The Corner


Bring on the Funk

Fred Funk at the Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., March 28, 2005 (Rick Fowler / Reuters)

Impromptus today is mainly a post-election column — about the GOP, the Electoral College, and other such subjects. I also have some music, language, and golf, if only for relief. And, here on the Corner, I’d like to spend a minute on golf, which may be especially fitting, seeing it’s Masters week.

The Masters? In November? Shouldn’t it be in April? Yes, but the pandemic has played tricks on the calendar, as on much else.

In my column today, I mention Fred Funk. Two weeks ago, he made the cut at a PGA tournament, in Bermuda. He became the fourth man age 64 or older to make a cut on Tour. The others are Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, and Tom Watson.

When Funk heard about this, he said, “That’s really good. And then ‘Funk.’ You throw that in there, it doesn’t sound right, does it?”

To make the cut, Funk birdied two out of the last three holes, chipping in on the last one. But hang on, it gets better.

His playing partner that day was a young man who turned pro three years ago, after playing at the University of Texas: Taylor Funk, Fred’s son. When his dad chipped in, Taylor pounced on him, in celebration. Taylor later told the press, “I was like, ‘I didn’t hurt you, did I?’ He’s very fragile nowadays.”

Fred Funk has always been one of the most lovable people in professional golf. He was an Everyman. Let me give you a slice of his Wikipedia entry:

Fred Funk was born in Takoma Park, Maryland. He tried several sports, and even boxed for eight years for a junior boys club. He played on the golf team at High Point High School in Beltsville, Maryland.

Funk went to the University of Maryland, College Park, but was cut from the golf team in 1975. He transferred to Prince George’s Community College, then returned to UM two years later to earn a top spot with the Terrapins golf team. At the time he also held a job as a circulation supervisor for the Washington Star. He graduated from the University of Maryland in 1980 with a degree in law enforcement. He turned professional in 1981, but worked as a golf coach at UM from 1982 to 1988.

I met him in 1996, at a reception in Washington, D.C. I believe the reception was for a charity connected to golf. There must have been a tournament in the area, because several players were there: Besides Funk, I remember Ray Floyd and Chi Chi Rodriguez. Also, the mayor was there: Marion Barry. I have a story about that, too, but will save it for another time.

I talked to Floyd, and to Chi Chi. Jack Nicklaus had just won a tournament on the Senior Tour. I said to Chi Chi, “Wasn’t it great to see Jack win?” Chi Chi narrowed his eyes and said, “I like it when I win.” Then he broke into a big smile and said, “Yeah, I know what you mean.”

Always concerned about the golf swing — mine, in particular — I asked Fred Funk about his: “When did your swing come together? Was there a time — a particular day, or week — when something clicked? When you could simply hit the ball?” He said no. He was still working on it, still putting in the time, still digging it out of the dirt (to borrow Hogan’s famous phrase).

Duffers, take note, and maybe heart.

I asked Funk about his favorite swings, all time. He named three, as I remember: Snead, Watson, and Norman — the later Norman, a modified swing. Efficient as all get-out.

That’s all I got for you, Funk-wise. What a wonderful personality, one of the best in sports.

Again, today’s Impromptus is here. Also, I have done a podcast — a Q&A — with Robert Costa. Bob, as you know, is a national political reporter for the Washington Post, and an analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, and the host of Washington Week, on PBS. He is a National Review alum. We talk about all matters electoral and political, or many of them. He is one of the finest reporters and analysts in America — and a sterling guy. Our podcast is here.


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