I’ve been very fortunate during my decades in golf to have known two people with very similar names: Mike Sherman and Mike Schurman.
The former spent several years as Head Pro at Rosedale Golf Club in Toronto, and recently retired to run a golf operation that his parents own in Brooke Henderson, Ontario… er, sorry, make that Smiths Falls.
The latter has had an even fuller résumé as a player, club professional, and teacher of golf in Ontario; and more recently, as an occasional columnist for Golf News Now, a valuable and daily source of news and information. I’ve only met Mike Schurman once in person – many years ago, when he was Head Pro at Toronto’s old Board of Trade GC – but recently, as fellow writers and observers of the game, we’ve become friends online and I’m honoured by the association.
Mike the Latter recently introduced me to a “secret” Facebook group which I cannot name (because, duh, it’s secret), but I’m already addicted to the lively and sometimes controversial conversations that are ongoing on this site. It’s clear that the participants are knowledgeable golf nuts… not the illiterate trolls you’ll find commenting on the Golf Channel chat lines. These are experienced golf pros, teachers, writers, and according to the “membership list”, a number of notable former PGA players.
One conversation that took over the better part of a day started out as a discussion of Lydia Ko’s ball speed (I know, c’mon guys, get a life!), but evolved into a debate on this question:
Who should be on a list of the top 15 Legends of Golf (male division, 20th Century)?
The first 13 are pretty much no brainers (not necessarily in order): Nicklaus, Woods, Jones, Hogan, Palmer, Vardon, Hagen, Snead, Nelson, Player, Watson, Sarazen, Trevino.
But then, the conversation gets interesting. Some said Billy Casper should be there, another said Johnny Miller. Faldo was brought up. So were Mickelson and Els, and Nick Price. I argued strongly for Greg Norman, who (as I suggested) may have had a legendary ego, but he also had legendary bad luck, and his two majors could easily have been 6 or 7.
Eventually, someone brought up the name of Raymond Floyd, and it’s as if the room fell silent across North America. Of course! How could Raymond Floyd not be considered legendary?? He won four majors, plus another 22 PGA Tour victories, and another 14 on the Senior Tour. Raymond was revered by younger players, and in his 9 Ryder Cup appearances (including one as non-playing captain), he became almost like a second father to some of them, most notably Fred Couples.
One of the largely forgotten but remarkable aspects of Raymond’s career was the fact that he won his first PGA Tour event in 1963, only a few months after his twentieth birthday. Winning that young was unheard-of back then. He won his last official event, a Senior Tour major, in 2000, at the age of 57, then finally called it a day a decade later — exactly 7 years ago this month. That’s 37 years of winning.
I think it’s very unfortunate that Raymond’s name rarely comes up in conversation today, at least in my golf circles. And rarely do you hear his name spoken on TV when the announcers are trying to fill dead air. It’s as if Ray Floyd has left the building.
One of the reasons for that may be the fact that Ray was a pretty quiet person, who didn’t try very hard to be Mr. Public Relations. He could come across as aloof, even rude, and he spoke his mind, which didn’t always please the listener.
In his early days, in the 60s, Ray was known as one of the prime “stick men” on the Tour (definition not forthcoming, sorry)… he enjoyed wine, women, and an active craps table, not necessarily in any particular order. But that all changed abruptly when he met and married Maria Fraietta in 1973. Maria was universally acknowledged as the woman who took Raymond from Good to Great as a golfer, changing his lifestyle overnight from Party Boy to Focused Boy. Maria was also considered by everyone as the Most Intimidating Wife on the PGA Tour. That didn’t make Ray any more approachable.
There’s a story going around, even today, that at one Tour event years ago, Raymond was so disliked by his Wednesday Pro-Am team that they deliberately five-putted the 18th green so that he wouldn’t win the $2,500 prize money that went to the winning pro.
It may be true, but I doubt it. It does, however, bolster the negative image Raymond had for most of his career.
But I beg to differ with that image.
I happened to play in a Pro-Am, back in 1994, with Raymond as our pro. I had already gotten to know him a few months earlier, as he played in the first Canadian Skins Game (along with Jack Nicklaus, Fred Couples, and Nick Price, at Devil’s Pulpit). Because he knew me, and the other amateurs on the team, we had a ball. He was focused, not overly chatty on the course, but he joined us for dinner and was genuinely thrilled when it turned out we won the event. (The trophy sits on the hearth in our living room to this day.)
I ran into Raymond a couple of times over the next couple of years, and he always remembered my name and my details. I was delighted to call him a friend, until I drifted out of the rarefied air of golf event management. I also found Maria to be very chatty and charming, quite the opposite of the harridan I’d been expecting. (May she rest in peace.)
So, back to the online conversation… in my view, Raymond Floyd should be an automatic addition to the list of the Top 14 Legends of the Game. Then you can debate Norman, Faldo, Mickelson, Els, Price, and anyone else you care to name, to make Number 15.