Herbert Warren Wind
Golf writer, editor, and publisher
“Herb” Wind (Class of 1937) was born in Brockton, Mass. He learned to play golf in the summers at Brockton’s Thorny Lea Golf Club. Wind made the varsity teams at Yale in basketball and track and field. He covered sports for the Yale Daily News and he wrote on jazz for the Yale Record. After graduating from Yale, Wind earned a Masters of Literature degree from Cambridge University (1937-1939). While at Cambridge, Wind met the famous British golf writer, Bernard Darwin, and fell under his spell. With Darwin’s vivid prose as a model, he determined to become a golf writer.
After two years active service with the Air Force in China during World War ii, Wind settled in New York City. From 1947 to 1954 he was a staff writer for The New Yorker, during which time he wrote The Story of American Golf. He was the golf editor of Sports Illustrated from 1954 to 1959. In 1960 he helped launch the tv series, “Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf” and wrote all the scripts for the shows in its first two years. In 1962, Wind returned to The New Yorker as its golf and tennis writer until he retired in 1989. In 1982 he co-founded “The Classics of Golf,” an elegant series of reprints of the best of golfing literature from the last 150 years.
The accolades never ceased for what the sportswriter Frank Litsky described as Wind’s “elegant but straightforward style that showed respect for his subject.” To The Times of London, Wind was “America’s finest golf writer.” To the New York Times, he was “the dean of American golf writers.” His narrative powers are seen in a profile of Arnold Palmer that he wrote for the “Sporting Scene” in The New Yorker in 1962.
Let us say he is a stroke behind, with the holes running out, as he mounts the tee to play a long par 4. The fairway is lined by some 10,000 straining spectators—Arnold’s Army, as the sportswriters have chosen to call them—and a shrill cry goes up as he cuts loose a long drive, practically lifting himself off his feet in his effort to release every last ounce of power at the moment of impact. He moves down the fairway toward the ball in long, eager strides, a cigarette in his hand, his eyes on the distant green as he considers every aspect of his coming approach shot. They are eyes with warmth and humor in them as well as determination, for this is a mild and pleasant man. Palmer’s chief attraction, for all that, is his dashing style of play. He is always attacking the course, being temperamentally incapable of paying it safe.
Wind is perhaps best remembered for an article he penned for Sports Illustrated about the 1958 Masters tournament, in which he coined the phrase “Amen Corner,” for the stretch from the second half of the eleventh hole, the short twelfth, to the first half of the thirteenth hole at Augusta National Golf Club. In an article for Golf Digest in 1984, he told the story of how he came to use this expression.
That 1958 Masters was a memorable one. It hinged on howArnold Palmer, paired with Ken Venturi, played the 12th and 13th on the final day. Since the course had been thoroughly soaked by rains … a local rule had been invoked for an embedded ball. On the 12th, a 155-yard par 3 across Rae’s Creek, Palmer’s iron carried over the green and embedded itself in the steep bank of rough behind it. The official evidently was not aware of the local rule and he instructed Palmer to play the ball as it lay. When Palmer did this, he holed out in 5, after missing a short putt. Then politely but pertinaciously, Palmer went back to the pitch mark of his tee shot. He obviously felt that the official’s ruling was not correct, and elected to play an ‘alternate’ ball …. With that ball he made 3. At this point, no one knew whether Palmer’s score was a 3 or 5. Palmer eagled 13 and while playing 15 he was informed that his official score on 12 was 3 ….That, in effect, won him the tournament [his first major professional championship] …. I felt that I should try to come up with some appropriate name for the far corner of the course where the critical action had taken place ….The only phrase with the word corner I could think of was the title of a song on old Bluebird record, that I first heard back in my college days—“Shouting in Amen Corner” ….The more I thought about it, the more suitable I thought the Amen Corner was for that bend of the course where the decisive action in the Masters had taken place …. My article, in the issue dated April 21, was called “The Fateful Corner.”
In 1992, the pga presented Wind with its lifetime achievement award. In 1995, the usga gave him its annual Bob Jones Award for distinguished sportsmanship in golf. How appropriate this was since he said that his passion for golf had begun in his youth, when he listened to a radio program on Friday evenings with Grantland Rice and Bob Jones. He got to know Jones while researching The Story of American Golf in 1948. Wind often said, “I love listening to Jones.” He began covering the Masters in 1954 and talked to Jones at the tournament every year until Jones died in 1970.
In 2003, Wind donated his personal papers to Yale. In this collection, there is only one photograph of a professional golfer, Ben Crenshaw. Among the most interesting items are the letters that he received from such luminaries as Bing Crosby, Ben Crenshaw, Bart Giamatti, “Doc” Giffin, Ben Hogan, Dan Jenkins, Bob Jones, Mrs. Robert Trent Jones, Sr., Shelly Mayfield, Mrs. Jack Nicklaus, George Plimpton, Clifford Roberts, Gene Sarazen, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Harry Truman, Ned Vare, and P. G. Woodhouse.