Moe Norman: The ‘Rain Man of golf’ who amazed even the greats of the sport


Whether it’s because of his funky outfit, quirky personality, or a very special hammock, Mo Norman – it’s called golf Rain Man – He didn’t fit in with sports traditionalists Mold.

“Like Raymond [Babbitt]Mo spoke in choppy thrusts,” said golf coach and author Tim O’Connor, who has written a book on Norman, CNN SportThe Canadian golfer was compared to the lead character in the Oscar-winning movie.

O’Connor adds, describing the mannerisms of Norman’s speech: “Golf is like a walk in the park, a walk in the park”…repeat what he said. “He had that kind of lyric singing to his voice and his eyes were spread all over.”

But like Babbitt, Norman’s extraordinary personality was accompanied by a touch of genius – it was his skill at golf that earned him the title of “Best Ball Striker Ever”.

In an era when golf legends like Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Lee Trevino regularly swept major titles, Norman has only appeared in the Masters twice, but his accuracy still commands the respect of many of his fellow players, and has earned him cult status.

Through his very distinctive “single plane swing” – which he created, practiced and perfected himself and which current players, such as US Open winner Bryson Dechambaut, have taken elements of – Norman has been able to hit the same spot over and over in the fairway or green with unerring regularity.

Despite this, Al-Kindi is not a household name.

Whether it was due to the shyness of newcomers, his “weird” personality or the fact that he didn’t have the same success as his contemporaries on the PGA Tour as his contemporaries, those who knew him say Norman often didn’t fit in.

“We live in this culture where we celebrate celebrities and those who have achieved the highest standards. O’Connor — author of Feeling Great: The Moe Norman Story — told CNN Sport. “Moe was just such a sweet character. He was a very complicated person.

“And I think maybe if Mo had come in the last 20 years, maybe we’d embraced his eccentricity and he could have thrived a little bit more.”

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While Norman's character was described as

Norman was born in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, in 1929, as a kid who enjoyed spending his days with friends or playing hockey. However, once he discovered golf, his life began to change, but at a cost, says O’Connor.

As Norman’s interest in golf flourished, fueled further by being carried regularly at a local club, his working-class family wondered why he had chosen to play a sport often associated with elite members of society.

Despite Norman’s growing passion for the game, his family “completely rejected it,” which led to Norman ignoring their support when they finally came to watch it years later, according to O’Connor.

“His family opposed this thing that he loved,” O’Connor explained. “And it really caused a rift within the family and a really complete estrangement.”

During his late teens and early twenties, Norman devoted himself to perfecting the “single plane swing,” so he could routinely hit the ball wherever he wanted with remarkable accuracy.

The “single-level swing” was Norman’s attempt to improve shooting efficiency and remove the number of variables involved. In his speech to the ball, Norman made sure to maintain the position of the club’s shaft upon impact and did so by utilizing a wide stance, an extended posture and lined up hands. It was a synchronized swing with the movements of the hips, shoulders, arms, and hands.

Norman at Oakdale Golf Club in 1977.

Such was his dedication to perfecting his swing, and there are stories of Norman spending so much time in the training range that by the time he left, his palms were stained with blood from repeating his practice.

Later in his career, Norman ran clinics for audiences, during which he showcased his precision. Even attracting the attention of fellow professionals, such was his accuracy.

But for Norman, winning trophies wasn’t the ultimate goal. The act of hitting the clean ball was more “spiritual” for him – something O’Connor described as “a sense of greatness”.

Professional Todd Graves spent a year trying to learn Norman’s swing from a video a friend gave him. But he says his first experience of seeing the Canadian Balls up close still blows him away.

“I don’t think I’ve seen anyone do what Mo could do on a golf ball, in terms of flight consistency, the windows he was hitting the golf ball and that simple,” Graves — co-founder of Graves Golf Academy — told CNN Sports.

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Graves watching Norman in Pine Needles, South Carolina, 1998.

Trusting only his really close friends, Norman would seem “too weird” if you didn’t know him, according to O’Connor, who recounts how a golfer once ran out of a restaurant in the middle of an interview — to Norman’s own book — just to alleviate the uneasiness he experienced About a certain line of questioning.

Given these personality traits, O’Connor says some people have later hypothesized that Norman might have been on the autism spectrum.

Included in the list of symptoms of autism by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are avoidance of eye contact and desire to be alone, repeating or repeating words or phrases or repeating “words or phrases instead of normal language”, and inability to relate to others or “not You have absolutely no interest in other people.” Each of these symptoms, in retrospect, could apply to Norman.

Norman with tour players, at Telus Skins at the National Golf Club of Canada in 1995.

However, in his research in his book, O’Connor uncovered another possible theory to explain Norman’s personality traits.

When Norman was about five years old, he was skiing with a friend, and when they skidded across the road, he was hit in the forehead with a reversible car tire, according to O’Connor.

Since there were no broken bones, his family did not take him to the hospital, and neuroscientists O’Connor interviewed the theory that Norman’s different personality may have been due to a frontal lobe injury to the brain.

“He knew what was important in life. He wasn’t able to express it in ways that a lot of people do. He didn’t get jokes at all. He just lived in this very cramped area of ​​golf and he seemed like an odd character to a lot of people,” O’Connor said. .

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Norman felt it was

But Norman was in place on the golf course.

O’Connor remembers Norman’s stories as he easily conversed with spectators during the rounds and even took bets from spectators about whether he could bounce the ball off his driver more than 100 times or hit a ball in their shirt pockets.

Graves, who is also the executive producer of an upcoming documentary about Norman, recalls speaking to former Canadian PGA professional Henry Brunton about the change in Norman’s behavior on and off the course.

While Brunton describes Norman as being “extremely confident” of having a club in his hand, when he was only facing his clubmates, he was “like a 12-year-old.”

“He was intimidated. He didn’t understand how to deal with other players. He was intimidated by his peers,” Brunton told Graves.

Although he was a hit in his native Canada, Norman struggled on the larger stage of the US PGA Tour.

While he has over 60 wins on the Canadian Tour, Norman has played in 27 PGA Tour events over 15 years, finishing in the top ten only once, earning only $7,139.

He also played in five events for the PGA Tour, taking home $22,900 in prize money.

He appeared only twice in the four majors, and played for the Masters in 1956 and 1957.

According to Graves, adjusting to life on the road in a new country and without familiarity with its support system proved difficult for Norman.

He also had to endure at least one alleged incident of bullying from fellow professionals whose names have not been released. Just in his second year on the Tour, two players cornered him in the midst of a course—Norman was in the midst of it—and said, “You’ve got to stop messing around, take a bag, stop with the big tees, according to O’Connor.

The PGA of America, which conducted the tour prior to the creation of the modern PGA Tour in 1968, did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

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The pallbearers carry the coffin of Canadian golf legend Norman.

“This has led to Mo feeling for his life that he doesn’t feel like he belongs and is not welcome there,” O’Connor added. “Because he had this feeling that they didn’t like him. And if Mo had the sense that people needed him, that they were here and they were here or if she was offended by you, he would delete you.”

Later in his life, money was also a problem for Norman. According to Golf Digest in 1995, the golfer was living in a motel room that cost $400 a month and kept his clothes in his car. Later in his life, golf maker Titleist paid Norman $5,000 a month for the rest of his life for his service in the sport.

Just a few years later, in 2004, Mo Norman passed away at the age of 75. And while he did not have the championship-winning success enjoyed by his contemporaries, the legacy of this true golf pioneer and self-proclaimed ‘best ball striker ever’ is not to be forgotten.

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