BISHER: How Butch became Butch

Furman Bisher

Furman Bisher

When I first came upon the junior Claude Harmon, he stood behind the counter in the golf shop of the royal course in Morocco. It was a time when the King of Morocco -- Hassan I, as I recall -- invited a troop of golfers from the United States to participate in what has become an annual event in that nation.

Many were professionals, some were American movie stars, some were journalists, some were businessmen and all were guests of His Majesty -- though none of us actually were in touch with the king. Some of the more distinguished visitors, whose names stick in my mind, were Don Hutson, the Green Bay Packer star; Ray Bolger, the movie star and showman; Ginger Rogers, another movie star, among others, and several pro golfers, including Larry Ziegler -- who won the thing, as I recall -- and several European professionals, most unknown to Americans.

The senior Claude Harmon was the personal pro to King Hassan, and he brought along Junior to help with heavy lifting. It was there that Claude Jr. met the lovely Lily, who was a staff assistant in the golf shop. Later, Butch, as Claude Jr. would become known, often referred to himself as pro to the King. Which he was not, but he was a valued assistant in the golf operation.

Later, he and Lily were wed, and later they would return to the United States. Later, too, they would be divorced. Later, too, Claude Jr. became known, as he is today, as "Butch," and remains so. So has his stock risen as a teacher of golf, better known, as most of came to identify him, as Tiger Woods' mentor.

Butch grew up under his father's wing, an assistant when Claude Sr. was the pro at Winged Foot in New York -- which became known as sort of an "academy" for young players on their way to tour fame. Butch was never a glowing star on the PGA Tour, but he has matured in his own style -- as a teacher, as a coach, a stylist whose personality as a sales pitchman has gained steam.

So the game goes forward, with Butch Harmon now toting the family banner on his own. But, the Harmons have 'been a distinguished family in the world of golf, and I close with a scene from several years ago, when players invited to the Masters were often interviewed before the championship.

Some former champions played practice rounds with other old-timers, and one day Claude Sr. played his way into the interview room again, long after his year of glory at Augusta National (He won the Masters in 1948, as you may know.) This time, he had TWO holes-in-one in the same nine-hole round.

As some say, you're never too old.

Furman Bisher is one of the deans of American sports writing. The longtime Atlanta sports journalist is a member of the Georgia and Atlanta Sports Halls of Fame and in addition to his newspaper writing has authored multiple books on major figures like Hank Aaron and Arnold Palmer. He writes periodic columns for the Daily Post.