He was the best of us.
Probably the best-ever.
Dan Jenkins was, simply, the Jack Nicklaus of golf writers.
He could out-write all of us any day of the week and twice on Sundays.
First met him in March of 1977 — covering my first Players, back then it was called the Tournament Players Championship and it was played across the street at Sawgrass, on the blustery Atlantic Ocean. Walked into the expansive press facility and I saw him — his own-self, as Jenkins might write. Yeah, it was Dan Jenkins and I sure as heck had to meet him. Was beyond nervous when I boldly approached, he was by himself. “Dan, my name is Tom Edrington, I’m the golf writer for the Tampa Tribune and your stories are simply incredible.”
“Thanks Tom, good to meet you.”
That was all he said, it was plenty. Didn’t linger for a moment — rookies don’t get to hang out with Dan Jenkins.
It was a huge loss for the literary and sports writing world last Thursday. Dan finally left us, most likely he had enough. The world he graced has disappeared. Newspapers are dying on the vine, magazines survive only on-line and no one reads books anymore.
Jenkins was more than a prolific writer — he was the consummate master story-teller. He grew up in Fort Worth — Cow-Town. He was a TCU guy — go Froggies! Legendary sports editor Blackie Sherrod hired Dan as college kid to work for the Fort Worth Press (later called the Star-Telegram) and thus began one of the greatest careers in sports journalism.
Keep in mind that Dan Jenkins hung around with the likes of Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson — Fort Worth guys — I believe you may have heard of them.
Hogan actually LIKED Jenkins and Hogan didn’t like anyone, much less sports writers.
Hogan once called Jenkins to play with him in a 1956 exhibition in Fort Worth, here’s how Jenkins described it:
“In 1956, Ben called me up and said, ‘I want you in a foursome for an exhibition at Colonial benefiting the Olympic Games.’ I said, ‘OK, I guess, but there must be somebody better than me.’ ‘No, I want you,’ he said. I worked half a day at the paper, came out, didn’t even have a golf shirt, wore a dress shirt, rolled up the sleeves, changed my shoes, didn’t hit a practice ball, got to the first tee, and 5,000 people were waiting. Now, what do you do? Somehow I got off a decent drive into the fairway, and proceeded to top a 3-wood 50 yards—it was a par 5—then topped another 3-wood, then topped a 5-iron. All I wanted to do was dig a hole and bury myself in the ground forever. As I was walking to the next shot, still 100 yards from the green, Hogan came up beside me and said, ‘You could probably swing faster if you tried hard enough.’ I slowed it down, got calm, and shot 76. He shot his usual 67. That’s the Hogan I knew.”
Truth be known, Jenkins was also a good player. He knew the game, it’s nuances. He hung out with the best of them — Hogan, Nelson, Snead, Sarazen, Palmer, Nicklaus, Player — all except Tiger Woods. If I had to guess, I’d say Jenkins scared the poop out of Tiger’s agent — Marc Stineberg — aka The Great Stiney. When the request came for a one-on-one with Tiger — Tiger, through Stiney, declined time and again — Stiney declared — “We have nothing to gain” — dumbest words ever to come out of an agent’s yap.
Jenkins wrote that only two things would ever stop Tiger Woods — “injury or a bad marriage.” With insight like that, no wonder Stiney feared Jenkins.
Later Jenkins would produce a magnificent parody: “My (Fake) Interview With Tiger Woods.” It was spectacular and pissed the living daylights out of Woods, and Stiney too.
Jenkins left the newspaper world behind for the big-time — Sports Illustrated then Golf Digest, back when Golf Digest had a million subscribers. In between, Dan found time to write a bunch of books, he authored or co-authored around 23, truth be known I lost count. My favorites were Semi-Tough, Dead-Solid-Perfect, Limo and Baja Oklahoma.
At major championships, we’d often talk about The Ten Stages Of Drunkenness as invented by Jenkins and written in Baja Oklahoma:
- Witty and Charming.
- Rich and Powerful.
- F—- dinner.
- Crank Up The Enola Gay.
- Witty and Charming Part II.
At said major championships, we typically made it to at least number five.
Jenkins won every major writing award that exists for sports guys. He won most multiple times.
Dan finally called it a day and became a Twitter-maniac.
He’s gone now, left us at age 90.
The best tribute I can think of are his own words from the novel Dead-Solid-Perfect:
“Lookie here Kenny — a man can travel far and wide, all the way to shame or glory and back again but he ain’t gonna find nothin’ in this old world that’s Dead-Solid-Perfect.”
Can tell you without hesitation that the stories, writing and books authored by the great Dan Jenkins were all Dead-Solid-Perfect.
Editor’s Note: No one better to writer the complete tribute to Dan Jenkins than Tom Callahan: Here’s Tom’s tribute in Golf Digest online.