Stranded at home the past couple of months with no trips for tournaments or travel features, I have reluctantly taken on a few projects, one of which has entailed cleaning out the garage. In doing so, I uncovered some long-forgotten gems: a box of clips from my first newspaper job, which I started at the Burlington Free Press the night in 1981 when Bernie Sanders was elected mayor of that Vermont city, a stack of Grateful Dead albums, and perhaps best of all, my last set of persimmon woods, which bore the signature of the man who designed them, Toney Penna.
The heads of those clubs are tiny, 190cc for my old driver versus 460cc for the titanium bomber in my bag today. And the tops are a luscious light brown, with thin, dark streaks of grain. As for the sweet spots, they feature a plastic called cycolac that is red in color and attached to the face with four screws. I admired the sheer artistry of the sticks and recalled the euphonious sounds they produced on those rare occasions when I made good contact.
As I considered the craftsmanship, I also reflected on the man who had designed the clubs and the mark he made in the game. As a fierce competitor with five professional victories in the 1930s and ’40s and a pair of top-10s in both the Masters and the U.S. Open. As a clubmaker and designer who held four patents and ran the tour program at MacGregor Golf for more than three decades. As the person who gave Bing Crosby the idea for the annual pro-am that came to be the Crosby Clambake, putting Penna’s friends from professional golf together with the crooner’s cronies from Hollywood. And as the founder in 1967 of the Toney Penna Golf Company, whose clubs were used by the likes of Tom Watson and Lee Trevino to win major championships.
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