Somehow it seems fitting that Moe Norman should die on the eve of the Canadian Open, a tournament he never won. His best chance was in 1955 when the Open was played in his hometown of Kitchener.
Moe had caddied at the Westmount course and knew it better than anyone in the field. He teed off early in the third round, which was then played on Friday, and shot a 68.
That left him within two shots off the lead heading into the final 18 holes. As soon as he had finished, Moe grabbed his clubs and took off down the driveway to the parking lot.
I chased after him hoping to get a few quotes.
"Can't talk,'' Moe shouted. "I've got to get to Rockway where I have a couple of marks playing a $10 match."
Rockway is a public course down the road where Moe first played golf. A match there for small stakes was a much bigger deal than winning the Open.
Perhaps Moe was right. He was never in contention in the final round.
Lee Trevino, one of the great players of all time, insisted that Moe golfed as well as anyone he had seen. And that included the legendary Ben Hogan.
It wasn't until he was well into his 60s that Moe got the recognition he deserved. He was one of the most unforgettable characters I've ever met. And I do mean character.
As an amateur he played in tournaments where the first prize was usually a TV set. Moe sold the prize.
He was so certain of winning Mo offered it to the highest bidder before he even teed off. The stuffed shirts in the RCGA threatened to suspend Moe. I phoned his father who said: "What did they expect him to do with all the prizes, rent a warehouse?"
Moe was always in hot water with golfing's brass. One year the Canadian Amateur was played in Calgary, where Moe met Gerrie McGee in the final. Moe got upset at McGee's slow play, so in the middle of the match he took off his shoes and waded in the Bow River looking for golf balls.
I've always felt that Moe's biggest problem was that he was unusually shy.
One year the Ontario Open was held at Catarqui Golf Club in Kingston. Moe won it, but when it came time to present the trophy he was nowhere to be found. Moe was hiding in the caddie shack.
Years later when Moe was giving lessons at a driving range at Hwy. 7 and 400, Milt Dunnell, my boss at the Toronto Star, suggested it might make for a good story if I went up and took a lesson from Moe.
I showed up and Norman suggested I hit a couple of balls. After I hit the second, Moe grabbed the club and hit shots for the rest of the lesson.
He learned quickly that no amount of teaching was going to do any good with a golf swing like mine.
Moe did a lot of crazy things, notably using a Coke bottle as a tee. He was still able to crush the ball straight down the middle of the fairway, which is why they called him pipeline Moe. As Canadian Amateur champion he was invited to the Masters. He spent so much time on the practice range that he blistered his hands and had to withdraw midway through the second round.
Moe had a tremendous inferiority complex. Once he saw a big-named rival on the tee, Moe's game would just fall apart. They used to say that if they could just put blinkers on Moe, like they do to horses at the race track, he could compete with anybody.
Moe had an amazing mind for golf. Following bypass surgery at London's University Hospital, doctors asked Moe if he knew where he was.
CONTRACT WITH TITLEIST
"On the fourth green of the Hunt Club," Moe told them. The hospital had been built years earlier on the land of the old London Hunt Club.
I used to run into Moe at the CPGA Royal Oaks Golf Club in Florida. Moe used to drive every day in his Cadillac from his winter home in Daytona Beach.
He had a contract with Titleist, which provided him with 500-dozen golf balls a year. Moe, though, could be spotted most days looking for golf balls in the out-of-bounds area off the first tee. When he played, he used the ones he found and sold the ones Titleist provided.
During most of the years I knew him, Moe was difficult to talk to. But once he found out that I was a friend of Tim Wharnsby, a fine hockey writer who as a kid had caddied for Norman, the door would open and Moe would talk away.
When I interviewed Moe, he would always ask me to bring Tim down with me.
Moe Norman remains one of the most unforgettable people I've ever met.