The giant stick felt very heavy and awkward as I tried to figure out just where my hands should be and where the butt end should poke.
Keegan Bradley stood beside me, like a fresh-faced father.
"No, tuck it into your belly there." He said patiently. "It's easier if you pull the slack in your shirt up to make room for it."
I did as he instructed, put on my regular putting grip and tried again. It still felt a bit ridiculous but the PGA champion was so convinced that this was the way to go, I kept at it for awhile.
One would think putting would be such a simple exercise. Couple inches back, couple inches past impact, nothing to do with hip turn or elbow tuck. But in truth, it is probably the toughest part of your golf game.
It's the "feel" that either makes it or destroys it.
Bradley and so many others now at his level have become sold that the long putter, whether a belly or even longer, makes that feel so much easier.
"There's no room for mistakes," he laughed. "You almost can't force yourself to take it back inside or out. It's gotta go back straight which is the key."
As I fiddled with his putter, I thought back 20 years or so to a warm, comfortable, very memorable day in South Florida when I spent a few hours with the legendary Gene Sarazen.
"It's all in the loft," he told me about his choice of putter.
"Loft? Putters have loft?" I asked.
He laughed in that high-pitched way of his.
"Oh, yes, three degrees seemed about perfect for me."
When we finished our on-camera chat at his high-rise condo, we shook hands and said goodbye. I remained behind to help my photographer pack up. I heard that familiar voice calling from far across the common area.
"Jim," he called, "Lemme show you something."
The little man guided me to a long line of floor-to-ceiling lockers where folks kept their "stuff" and unlocked his.
There, packed neatly, was a museum's worth of memories, bags and shoes, hats and clubs.
He had trouble reaching what he was after so he asked me.
"See that putter sticking out there? Pull that down for me."
I did. It was like a child's toy, seemingly no more than 3 feet long, the grip decayed, the face dinged and rusty.
"That's the putter I won the '32 Open with," he said proudly. "See, there's your loft."
I stood, marveling in the mere history surrounding me. Wilson Sporting Goods, his long-time sponsor, would have been very proud.
"You play?" he asked.
"Sorta. Not very good."
"How's your putting?"
"Take this and see if it helps."
My jaw dropped.
"Gene, I can't take this. It belongs in a museum somewhere."
"Aw, hell, it's just a putter. Take it. Otherwise it'll get tossed with all the rest of this stuff when I die."
Reluctantly, I took the putter and, as I type these words, I can crane my neck and see it sitting in the corner of my office today.
I wonder how Keegan Bradley would react to it.
Better yet, I wonder how Gene Sarazen would have seen today's long wands?
What's your take on the long-putter issue?
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