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R.I.P., Herbert Warren Wind

Filed under: In Memoriam   Tagged: , , ,

Special report from the Seattle and Chicago airports:

From today's Times, a nice obituary for Herbert Warren Wind, a New Yorker and Sports Illustrated legend and the "dean of American golf writers."

Mr. Wind was a short, slender, serious man who wore a tweed jacket, shirt, tie and cap on the golf course, even in the hottest weather. A graduate of Yale with a master's degree from Cambridge, he wrote with an elegant but straightforward style that showed respect for his subject, whether it was golf, his first love, or other sports like tennis and baseball.

"Every time you read him, you get a history lesson, a golf lesson and a life lesson," the professional golfer Ben Crenshaw said.

Mr. Wind's narrative powers were displayed in a profile of Arnold Palmer for The Sporting Scene in The New Yorker of June 9, 1962.

"Let us say he is a stroke behind, with the holes running out, as he mounts the tee to play a long par 4," Mr. Wind wrote. "The fairway is lined by some 10,000 straining spectators - Arnold's Army, as the sportswriters have chosen to call them - and a shrill cry goes up as he cuts loose a long drive, practically lifting himself off his feet in his effort to release every last ounce of power at the moment of impact. He moves down the fairway toward the ball in long, eager strides, a cigarette in his hand, his eyes on the distant green as he considers every aspect of his coming approach shot. They are eyes with warmth and humor in them as well as determination, for this is a mild and pleasant man. Palmer's chief attraction, for all that, is his dashing style of play. He is always attacking the course, being temperamentally incapable of paying it safe instead of shooting directly at the flag."

Mr. Wind was a staff writer for The New Yorker from 1947 to 1954. He left to write for the new magazine Sports Illustrated. In 1962, he returned to The New Yorker and stayed there until he retired.

His first writing in The New Yorker was a poem in 1941 and his last was a review of the 1989 United States Open tennis championship. Of the 141 articles he wrote for the magazine, 132 were for the section called The Sporting Scene. Although those reports appeared well after a competition ended, they were eagerly awaited by the participants, fans and colleagues in the news media.
The author John Updike was Mr. Wind's colleague at The New Yorker.

"He really gave you a heaping measure of his love of the game," Mr. Updike said. "He was so knowing, so perceptive. He could play, too. About a decade ago, I took him to the Myopia course in Hamilton, Mass. He walked with me when I played a few holes, but I couldn't get him to hit the ball. I suspect he didn't think he could do it as well as he once did."

Mr. Wind's love affair with golf and the Masters never waned. At age 84, more than 10 years removed from his last trip to the Masters, he asked another golf writer, "Tell me, is Augusta still beautiful?"

I'm going to see if I can get hold of that poem. Wind also wrote the foreword for P.G. Wodehouse's The Clicking of Cuthbert (1922). One review says, "Herbert Warren Wind's Foreword is a sparkling biography of Wodehouse and a splendid way to start the book. Wind did a profile of Wodehouse for The New Yorker magazine and spent a good deal of time with him while researching his essay. It was later published in book form in England under the title, The World of P.G. Wodehouse."

Update: More memories of Wind, with new interviews and content, in the Enterprise (which covers his hometown of Brockton, MA):

"He was not a loud talker for himself but for the sport that he loved," said his brother, Jack Wind, from his home on Rock Meadow Drive.... Wind, 85, said when his brother would arrive at a prestigious golf tournament, including the Masters and U.S. Open, people "just crowded around him for information."

And in the Augusta Chronicle (annoying signup process):

Wind was one of the most famous golf writers and he covered the sport for The New Yorker and Sports Illustrated. He covered every important golfer from Gene Sarazen to Ben Hogan to Jack Nicklaus before retiring in 1990.

"Herbert Warren Wind was one of the greatest golf writers that ever lived,'' Augusta National and Masters Tournament chairman Hootie Johnson said. "For many years he wrote wonderful stories about the Masters and the players that competed in the tournament.''

In the April 21, 1958, edition of Sports Illustrated, Wind used the phrase Amen Corner to describe the action from that year's Masters. He got the name from a jazz recording titled Shouting at Amen Corner from a band directed by Milton Mezzrow.

There's another obituary in Cybergolf: "Wind was on a first-name basis with the legends of the game: Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Gene Sarazen, Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan. 'He was a great historian of the game and a terrific writer,' Nicklaus said Tuesday. 'You look back on how golf has been written over the years and there have been three or four guys who really stood above the rest. He was certainly one of them.' "

Golf Writer Herbert Warren Wind, 88, Dies [NYT]
The Fateful Corner: A reflective look-back at the Masters confirms history’s affinity for the 12th and 13th [Wind, Sports Illustrated, April 21, 1958]
Books by Herbert Warren Wind [Alibris]

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