Moe Norman was born on this day in 1929. His accuracy and ability to hit shot after shot perfectly straight gave him the nickname “Pipeline Moe”.
Born in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, Norman developed his golf from childhood at the Rockway municipal course in that city, starting as a caddy in his pre-teen years. He refined his skills competing against talented area players such as Gary Cowan and Gerry Kesselring. He won back-to-back Canadian Amateur Championships in 1955 and 1956.
He turned professional in 1957 and played briefly in the PGA Tour, but due to shyness, bullying he encountered from certain pros, and a preference to stay in Canada, he stayed primarily in Ontario rather than travel extensively outside Canada. In the 80s, Norman also played several events on the Senior PGA Tour.
Norman’s play, along with his way of dressing, were both described as unconventional. He devised what is known as “The Norman Swing” â€” rigid arms extended far from his body, a very wide stance with minimal knee bend, shorter-than-usual backswing and extended follow-through with minimal hand action, which produced amazingly accurate ball placement. He played extremely fast, sometimes not slowing to line up his putts. He was inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in 1995. He was self-taught and never took a golf lesson.
Norman was known for sometimes unconventional behavior on the course. It is said that on one hole his caddy told him he could get to the green with a driver and a 9-iron. Naturally, he hit off the tee with his 9-iron and then hit the green with his driver. In another event, rather than lay up short of a creek hazard which could not be carried, he bounced his drive across the bridge which crossed the creek.
Norman’s skills as a ball striker are legendary. Sam Snead, himself one of the all-time greatest golfers, described Norman as the greatest striker of the ball. In January 2005, Tiger Woods, the biggest golf star of the modern era, told Golf Digest’s Jaime Diaz that only two golfers in history have “owned their swings”: Moe Norman and Ben Hogan. Stated Woods, “I want to own mine.”
Late in his life, Norman found better financial security when Titleist, a major golf manufacturer, signed him to a lifetime contract to perform golf exhibitions across Canada after he allegedly told a reporter, “Titleist never did nothing for me.”
Norman died in a Kitchener hospital from congestive heart failure, having suffered from the condition since heart bypass surgery six years earlier. He also had a heart attack two years before his death.