Max Gnagy has been playing in left-handed golf tournaments for a long time...a long time. You see, Max is 91 years of age!
But Max doesn't just play. He wins!
In this year's Indiana State Championship competing in the Grand Masters Division, Gnagy captured yet another Grand Masters title. After an indifferent first round of 87 in his first round, Gnagy came back in the second round with a more typical round of 79 to win the Grand Masters title by 12 strokes. That round was also 12 strokes below his age.
Gnagy shows that golf is a sport that can be enjoyed by all for a lifetime. He can still hit the ball 200 yards. He is a fine example for us all. May we be as lucky as Max to be playing so well into our nineties!
NALG President received an inquiry from Jon in the UK regarding who the first lefty was that played on the PGA Tour as well as who was the first to play in the United States Open. Jon indicated that the earliest player he could find was Loddie Kempa.
Below is my response back to Jon following a few hours of internet research. I learned some interesting things going back in history.
Regarding your first question about the first lefty on tour. I guess it depends on when you say the PGA Tour started.
National Association of Left-Handed Golfer (NALG) founder Ben Richter was a very good left-handed professional. Prior to founding the NALG, he played in PGA events. In 1932 he was runner up in the St. Louis Spring Open. This LINK shows all the 1932 PGA events that year. Richter also finished 2nd in the PGA Senior Championship in 1947 and 1948 and 4th in 1946. This LINK indicates that Richter played in the 1936 and 1937 PGA Championship - qualifying and losing in the first match-play round in each - as well as the 1929 and 1933 United States Opens. He shot an 80 in the first round of the US Open in 1929 and withdrew in 1933. I could not find how many other tournaments he might have played. In any case, he would have played earlier and more than Loddie Kempa. Obviously the most successful early lefty was Bob Charles who turned professional in 1960 and played on the PGA Tour shortly thereafter.
Here is an interesting anecdote from Anecdotage Online about how Richter got his first professional job.
“When Ben Richter, one of the country's leading left-hand golfers, decided to turn professional he took advantage of his peculiarity. Hearing that the Triple-A Club of St Louis needed a pro he wrote to its president, Sidney Maestre, and applied for the job. 'But a left-handed pro!' exclaimed Maestre. 'I'll show you in two minutes why a left-handed instructor is better than a right-handed one,' Richter said. 'Face me and I'll show you something.' Richter took his left-handed stance; Maestre, facing him, took his right-handed position. As Richter swung correctly, Maestre copied him easily. 'It's like looking into a mirror,' he admitted, and Richter was appointed club professional.”
As far as the United States Open is concerned, there was a reference in an Al Barkow book (Golf’s All Time Firsts, Mosts, Leasts, and a Few Nevers), about Loddie Kempa being the first lefty to play in the US Open in 1948. My research indicated he did not play in 1948 but did in 1950, 1951, 1953 and 1954. He made the cut in 1950 and 1954. But Kempa did not play the PGA Tour. Barkow must not have been familiar with Ben Richter's earlier play.
Here are a few quotes I found in “Miracle at Merion” that you might like. 1950 was the year that Ben Hogan came back from his near fatal car crash to win the United States Open.
Barkow’s book may have confused Kempa’s win in the 1948 National Left-handed Championship held at French Lick here in Indiana. See the picture below I found.
If you are interested in the Masters, the Barkow book had another error. It stated that Gene Ferrell was the first lefty to play in the Masters in 1956. My research indicates that Bob Charles played in 1958 and missed the cut. Ferrell played as an amateur in 1965 and interestingly was disqualified after the first round. I did not find out why. So Ferrell was the first amateur lefty to play in the Masters but Charles was the first lefty. Interestingly, I found a Golf Digest article from this March about 15 Masters firsts that continued the “1956 error”. Even the a Masters Media guide I found on the internet showed it incorrectly as 1956. Ferrell later played on the PGA Tour from 1968-1971 and died only last year. You can find a TV interview with him HERE.
In another bit of lefty trivia, the NALG created an Lefty Open championship (including professionals) that ran from 1961 to 1965. Sid is going to like this next part - There was a $10,000 sponsorship by the founder and owner of DeSoto Lakes Golf and Country Club in Sarasota, Florida. This is now Palm-Aire where Sid lives and plays! Bob Charles won the event in 1962 over defending champion Loddie Kempa by 21 strokes!! The NALG History publication incorrectly calls it DeSota Lakes.
I hope you find this information helpful and interesting.
July 23 was a good day for lefties. On that day Brian Harman won the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool and Akshay Bhatia won the Barracuda Championship in Truckee, California. It was the first time that two lefties won on the PGA Tour on the same day.
It was bound to happen sometime. One might have expected it to happen when Phil Mickelson won one of his 45 tour titles. However, there are only a few weeks a year that the PGA Tour holds two events on the same weekend. In fact, in 2023 there are four such instances.
Harman becomes the 5th lefty to win a major following Bob Charles, Mike Weir, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson. Weir's and Watson's wins were at the Masters while Mickelson won each major except for the U.S. Open. Charles won the Open Championship way back in 1963 making all lefties proud. Mickelson won his Open 50 years later and now Harman 10 years after Mickelson.
I found an article on the internet listing the lefties to win on the PGA Tour. Below are the players with their win totals.
Phil Mickelson - 45
Bubba Watson - 12
Mike Weir - 8
Bob Charles - 6
Steve Flesch - 4
Brian Harmon - now 3
Ted Potter Jr. - 2
Russ Cochran - 1
Ernie Gonzalez - 1
Sam Adams - 1
Greg Chalmers - 1
Eric Axley - 1
Cody Gribble - 1
Garrick Higgo - 1
Akshay Bhatia - 1
Mickelson's total of 45 wins is more than the other 14 lefties to win.
Expect this list to grow. There are more and more good college players that could eventually win on tour. There are also lefties on the DP World Tour and LPGA Tour that could win with others in the pipeline.
It certainly is a good time to be a lefty and better than when I was in high school and my choice of clubs were Ping or PGA Ryder Cup II's. (I think I made the wrong choice then as the Pings would be collector items today!)
Are you one of those golfers that can walk up to a shot and just use your eyes to look at your target and automatically know you are aligned? No? Me neither!!
In reality I don't know if a golfer exists where their eyes don't deceive them to some extent. While this is also true for full shots (which is why the pre-shot routine you almost always see a pro use involves drawing a line with his club through the ball and target and identifying a spot on the ground to align the clubface with), this article is for putting.
I discovered early on that my putter was aligned right of target even though it looked straight. I had a choice to make; either try to make two wrongs equal a right or fix the problem. My discovery was reinforced when I saw a Golf Magazine compendium of articles in a grocery store of all places. One of the first article in there was I think written by David Edel for Edel putters. The article had images of many putter heads on the same page. As I looked at the images I noticed that some definitely looked crooked (they were all aligned perfectly vertical on the page!) while others looked pretty straight.
Edel pointed out that there are a number of factors that affect your perception of straight as it comes to a putter. Some of these factors are the shape of the head, the alignment markings, the hosel shape, the amount of offset, etc. In other words, if you don't have the right combination for you, what you think is straight to your eyes may not be straight. You can check this with a laser as many putting fitters do.
I went to an Edel fitter about 10 years ago to try to get a putter to "correct" my perception. It wasn't totally successful maybe because I am an engineer and think too much!
In order to putt well you need 3 things:
- Good read of the greens to know where your target should be
- Be able to start your putt on the correct line
- Hit the putt with the correct speed
I attempt to eliminate any issues with respect to the second item by aligning the ball ProV1X label arrow to my target. I am able to get low to the ground and verify my alignment using the putter shaft as a straight edge and hover it over the alignment arrow to verify it is correctly aligned. This allows me to know that I am starting the ball on the intended line a very high percentage of time as all I have to do is stroke down that line. You should do this also. Have you noticed that most of the pros do this also? I have read that you can try to "retrain" your eyes by repetitively aligning with an aid such as the lines in your bathroom tile assuming you have a 10-15 length of tile in your bathroom to practice with. But I found that my approach is easier. Wouldn't you want to take the easy way to address one of the three putting needs above. After reading this article you should now agree that your eyes lie to you too!
One of my "hobbies" is coaching a middle school golf team. Along with this comes a lot of teaching regarding their golf swings. One of the things I have noticed with them - as well as with many amateur golfers - is the tendency to extend their arms fully while putting.
Maybe they think this is a simpler pendulum swing or it just seems to occur naturally. The problem is that having fully extended arms makes it more difficult to power your stroke as well as to be consistent in controlling distances.
Having your arms fully extended gives you less strength to power your stroke. Just try to lift something with your arms fully extended. If the object is heavy you will find it much easier with your arms against your chest and bending your elbows (like a two-handed curl). Less strength will mean less control. Try to hit a longer putt with your arms fully extended. I think you will find it difficult to move the putter back slowly and in full control. Just this week I was playing with a good golfer that was struggling with his putting. I noticed that his arms were fully extended and when he putted his motion was not slow and smooth but rather quick and jerky. I suggested to him the change below and he started rolling it much better.
Instead, I would recommend "anchoring" your arms (elbows up to your shoulder) against your chest and maintain the bends in your elbows. Here is how you can find the right setup for you. Stand with you putter in hand and your arms fully extended and parallel to the ground. Now gradually bend your elbows and bring the grip end of the club closer to your chest. Stop as soon as your elbows rest against the side of your chest. Now bend over gradually at the hips until your putter lies level on the ground. You should find stroking your putts with precision and control much more easily done.
The anchoring of your arms against your chest effectively eliminates some variation making the stroke simpler and more repeatable. That is certainly something we need to putt well.
If you struggle with your putting such as averaging two putts per hole, try the above method. You should reduce the number of putts you take and your scores will get lower. Hopefully you will enjoy the game even more as that is why we play.
As far as the middle-schoolers, playing a sport for the first time can be difficult. It takes some time to learn the new motions. It's easier if they have played other sports. However, golf can be challenging to learn and even more challenging to become proficient. Practicing the right things is important. Simplifying things can speed up the improvement process.
I hope you have success in your game.
Where are all the left-handed golfers and why are they not playing in the National Association of Left-handed Golfers tournaments?
Participation in some state lefty tournaments continues and there are a few new states that are holding events. But participation in the National tournament continues to lag.
This year the tournament is at the beautiful Avondale Golf Club near Coeur D'alene, Idaho. Early entries are not coming in as fast as expected. Having the tournament out west for the first time in several years has resulted in drawing more from the west and northwest regions which is great. But tournament entries for this great and fun event should be much higher.
The NALG has a great history (see the History menu item on this website) that goes back to 1936 - yes that's 87 years ago! My first national tournament was held in Chicago in 1996. The next year the tournament was held in Las Vegas at the relatively new Paiute Resort. Sports Illustrated took a picture of 144 lefties swinging in sync on the range. I believe there were 288 entrants with half of the group teeing off in the morning and half in the afternoon.
In recent years, the participation has be under 50 players. Everyone that comes says that they have a great time and they say that they enjoy seeing the friends they have made each year when they return.
But we have to do a better job "getting the word out". I know that lefties I run into usually don't know that there is a state or national tournament for them. When I see them I give them a poker chip ball marker with our name and website address hoping they will keep us in mind and join us for an event. They know that these events are not just for the scratch golfer. Take a look at the Membership menu item to see comments made by our members as to why they join the NALG.
NALG Chairman Sid Miner (with board support) is actively working to enhance awareness of our existence. Not only that, he is putting in lots of energy to make each event enjoyable for all. Thanks to Sid for all his hard work!
In wrapping up this Blog post I would just like to say that you have a personal invitation to join these events. Please come and make a new friend!
The following is a true story.
During a practice round prior to the 2000 National Association of Left-handed Golfers (NALG) tournament in Myrtle Beach, I hit a tee shot right and over the Legends Moorland 17th green. I could not find my ball and could not believe that I had hit it far enough to go into the thick brush, but apparently I had. (I discovered two days later when I played another set of tees in the tournament that the gold tees were mis-marked by 10 yards! This was before we had rangefinders.)
That day I was playing with Buck Buckner, the eventual NALG champion, and two brothers from Washington State. One of the brothers waded into the thick brush when he spotted a ball. I stuck my head in between the vines near where he was and spotted a golf club grip standing vertical. When I reached in I discovered that it was an intact club and a nice Callaway sand wedge at that.
There was no way this was your typical case of forgetting to pick up your clubs when leaving a hole as you could not have played a ball within 15 feet of that spot. I figured someone had to be quite upset and must have tossed the club into the brush. Since the wedge had a 1996 vintage shaft, I figured it might have been there for quite a while. The pro shop did not report a wedge missing that day or recently.
That's where the story begins.
After examining the club I noticed one of those little name labels on the shaft. Some of the address numbers were missing but the name and city were readable. I figured I could determine the rest of the address through an internet search upon returning home.
Sure enough, after less than five minutes I found the missing numbers and sent a letter off to the club's owner. After a return phone call, I now have the rest of the story.
The owner was playing golf at the Legends resort two weeks prior to me. The 17th hole is a devilish par 3 playing about 170 yards. Her was a 14 handicapper and was playing some of the best golf of his life. The previous day he shot 79 at Oyster Bay. Starting on the back nine on this infamous day, he was playing very well until he came to his 8th hole, the 17th at the Moorland course.
He pulled his tee shot into the bunker short and left of the green. His first attempt at a sand shot left the ball in the bunker. Being positive not to repeat the error, his next shot sent the ball flying over the green into the thick brush. He dropped a new ball where it entered the hazard-marked brush and chipped back to the green. He thought he hit a good chip only to walk up and see the ball keep rolling back into the same bunker he started in. This is the same hole that I saw one of my fellow players on a past Myrtle Beach golf trip putt the ball off the green into that bunker. This green is pretty slippery and sloped towards the bunker. Obviously, the owner wasn't very happy. In fact, he was starting to get steamed!
But it only got worse!
His next shot from the bunker, you guessed it, flew over the green again and into the woods. At this point, the steam let loose along with his sand wedge. His playing partners recall hearing the sound of a low flying helicopter followed by some rustling in the thick brush. You have to picture that the distance from the bunker to the woods has to be at least 40 yards. Not a bad toss!
His next challenge was to try to find the forsaken club. Seeing the dense brush and poison ivy, he didn't look very long and couldn't get to the clubhouse fast enough to clean up.
After receiving my letter, the owner could not believe that his club had been found. He was sure that his club would NEVER be found again. It was very deep (actually only about 15 feet) into the well-camouflaged thick swampy brush.
He vowed never to buy another sand wedge as a penalty and reminder to himself. He indicated that he never throws clubs. The frustrating chain of events just got to be too much. As it turns out, the day after I actually found his club, his wife bought him a new Cleveland sand wedge on Father's day.
After his return home, his playing partners were having a heck of a time telling their friends what transpired. Now, with the finding of the lost "helicopter", their stories will only get better. This story alone was worth the cost of sending the club back to him. (He did thank me for returning the club by sending dozen new Pro V1's.)
So now it looks like he now has two sand wedges. I am willing to bet that is one more than he will ever need.
I have been writing a golf column for the Kokomo Tribune for over 20 years now. I also read the newspaper pretty much cover to cover.
I am one of the rare engineers that can spell. (I hope you don't find any spelling errors here. :-) Misspellings in the newspaper, magazines and books stand out to me and disrupt my reading.
One word that I see multiple times that stands out to me when I read it is the word grateful. It seems to me that the word should be spelled "greatful"! After all, you would use the word when you are feeling "great" about something or someone. Why would the word be spelled grateful? According to the dictionary the word grate means to rub hard or wear away. If I was really full of grate I would be worn down and irritated. It just seems like the word should be spelled "greatful".
We all know that the English language has words, spellings and pronunciations that may not make sense. I guess I am looking at the word as a compound word which is why I think of combining great and full should be "greatful". The word "grateful" is certainly not the combination of grate and full even though that is how my brain wants to process it!
In any case I am "greatful" for you coming to this website and blog. Have a GREAT day!
Welcome to our new blog. The audience for this blog is all the left-handed golfers out there especially those that are a member of the National Association of Left-handed Golfers (NALG).
I titled this blog "Golf...from the right side". If you are a left-handed golfer how many times have you heard that you stand on the "wrong" side of the ball. Now you have proof - as is shown in the image accompanying this blog - that you stand on the "right" side of the ball!
If you are like me, you automatically convert left to right, right to left, etc. when you read golf instructional articles. When I give instruction, I try to avoid those terms. I prefer front, back, lead, etc. as they work for all golfers.
I hope to post items related to what is going on in the NALG or lefty golf. Take a look through our web site. In addition to our National Tournament there are many state lefty events. If you don't see one for your state, we can help you get one started.
Information has just been released about our 2023 National Tournament which will be held in beautiful Idaho. I hope you will consider entering as we always have a great time!
If you have ideas for the website or this blog just add your comments.
Until next time - enjoy Golf... from the right side!
I confess! I am an avid golfer. I also play left-handed. Since I now manage the National Association of Left-handed Golfers website, I thought I would start a Blog...this blog! What will I have to say? Stay tuned and find out.