Forty-nine years have passed since Tommy Bolt hoisted the championship trophy at the 1958 U.S. Open at famed Southern Hills Country Club, but even at age 91 he remains one of golf's most colorful figures. A noted storyteller who was never afraid to speak his mind, the one-time Citrus County resident (he moved to Arkansas last year to be closer to family) recently shared his thoughts about a handful of subjects.
How did winning the Open change your life?
It was just unbelievable. That's what I lived for. I used to play in the caddie tournaments when I was growing up, and we always played for the national open. It was the goal for all of us.
Does it seem like yesterday?
(laughing) No, it seems like a lot longer ago than that. But it was great. You've got it made when you win the U.S. Open, I'll tell you that.
You had two nicknames - the one you liked (Thunder Bolt) and the one you didn't like (Terrible Tommy). Of the players from your era, what were the best nicknames?
I'd say Thunder Bolt, Bantam Ben Hogan, because he was a small guy, and Lord Byron Nelson.
From that same era, name your top five players.
Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Cary Middlecoff, Jimmy Demaret and Gene Littler.
Could those guys compete with the stars of today?
Absolutely. We all grew up caddying. Hogan, Snead, all of us. That gives you more inspiration. We weren't from the country clubs.
Who had the best swing back in the day?
Hogan. Snead's was beautiful, but it wasn't really a good swing. He had a strong left hand. Hogan had a neutral left hand and could hit the ball either way. And he was a long driver. People forget that.
Who was the best ball striker?
Hogan believed I was, but Littler would be my pick.
Who did you most enjoy playing with and why?
I'd rather play with Hogan than anyone - because you'd learn something from him every time.
Me. I'm a pretty good one.
Tell us about the swing tip you gave to Tiger Woods.
He was in my clinic at Riviera Country Club in 1993. He was 16 and he had a mule train swing.
A mule train swing?
Yes, M-U-L-E. He popped it at the top of his swing like Phil Mickelson did there for a while. I told him, "You've got to firm it up at the top of the swing. You've got to hold it firm and not be loosey-goosey."
Did he listen?
Evidently, look at his swing.
Think you should get a cut of his earnings?
I should call him up and tell him I ought to have a check by now.