SPORTSWRITER ART SPANDER HAS COVERED 120 major golf championships, including the last 42 Masters, in a career that spans nearly 50 years. Spander has also covered many other sports in stints with the United Press International (UPI), Santa Monica Outlook, San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Examiner.
Earlier this month Spander was the recipient of the 2009 PGA Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism at the Golf Writers Association of America’s Annual Spring Dinner in Augusta, Ga.
“To me, this is our profession’s hall of fame,” he said.
I emailed Art prior to the Masters and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about his more than four decades of watching and writing about the world’s best golfers.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: What’s your favorite major?
ART SPANDER: The British Open because of the history and tradition.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: Of the 120 major championships you’ve covered, which ones stand out?
ART SPANDER: [Billy] Casper overcoming a seven-shot lead to beat Arnie at Olympic in ‘66. My first major. My first Masters was ‘67, Hogan’s last, and on Saturday he shot a 66, I believe. 1970 British, Nicklaus had not won a major since ‘67. He beat Doug Sanders in an 18-hole playoff at St. Andrews after Sanders had three-putted the 72nd hole. And, of course, Nicklaus’ ‘86 Masters, Johnny Miller’s ‘73 Open (I covered him from the time he played the ‘66 Open at his home course, Olympic, as an amateur) and Tiger’s ‘97 Masters.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: Any memorable or favorite anecdotes from the golf course, locker room, or interview room?
ART SPANDER: In ‘86 in the old Quonset hut press center at Augusta, I was sitting at my desk on Sunday morning when Dan Jenkins came in and, looking at the leaderboard, just to start a conversation, asked “Which one of those guys has the least chance?” I agreed with him it was Nicklaus. Who, at age 46, came from behind to win the Masters?
ARMCHAIR GOLF: You’ve covered many sports. What about golf appeals to you as a reporter and sportswriter?
ART SPANDER: Golf is a social game. Also a lonely game, since it’s played (except on rare occasion) without teammates. People tend to talk about their games, looking as much for sympathy as recognition. Stories are everywhere. Each golf course differs from the others, leading to other material. “Remember the day at Pebble when Sam Snead hit a 3-iron to the 7th hole?” Also, golfers last longer, so you’re not always dealing with a new roster every year or two.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: You had the great fortune to work alongside Jim Murray. What was he like?
ART SPANDER: Jim was not only a brilliant writer, he was a nice guy, a humble guy. With his fame, Jim could have given us the Hollywood act – in fact, he wrote Hollywood for Time magazine in the early 1950s – but instead he was rather shy. The 1987 baseball All-Star game was in Oakland. Jim’s first wife, Gerry, died in 1984, and he was sort of unsettled and also having eye trouble. There was the usual pre-game party, this at the top of the Kaiser Center. My wife sort of took Jim under her wing, escorting him with me alongside. He looked across the room at an A’s rookie and said, “Isn’t that Mark McGwire? I’d love to meet him.” I told Jim, “He grew up reading you. You’re more famous than he is.” Finally, I took Jim over to Mark and introduced one to the other.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: Any particular player interviews or stories that stand out?
ART SPANDER: After 48 years, and waiting outside locker rooms, clubhouses, by phones, in press centers, I’ve heard so many it’s hard to remember. But one I recall was the 1970 British, at St. Andrews, when Lee Trevino was going through his hole-by-hole, and he told what he did on the fifth and then on the seventh. The late Pat Ward Thomas in a classic British accent interjected, “Why, Lee, I believe you’ve missed the 6th hole,” to which Trevino without hesitation said, “No wonder I shot 68.”
Art Spander covers sports at ArtSpander.com and Real Clear Sports.