Jim Witt

March 18, 2014

Dan Jenkins told the tale that inspired me

His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir is a raucous tale of the Fort Worth author’s decades as a journalist, golfer and screenwriter.

It’s strange how Aug. 16 is a date that keeps showing up in my life.

I was named executive editor of the Star-Telegram Aug. 16, 1996. I helped convince sports columnist Randy Galloway to leave The Dallas Morning News and join the Star-Telegram Aug. 16, 1998. And for everybody who knows I have a fascination with Elvis, he died Aug. 16, 1977.

So I really wasn’t surprised when I read Fort Worth sportswriter Dan Jenkins’ new autobiography, His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir, and found out that the Sports Illustrated story he wrote that got me interested in journalism as a 13-year-old was published Aug. 16, 1965.

Of course.

It was called “The Glory Game at Goat Hills,” and it was a hilarious story about the escapades of Jenkins and a cast of characters who played golf from the mid-1940s to the late 1950s at the old Worth Hills municipal course that used to be off Stadium Drive across from TCU.

The exploits of Cecil the Parachute, Tiny, Easy Reid, Magoo, Foot the Free, Grease Repellent, Ernie, Matty, Rush, Little Joe, Weldon the Oath, Jerry, John the Band-Aid and Moron Tom had a huge impact on me.

It was the conversational way that Jenkins wrote, and the raucous humor he sprinkled throughout the story, that really spoke to me. A sample:

“Bored, we often played Goat Hills backward, to every other hole, to every third hole, entirely out of bounds except for the greens (which meant you had to stay in the roads and lawns), with only one club or at night, which was stimulating because of all the occupied cars parked on the more remote fairways.

“One of the most interesting games we invented, however, was the Thousand-yard Dash. This was a one-hole marathon. It started at the farthest point on the course from the clubhouse and ended at the chipped-out place in the concrete on the porch. I have forgotten who invented it. Most likely it was either Foot the Free or myself or Matty, for we had once played from the Majestic Theater to the Tarrant County Courthouse in downtown Fort Worth — anything off Throckmorton Street was out of bounds — without getting arrested.’’

I played golf every day back then at a little 9-hole muni course in Roswell, N.M, the same one Hall-of-Fame player Nancy Lopez learned on. So my friends and I immediately invented some unconventional golf games too.

Jenkins went from the Fort Worth Press to the Dallas Times-Herald to Sports Illustrated for 24 years, then to Playboy and Golf Digest for even longer. Along the way he became a best-selling author and his books Semi-Tough and Dead Solid Perfect and Baja Oklahoma were all made into movies. He was recently inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame and received the Red Smith Award, the highest honor you can get as a sportswriter.

And he owes it all to the fact that to the rest of America, Texas is a really like a foreign country.

It’s the same reason Dr. Phil is such a big hit on TV. Viewers love to hear him spout “Texanisms” while he’s dispensing his pop psychology.

I found Jenkins’ memoir to be a can’t-put-it-down-because-it’s-so-funny experience. But of course I’m from Fort Worth, love golf and college football and every one of his previous books and work at a newspaper and try to write occasionally, so if none of those descriptions fit you then I can’t really say if you’ll like it or not.

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