The 11th of the 40 classic SPORTS ILLUSTRATED stories we are reprinting this year as part of our 40th-anniversary celebration is an account of the unforgettable 1975 Masters won by Jack Nicklaus (page 28) over two other great players of that or any day, Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf. The story is the handiwork of one of SI's most illustrious alumni, Dan Jenkins. Last week we caught up with Jenkins, a novelist (Semi-Tough, Baja Oklahoma, Dead Solid Perfect, Life Its Ownself), raconteur and consummate journalist who wrote for SI from 1963 to '84, at—where else?—Augusta. He was there covering his 44th consecutive Masters in his own inimitable style, schmoozing with golfers and his fellow sportswriters on the Augusta National clubhouse veranda. Although not averse to walking the course when necessary, Jenkins is famous for his ability to scope out the action from more comfortable vantage points.
Jenkins was still an undergraduate at TCU when, in 1951, he covered his first Masters for his hometown Fort Worth Press. As fate would have it, another Fort Worth native, Ben Hogan, achieved the first of his two Masters victories that year. "I thought that was nice of him," says Jenkins. "And I still think I was the only college sophomore in the city with a byline."
Jenkins covered his next nine Masters for the Press, his next two after that for the Dallas Times-Herald, his next 22 for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and his last 10 for Golf Digest. That he missed the first 14 Masters at all, he attributes to "an accident of birth."
Jenkins, now 64, figures he holds the standing Masters records for peach cobblers consumed and cocktails imbibed on the veranda, and we've also got him way ahead for witticisms uttered out of the side of the mouth, just slightly left of the dangling cigarette. When Greg Norman first appeared on the scene from Australia, in 1981, with his carved face, steel-blue eyes, windblown white-blond hair and wide shoulders, Jenkins mumbled to no one in particular, "Looks like the guy they always send after James Bond."
Of course, Jenkins saves plenty of good stuff for his copy, too, and if you're one of his legion of fans, you're in very good luck. Jenkins's most memorable SPORTS ILLUSTRATED golf work is included in SI's new anthology, simply titled Golf, which features the best golf writing in the magazine's history. A collection of Jenkins's outstanding Golf Digest pieces, Fairways and Greens, is due out later this spring. He is also in the process of turning his latest novel, You Gotta Play Hurt, into a motion picture.
And if that's still not enough of a Jenkins fix for you, you can catch the Jenkins flair in one of our current writers, Dan's daughter, Sally. Since coming to SI in 1990, Sally has concentrated on college football, another of Dan's old specialities, and tennis, but she's certainly no stranger to golf. During the seven years she spent at The Washington Post before joining SI, Sally worked the golf beat, often crossing paths with her dad, who helped show her the ropes. But Sally distinguished herself from Dan in at least one important respect. "I was out on the course a lot more than he was," she says with a laugh.
Veranda veteran Jenkins is himself a classic.