In his 10 years of covering golf, SI senior writer Jaime Diaz has discovered one of the cruel ironies of life as a golfing golf scribe. "I watch the best players at the best golf courses in the world and talk to the world's greatest instructors and sports psychologists, and my game has only gotten worse," he says. "A little bit of knowledge is very dangerous."
If a little bit of knowledge is dangerous, then Diaz's wealth of insight on the subject has probably put his game beyond repair. "I misspent my youth playing golf and reading about it," he says. "But I was a more effective reader than player." Diaz started playing when he was eight years old by following his father, Jaime, around public courses in the San Francisco Bay Area. In those days he used a chopped-off club to swing at rocks. He developed into the No. 1 player for the University of San Francisco golf team in the mid-1970s, and, in addition, he and his father twice won the Northern California Father and Son Tournament.
But that was before 1983, when Diaz joined SI as a staff writer and started writing about golf—and college football and indoor soccer and tennis and you-name-it. After six years of covering an assortment of sports, he left SI to concentrate on his favorite one, first as a senior editor for Golf Digest and then as the golf writer for The New York Times. Now he's back with SI; his story on the Mercedes Championships, in Carlsbad, Calif., begins on page 36.
"Golf is an easy game to love," says Diaz of his many years of trailing in the wakes of the sport's greatest practitioners. "It's always fun to talk about, whether it's the latest tournament or a new kind of club. Even people who are not necessarily articulate have an insight. Trying to find out what works is never boring."
In his five-year hiatus from SI, Diaz did more than become a golf expert with a ruinous game. In 1988 he met his wife-to-be, Stephanie, a free-lance writer. She recently won one of thoroughbred racing's Eclipse Awards for an article on Sham, Secretariat's rival, that was published in The Backstretch magazine last year. They also adopted Max, a laid-back basset hound that Stephanie fell for while doing a story on an adopt-a-pet program in Norwalk, Conn. Max, who often travels with the Diazes to tournaments, has been something of a lucky charm for certain golfers. At last year's Nestle Invitational, in Orlando, Fla., Ben Crenshaw and Davis Love III both petted Max before the tournament, then finished first and tied for second, respectively. And at The Players Championship, in Ponte Vedra, Fla., Gil Morgan gave Max a few pats before his final round, then went out and shot a 65 to finish tied for third.
Diaz realizes that once the news of Max's magic gets out, he may face a queue of professional golfers eager to have an audience with the dog before every tournament. "The only danger is slobber," says Diaz. "You don't want that stuff on your grips."
The Max factor brings others, if not Diaz, good luck.