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Billy Reed: Golf doesn’t like me — but, my, the fun I’ve had and the friends I’ve made, despite by play


The game of golf doesn’t like me and I’m not sure why. Maybe one of my ancestors made fun of a Scotsman swinging a crooked stick in a cow pasture.

At my best, if you can call it that, I shot in the 90s on a fairly regular basis. I think my all-time record is 93. Suffice it to say I am not working on my acceptance speech for the Golf Hall-of-Fame.

But, my, the fun I’ve had and the friends I’ve made. I’ve belonged to four private clubs in Louisville – Wildwood, Audubon, Glen Oaks and Standard. Before joining each, I checked to make sure they didn’t discriminate on the basis of gender, race, or religion.

Billy Reed is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame and the Transylvania University Hall of Fame. He has been named Kentucky Sports Writer of the Year eight times and has won the Eclipse Award three times. Reed has written about a multitude of sports events for over four decades and is perhaps one of the most knowledgeable writers on the Kentucky Derby. His book “Last of a BReed” is available on Amazon.

I wish I could name my favorite moment on a course, but I can’t. There are so many. For many years, my top playing partner was Mike Barry, former editor of the Kentucky Irish-American and sports columnist for The Louisville Times.

There should be a law against the amount of fun Mike and I had. He was as bad as me, so we always engaged in titanic struggles. We cheered each other’s good shots and offered solace for the bad ones.

We played with a lot of good guys. Names like Edgar Allen, Bubby Klotter, Larry Langan, Bill Malone, and Tom Flottman come to mind.

I remember a time when I got home from covering the Masters and ran into my friend Tom Musselman.

“Enjoyed your stuff from the Masters,” he said.

“Thanks, Tom,” I replied, “but you sound surprised.”

“I’ve seen you play,” he said, “and I can’t understand how anyone who plays like you could write so well about it.”

I’ve always admired another friend, Martha McMahon. She had never swung a club until her husband, Jeff, encouraged her to give it a try. She turned out to be a natural. Even won a couple of citywide championships.

As sports editor of The Courier-Journal from 1977 through ’86, I was grateful for the opportunity to cover the Masters, U.S. Open, and PGA championship. I wanted to cover the British Open but never made it.

My favorite two majors are easy – Fuzzy Zoeller’s win in the 1979 Masters and 1983 U.S. Open. He was from New Albany, right across the Ohio River, and we became good friends. I hope we still are, although we haven’t communicated for a while.

Fuzzy was serious about his golf, but he masked it with an outgoing demeanor. Everybody loved Fuzzy. How could you not? The sport has never had a better ambassador.

The strange thing is, the game may not like me, but I love it. That’s why I hacked my way through nine holes twice last week. I realize I should never set foot on a course again, but I just can’t let it go.

I receive encouragement from dear friends such as Ronnie Galloway and Alan Engel. Ronnie graciously invited me to play at Owl Creek, and Alan and I both belong to Standard.

They think it’s good for me to be out there, trying to do things I can’t. So they’re incredibly tolerant and kind. For me, as bad as I am, I still have fun being in the cart with them for a couple of hours.

My lifelong problems with the game have been compounded by breathing and balance problems. But I take my Louisville Slugger bat cane with me and so far have managed to not hurt myself.

I will keep trying as long as I can. How I hit the ball isn’t nearly as important as getting a little exercise and being with friends on a nice day.

So here’s my message for the day: “Fore!”


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3 Comments

  1. Glen Stuckel says:

    Enjoyed your laments about your golf game. Isn’t it great that duffers like us can enjoy chasing the little white ball as much as a low handicapper. Nothing like being out with the guys, enjoying the good hearted banter. And a beer at the 19th. Best regards!

  2. Robin Milby says:

    Was Tom Musselman a general at Ft. Knox? I remember doing some photos of a general there with that last name in the 1980s.

  3. Tom Strohmeier says:

    Indeed, your round with Paul Rogers and me at Persimmon Ridge corroborates your claim…

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