Dan Jenkins: In His Own Words
As he prepares to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, Golf Digest's Dan Jenkins reflects on his remarkable career in journalism, his favorite characters and why he has no intention of calling it quits.
Released on 5/2/2012
Being a sportswriter is all I've ever wanted to be.
I knew that when I was 10, 11, 12, 13 years old.
My Aunt found a typewriter in the attic
of my grandmother's house,
and I'd put it on the kitchen table
and copy stories out of the newspaper,
and act like I was writing them.
One day, I started rewriting them, (laughs)
and that's when I knew I was going to be a writer,
going to try to be a writer.
So, everybody in the family was a sports fan.
So, naturally, I had to be a sports fan.
If you grow up in Texas
and you're not a sports fan, they drown you.
In high school, when I was playing golf on the golf team,
I wrote sports columns for the Paschal Pantherette.
One day, I wrote a parody of a guy who was a columnist
in the Fort Worth Star Telegram.
He wrote a column called Purely Personal.
Somebody showed it to Blackie Sherrod
at the Fort Worth Press, and he hired me on it
when I graduated from high school in 1948.
For a roaring $25 a week.
So, I'm off and running, you know.
I went to college in the fall of '48 with a byline,
that'll make you arrogant.
I thought I was handicapped.
All the sports writers in those days had nicknames.
It was Blackie Sherrod, Pop Boone,
Putt Powell, Jinx Tucker from Waco,
Blondie Cross from San Angelo, Breezy Carroll.
I thought, I don't have a nickname,
I've got no shot in this profession.
You have to remember, in those days,
there were no professional sports.
In Texas, there were no Dallas Cowboys.
There were no Mavericks, no Rangers.
The big sports were college football, high school football,
Texas League baseball and golf.
Golf was a huge sport because of Hogan and Nelson.
One of the reasons that, I think, Blackie hired me,
is because my picture had been in the paper
two or three times as a junior golfer.
I hadn't won much, but I'd been a medalist,
and I'd been a competitor,
and they didn't have a golf writer.
So, I came along at a time to be golf writer
for the Fort Worth Press when Ben Hogan was doing his thing.
I had been exposed also to the fact that
I'd watched Sam Sneed win the Dallas Open in 1944
my freshman year in high school.
I'd watched Byron Nelson win the Fort Worth Open
at Glen Garden in 1945,
which was his 18th win of the year.
I watched Hogan win the first Colonial in 1946
when I was in high school.
So, I had already been exposed
to what I thought was really big time stuff.
Always wanted to say, and I didn't invent this,
I learned it from reading other people.
I thought the obligation was to be accurate first.
Entertain if you can,
but don't sacrifice fact for jokes
I thought the obligation was to tell a story,
what it means to the past, what it means to the future,
and pick the defining moment that settled the issue,
in whatever sport it was,
and lean on it, and kick it to death.
We really wrote from the attitude of
you were there, and the reader wasn't.
Tell the reader something they might not know.
Even though they saw television,
there has to be things they didn't know.
I honestly believe, and I swear I hope this is true,
I hope I'm not just dreaming it,
but, a thousand years of doing this job,
I don't think I've ever wrote a line I didn't believe.
Sometimes it might have been funny,
sometimes it wasn't so funny.
Sometimes it might have drawn blood,
but, I don't think I've ever wrote a line I didn't believe.
And I still don't, I hope I don't.
I don't ever want to retire, what would I do?
I don't know how to do anything else.
I'll be carried out.
I hope I'm at the typewriter when it happens,
or the computer.
I love doing it, as long as someone will pay me to do it.
Even if they don't. (laughs)
It's all I've ever done, all I've ever wanted to do.
I'm so happy that I was able to make a living
doing what I wanted to do.
That's been the luckiest break of all.
(playful guitar music)