Moe Norman: “Golf Rain Man” surprised even sports greats

“Golf is like walking in the park. Walking in the park” … he repeated himself, “O’Connor added, explaining Norman’s speech manners. “He had this kind of singing sweetness in his voice, and his eyes would have been everywhere.”

But like Babbitt, Norman’s unusual personality was accompanied by a bit of genius. That’s his golf skill, and he earned the self-proclaimed title of “the best ball striker ever.”

Norman appeared only twice in the Masters at a time when golf legends such as Ben Hogan, Gary Player, and Lee Trevino regularly swept major titles, but his accuracy remains a lot. He has earned the respect of fellow players and has earned a cult status.

Through a highly distinctive “single plane swing” created, practiced and completed by current players such as US Open winner Bryson DeChambeau, Norman was able to hit the same spot on the fairway repeatedly. rice field. Irregular regular green.

Nevertheless, Canadians are not a common name.

Whether it’s the shyness of a newcomer, his “eccentric” personality, or the fact that he has never had the same success on the PGA Tour as his contemporaries, he People who knew that Norman often didn’t work.

“We live in this culture celebrating celebrities and those who have achieved the highest levels. Moe didn’t do that,” said O’Connor, author of “Sense of Greatness: Moe Norman Story.” I told sports. “Moe was exactly this beautiful character. He was a very complicated person.

“And if Moe had arrived in the last two decades, I think we probably accepted his eccentricity and he might have been a little more prosperous.”

Different from the beginning

Born in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada in 1929, Norman spent his childhood spending time with friends and playing hockey. But when he discovered golf, his life began to change, but at some cost, O’Connor says.

When Norman’s interest in golf flourished and became even more vibrant with regular caddies at local clubs, his working-class family wondered why he played sports often associated with more elite members of society. I wondered if I chose to do it.

According to O’Connor, despite Norman’s growing passion for games, his family “totally rejected it,” and as a result, when Norman came to see him a few years later. , Ignored their support.

“His family objected to this he loved,” O’Connor explained. “And it really caused family division and really complete alienation.”

From his late teens to his early twenties, Norman devoted himself to completing a “single plane swing”, allowing him to hit the ball anywhere with amazing accuracy.

The “single plane swing” was Norman’s attempt to improve shot efficiency and eliminate the number of variables involved. Norman made sure that the position of the shaft of the club was maintained at impact towards the ball and did it with a wide stance, extended poses and aligned hands. He was a swing that synchronized the movements of his hips, shoulders, arms, and hands.

Norman at the Oakdale Golf Club in 1977.

That was his dedication to perfecting his swing. There was talk of Norman spending a lot of time on the practice range, and by the time he left, his palms were bloody from repeated practice.

Later in his career, Norman ran a clinic for his fans, during which time he demonstrated his accuracy. He even caught the attention of his fellow experts, it was his accuracy.

But for Norman, winning the tournament was not the ultimate goal. The process of hitting a clean ball was more “spiritual” for him. He explained to O’Connor that it was a “sense of greatness.”

Professional Todd Graves spent a year trying to learn Norman’s swing from a videotape given to him by a friend. But he says he was still surprised when he first saw a Canadian hit in close-up.

“I don’t think anyone has done what Mo can do with a golf ball. As far as flight consistency, the window that hits the golf ball, and that simplicity,” Graves-co-founder Graves Golf Academy. -Tells CNN Sports.

Tomb watching Norman in 1998 at Pine Needles, South Carolina.

‘Very strange’

According to O’Connor, if you really trust his close friends and you don’t know him, Norman can come across as “very strange”. To relieve the anxiety he experienced around the line of specific questions.

Given these personality traits, O’Connor says that some people have since hypothesized that Norman may have been in the autism spectrum.

The list of symptoms of autism by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention includes avoiding eye contact, wanting to be alone, repeating and echoing words and phrases, and “words and phrases instead of normal language”. Is to repeat. Relevant to others or “not interested in others at all”. In retrospect, all of these symptoms may apply to Norman.

Norman with a tour player at the Telus Skins Game at the National Golf Club in Canada in 1995.

However, in studying his book, O’Connor discovered another possible theory to explain Norman’s personality traits.

According to O’Connor, Norman was sledding with his friends when he was about five years old, and when they sled across the road, his forehead was hit by the tires of a reverse car.

His family did not take him to the hospital because he had no fractures, and neuroscientist O’Connor theorized that Norman’s different personality could be due to brain damage to the frontal lobe.

“He knew what was important in life. He couldn’t express it the way many people do. He didn’t make any jokes. And he didn’t make any jokes. Living in this very limited area of ​​golf is a strange personality for many, “O’Connor said.

Norman wasn't & quot; & # 39; respected & quot; he deserves it while playing golf.

Feel at home

But on the golf course, Norman was among his elements.

O’Connor recalls Norman making a bet on whether he could easily chat with the crowd during the round, bounce the ball more than 100 times from a spectator, or hit the ball into his shirt pocket.

Graves, the executive producer of the next documentary about Norman, remembers talking to former Canadian PGA pro Henry Brunton about the changing attitudes of Norman on and off the course.

Brunton describes Norman as “very confident” in the club in his hands, but when faced with only his fellow players at the clubhouse, he “like a 12-year-old kid.” was”.

“He was intimidated. He didn’t understand how to act around other players. He was very intimidated by his peers,” Brunton told Graves.

He had great success in his native Canada, but Norman struggled on the larger stage of the US PGA Tour.

With more than 60 wins on the Canada Tour, Norman has participated in 27 events on the PGA Tour in 15 years, making only one in the Top 10 and earning only $ 7,139.

He also participated in five senior PGA Tour events and won $ 22,900 in prize money.

He played for the Masters in 1956 and 1957 and appeared only twice in four majors.

According to Graves, adapting to life in a new country and not being familiar with his support system proved difficult for Norman.

He also had to endure at least one alleged case of bullying from an unnamed fellow expert. Just in the second year of his tour, he was cornered by two players in the middle of the tournament. Norman was fighting there. “According to O’Connor.

The PGA of America, which operated the tour before the modern PGA Tour was founded in 1968, has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.

The casket attendant will accompany the Canadian golf legend Norman's casket.

“It led to a lifetime of Moe who didn’t feel he belonged and felt unwelcome there,” O’Connor added. “Because he had this feeling that they didn’t like him, and if Moe had the feeling that people had it for him, or they were here and he was here If he was in, or if he felt disrespected by you, he would write to you off. “

In later years, money became an issue for Norman. According to the 1995 Golf Digest, the golfer lived in a motel room for $ 400 a month and had his clothes in the car. Later, the golf maker Titleist paid Norman $ 5,000 a month for his rest of his life for his contributions to the sport.

Only a few years later, in 2004, Moe Norman died at the age of 75. Although he failed to achieve the tournament victory that his contemporaries enjoyed, he is a true golf pioneer and a legacy of the self-proclaimed “best ball striker.” I’ve lived so far, “Don’t forget.

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