to say on the subject of punch as applied to the feminine swing. But before quoting Miss Mackenzie, it might be better to tell you something about her, just in case you don’t know where she stands in the golfing picture.

Women Haven’t the Power

ADA MACKENZIE is the only Canadian girl who has - ever proved a serious contender in championships outside this country. She won the medal round once in the United States Open, the year it was played at Cherry Valley, L.I., and has reached the semi-finals twice in the same event. The first time was that year at Cherry Valley, and the second was at St. Louis. Indeed, with any luck at St. Louis, she might have grabbed off the title. It's worth while reviewing what happened to show you how close she came to capturing this big event.

It had rained the day before and Miss Mackenzie had to start out in the semi-final round without her spiked shoes, which were still wet from the previous afternoon’s soaking. The sun shone brightly but there was a nip in the air, and Miss Mackenzie appeared on the course in a knitted suit and a pair of rubber-soled shoes. Though drawn against the favorite, Mrs. Glenna Collett Vare, Miss Mackenzie was having one of her very best days, and going into the fourteenth she had her opponent two down. But in the few brief seconds it took to walk from the thirteenth green to the fourteenth tee the whole complexion of their match changed.

“Have you ever heard of a Missouri cloudburst?” asks Miss Mackenzie. “Well, it doesn’t matter, because you wouldn’t believe it anyway if you hadn’t seen one. It

comes down as if someone had turned the firehose on you.”

Her knitted suit, heavy from the rain, clung to her like chain mail, smothering all freedom of movement and hobbling her swing. The sleeves climbed down over her hands and interfered with her grip, but, worst of all, the tee was a sea of mud and water on which she could get no traction with her smooth-soled shoes. She finally managed to get off the tee by bracing her lelt loot against one of the white disc markers, but the fairways were worse than the tees because they were minus anything like markers. She speedily lost the next three holes while her spiked shoes were being fetched from the clubhouse. When the shoes arrived at the seventeenth tee, it was too late.

They halved the last two holes and Mrs. Vare finished one up, going on to win the championship the next day. That’s the closest any Canadian girl has ever been to the United States Ladies’ Open title.

“Lots of women golfers try to use the same clubs for each shot as the men, but they’re only handicapping themselves,” says Miss Mackenzie. “Women simply haven’t the power. The average woman golfer should depend on the perfection of her timing rather than on the strength of her muscles to get distance.”

She states that the best players she has ever competed against are Joyce Wethered, of London, England; Glenna Collett Vare, of Philadelphia; and Virginia Van Vie. of Reading, Pa. All of them, she points out, are smoothstroking players who depend upon timing, co-ordination, rhythm, or whatever you want to call it for effective shotmaking.

Explaining what she means by timing, Miss Mackenzie says it’s the business of correlating the movements of the shoulders, arms, hips, wrists and feet during the swing so that the clubhead is travelling fastest at the moment of impact with the ball. But to drive the ball straight, she points out, correct position and steady balance must be maintained, and the easiest way to destroy balance is to try to put more force into the swing than you can control.

Timing Can Be Overdone

THIS concentration on timing can be overdone. You can become so occupied with it you forget that to make the ball travel you’ve got to hit it. Miss Mackenzie tells of a time early in her career, when she was working hard to perfect her timing, that she ran into a snag with her brassie shots. She just couldn’t seem to pick the ball off the ground. She got out on the course early one morning, chose an isolated spot and began to practise brassie shots. The old trouble was still there. She tried changing her stance, shortening her grip, abbreviating her back swing, going through all the antics that distressed golfers go through, but nothing seemed to work. At this moment George Gumming, the club professional, happened along and she began to tell him her troubles.

“Hit a few!” he directed curtly.

Obediently she hit perhaps ten shots, none of them very successful, while he stood watching, saying nothing. When she had only one practice ball left, he suddenly grew vocal.

“Hit it !” he exploded.

Miss Mackenzie tells this story by way of showing that punch of some sort is a very necessary part of the swing, though she admits a tendency to over-emphasize its importance. But if punch without timing is bad, then she agrees that timing without punch is just as ineffective. However, and this may be taken as a trend of the times in women’s golf, the youngsters she admires are those with full, powerful swings. Continued on page 44

Punch Golf

Continued from page 19

“Now that Patty Berg,” Miss Mackenzie says, “she’s a real hitter. She’s chunky and she puts everything she’s got into it. Yes, I’d say her swing was more like a man’s than any of them.”

She has had ample opportunity to watch Patty and size up her game. It was

eighteen-year old Miss Berg, playing in her first Oixm Championship in Minneapolis last summer, who put Miss Mackenzie out of the tournament. Patty won their match at the seventeenth hole.

“She’s a great little player,” Miss Mackenzie says admiringly, “and it isn’t

all in that powerful swing of hers. She can putt, too. Her motto on the greens seems to be ‘Never up, never in,’ and she goes boldly for the cup every time. It’s the confidence of youth, of course, and she’ll slow up when she learns more. They always do. But Patty’ll come back because she’s got that grand swing and an almost ideal temperament.”

Youngsters Hit Hard

MISS MACKENZIE has seen three other youngsters who seem to her to fall naturally into the same bracket with the sparkling Miss Berg. Patty, she says, strikingly resembles Pam Barton, the English girl wonder, though Miss Barton is a much more seasoned player. She has already come through some of the disappointments that lie ahead for Miss Berg. But more important, from where we sit, are the two other girls—Marjorie Todd, of Victoria, and Douglas Macllwraithe, of Hamilton. Both are promising players who may bring international honors to Canada before very long. Neither of them has proved herself in competition as yet, but, according to Miss Mackenzie, both have everything and are decided hojx's.

And what do you think she likes about the swings of these four players? The punch they pack, of course. She predicted Miss Barton would win the British Women’s Championship last May, and Miss Barton came through as prophesied—a somewhat miraculous feat for a girl of nineteen. Miss Mackenzie’s only encounter thus far with Miss Todd was in the Canadian Ladies Open last year out in Vancouver, where the youthful Miss Todd eliminated her in much the same way as Patty Berg did a little later at Minneapolis.

‘‘You should have seen her,” Miss Mackenzie says. “The poor kid, she seemed to think she’d done something wrong when she found she’d put me out of the competition. But it wasn’t any accident. She’s a real golfer and she’ll give anyone a battle.”

Miss Macllwraithe, the other Canadian hope, is a protégée of Nichol Thompson, the well-known professional at Ancaster. Last summer she was studying in Europe and didn’t compete in any Canadian tournaments; but Miss Mackenzie remembers her from the summer before last. She was so impressed then with this young Hamilton girl’s style that she thought she should be tops in another season or two.

“They’ve both got more than just beautiful swings,” Miss Mackenzie says, referring to the Misses Todd and Macllwraithe. “You know there’s real punch in those swings when you see them hit those lovely, full iron shots. Both these girls can make names for themselves in competitive golf if they care enough about the game to go on.”

You won’t listen very long to Miss Mackenzie before you realize that, although she talks considerably about the importance of timing, when she looks around at the young players who are just coming up it’s the swing with zip in it that catches her eye.

The Didrikson Cult

NOW LET’S tune in on the other side— the faction that finds little to admire and much to discourage in this new “power mode” among the women golfers. It’s J. II. Taylor speaking, the man who won the British Open title five times over a stretch of twenty years, a long time for any one man to stay at the top of the pile in this fiercely competitive game.

“My criticism of present-day women’s golf,” he says, "is that the vast majority of them try to hit too hard. To clout the ball a long way appears to be their one aim, with the result that they lose the sense of

rhythm which is the very foundation of successful driving. They play a very different game today from what they did thirty years ago. The old gutty ball in use then had this in its favor, which was accentuated when ladies played: It de-

manded to be struck accurately, and accuracy could only be obtained if the player swung truly. Consequently the ladies got the best effects by swinging in a slow, controlled manner without the suspicion of a punch. To swing the club fast requires more strength than most of them possess. As a consequence, they attempt to hit beyond their strength, and this is the reason why so much crooked driving is seen.

“I venture to say that Miss Joyce Wethered would not now {xissess that beautifully true swing had she not first learned to play with the old gutty ball. And 1 advise the ladies not to make a false surmise while watching Miss Wethered. She drives a long ball, it is true, but length is gained by a beautifully controlled timing, and this cannot be achieved by fast swinging or wild swiping.”

The great Taylor apparently has never seen Miss Babe Didrikson, the remarkable girl athlete from Beaumont, Texas, who gave such a surprising display of all-round athletic ability in the 1932 Olympic Games, for obviously he considers Miss Wethered the longest hitter among the women golfers. But if Miss Wethered is to be taken as the great exponent of timing, then Miss Didrikson must be considered as the great exponent of punch.

Up to the moment, some three years ago now, when Miss Didrikson first strode into the golf picture, there was no doubting the superiority of men over women on the golf course, an edge they held through sheer power alone. Miss Wethered, whom Bobby Jones once called “the perfect golfer,” admitted that she was two clubs behind the ranking men stars. By this she meant that where a man used a two-iron to reach the green she required a brassie, or where he would use a seven-iron she needed a number five to duplicate the shot. She said that that was the bitter truth—all women golfers were two clubs behind the men. But she said it before she had ever seen Miss Didrikson swing a club.

Last summer Miss Wethered crossed the Atlantic to cash in on the curiosity that had been accumulating over here about her game. Well, she came, we saw and we marvelled; but if our eyes bulged at the smooth perfection of Miss Wethered’s play, so did Miss Wethered’s when she first saw the taut-muscled Miss Didrikson step up and lay into a tee shot.

“Her strength is amazing,” the English girl said afterward of the husky Didrikson. “She hits as long a ball as any of the men. If she can bring the rest of her game along, she needn’t fear competition of any kind.”

That, of course, is the catch. Can Miss Didrikson develop accuracy with her irons and a putting touch along with her hitting power? Perhaps so and perhaps no, but if she can she seems almost certain to write a new chapter into the history of golf, for there never yet has been a woman player, not even Miss Wethered or Mrs. Vare, who could keep up with the Joneses and the Sarazens when they turned it on.

So there you are, and you can take your choice. You can string along with the smooth-swinging champions of yesterday and today, who admit there is a limit to feminine strength and pin their faith on timing; or you can join the new and more ambitious jxnver cult headed by Miss Didrikson, who believe they can swing a club as fast as a man without letting it get away on them. One thing is certain though, and that is that if any spectacular improvement in scoring is to be registered in women’s golf, it will come from the advocates of punch.