His Ownself has packed up his typewriter, closed out the Ancient Twitterer’s account and moved his brilliance to the Big 18 In The Sky.
The sports world will never be the same without the incomparable Dan Jenkins. His alma mater TCU confirmed the news to the Star-Telegram, just as Jim Tom Pinch of the Fort Worth Light And Shopper would have demanded. He turned 89 last December and last Tweeted February 4th about—who else?—his beloved foil Sergio Garcia.
In the coming weeks I’ll compile the tributes and highlights from Dan’s incredible career that began with typewriters banging out game stories and books, then finished his illustrious life with Tweets and yet more books. As most sportswriters will concur—and Dan would hate the cliche—but he was the gold standard who inspired so many to cover these silly games and sillier athletes. Jenkins artfully combined storytelling, a sense of history and his wicked wit.
Dan was magnificently succinct and seemingly ornery from afar. But it was mostly to keep “lacerating bores” from interrupting his newspaper reading or his country ham on the veranda or, in later years, because it was just too damn loud to hear in the bar. Sure, he played favorites and didn’t apologize for loving stars who’d dine now and then, and he definitely never rooted against a cinematic victory. That’s why we loved him and while I’ll miss walking over and asking him to tell me who “low nightmare” was on the current leaderboard.
When he turned up at the 1995 PGA at Riviera, I stalked him in media dining with a stack of his books to sign. He was having lunch with Dave Marr and Jerry Tarde and a couple of others. They were intrigued to hear I’d written a book on Riviera and told me to sit down, as they had a question they wanted me to settle for them.
“Have the earthquakes over the years changed the greens here?” Marr asked. I looked at Jenkins and got an inquisitive stare back. They were serious. I mumbled something about not being sure, got my books signed and still argued with Dan up to last year over why “Riviera before the flood” was in Hogan’s top 5. Dan just didn’t buy that Hogan had played it before 1938 and he was undoubtedly right, but Hogan knew how certain holes had once been designed. I couldn’t win that match. Dan knew his Hogan.
I have the first letter Dan ever sent me on display in my office and still remember the email from “Term Themes” that almost went to the delete bin. Somehow, Dan corresponded with me even after I asked what a term theme was. He probably tolerated me because I’d written an LA Times piece comparing old golf and new golf that included his name with Wind, Darwin, etc as part of the old great guard.
I mailed the piece—no Times hyperlinks to email 2000—because an editor had inserted someone named Billy Sixty amidst those great golf writers simply because it was an old friend. I almost cried when I saw it in print, as I’d worked so hard to decide who was on the Mount Rushmore of golf writers.
As much as Dan loathed bad editors and celebrated their mediocrity in the masterful You Gotta Play Hurt, he reveled in studying copy butchering by some drone. He genuinely enjoyed reminding me as late as last year that Billy Sixty, while indeed a real human-American, was primarily a bowling writer in his day.
As Dan said in his World Golf Hall of Fame address, “I knew this would happen”. Still, his passing royally sucks. Press rooms and media hotel bars will never be the same without the greatest ink-stained scribbler who ever wanted to be a sportswriter, and then went out and did it better than anyone before or since.