Ben Crenshaw, one of golf's greatest putters, was involved in two of the most emotional golf course scenes of the 1990s.
First was his victory at the 1995 Masters, just days after the death of his mentor and friend, the legendary golf teacher Harvey Penick. Crenshaw was a pallbearer at Penick's funeral on Wednesday, then teed off in The Masters on Thursday. Four days later, Crenshaw was Masters champion. After his final putt, he collapsed into the arms of his caddie while the tears flowed.
In 1999, Crenshaw was Ryder Cup captain at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., where the U.S. team was far behind following Saturday's matches. "I'm a big believer in fate," Crenshaw said that night. "I have a good feeling about tomorrow. That's all I'm gonna say." The next day, Team USA staged its greatest Ryder Cup comeback ever, culminating in a raucous celebration on the 17th green when Justin Leonard's long putt sealed it for the Americans.
Crenshaw and Tom Kite were childhood friends and rivals in Austin, Texas. While a senior in high school, Crenshaw placed 32nd in the U.S. Open, prompting Lee Trevino to call him "the best eighteen-year-old golfer I've ever seen."
At the University of Texas, Crenshaw shared the 1972 NCAA Championship with teammate Kite, one of three straight years (1971-73) Crenshaw won the college title.
Crenshaw turned pro in 1973 and won his first tournament as a professional, the Texas Open. His "golden boy" image and boyish looks led to a strong following among female fans, whose ranks were dubbed "Ben's Bunnies" or "Ben's Wrens." Crenshaw went on to win 19 times on the PGA Tour, including two majors. (His first win in a major was at the 1984 Masters.)
After his competitive days on the PGA Tour ended, Crenshaw focused on golf course design, and played part-time on the Champions Tour (he never won on the senior circuit). With partner Bill Coore, Crenshaw designed some of the most acclaimed golf courses of the 1990s and early 21st century, including Kapalua Bay Resort in Hawaii, Sand Hills Golf Club in Nebraska, a couple courses at Oregon's Bandon Dunes complex and Friars Head in New York. Crenshaw and Coore were also selected for a restoration of the No. 2 Course at Pinehurst.
Ben Crenshaw was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2002. In his senior years, Crenshaw, a historian of golf as well, has served as an ambassador for the Hall of Fame. He also replaced Byron Nelson as the master of ceremonies at the annual Champions Dinner during Masters week once Nelson was no longer able to attend.
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