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Golf and the Legacy of Harvey Penick


Sports Illustrated described Harvey Penick as “golf’s Socrates – the game’s greatest teacher and philosopher.” Tall praise, yet the record suggests those words don’t overtop the legacy of Harvey Penick. Late in life Penick, with co-author Bud Shrake, published Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book: Lessons and Teachings from a Lifetime in Golf, and it quickly became the bestselling golf book in history. They followed it up with several more volumes and they also became bestsellers.

Before publishing his insights into life and golf, however, Penick coached the Texas Longhorns to 21 Southwest Conference Championships in 31 years. And, at Austin Country Club, where he was head golf pro for 50 years, Penick taught scores of top-tier professionals and thousands of “wannabes” how to “take dead aim.”

Socrates had Plato, and Penick also had disciples. Most famously, Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite – two of the finest players in history – were both coached by Harvey Penick. Although Kite is slightly older, the two men grew up together in Austin, played on UT teams that won the NCAA national championships in 1971 and 1972, and went on to win multiple majors and be enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Both men have also paid it forward, as can be seen in the careers of Mark Brooks, Justin Leonard, and – most recently – Jordan Spieth.

Tom Kite; Ben Crenshaw and his manager, Scott Sayers; and Tinsley Penick, the son of Harvey Penick and his father’s successor at the Austin Country Club, have all contributed personal memorabilia to the Stark Center, including personal scrapbooks, a Masters trophy, and the original “Little Red Book.” Their generosity has made this exhibition possible, and it will allow future researchers to access the material. Additional photographs in the exhibit are on loan from the LA84 Foundation in Los Angeles and the renowned photographer Stephen Green-Armytage of Sports Illustrated.

Click here to read Terry Todd’s blog on Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, and Austin’s surprisingly rich golf history.