A Putter Swap For A Lifetime

Having played golf with Chuck Munson for almost 50 years and watched him putt so beautifully with one particular putter over most of that period, I asked him where he acquired the putter he calls “National Velvet”.  It is an interesting story.

A Putter Swap For a Lifetime – By Chuck Munson

Mike Allen mentioned to me that he was doing a story about Dudley Krueger for Golf Austin as part of a series bringing life to names on various trophies recognizing winners of the major amateur tournaments in Austin.  Dudley was well known for his golfing talents, but I would like to share a twist of fate related to Dudley Krueger that greatly impacted my golf for well over 50 years.  

You see my father, Charlie Munson, although an exceptional multi-sport athlete at Austin High and the University of Texas, thought golf to be a rather silly game until he started playing some local muny courses in the early 1950s.  Not sure if it was at Muny or Hancock, but my dad was using some old clubs of my grandfather and a wooden shafted putter must have caught Dudley’s eye.

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Dudley had a brand new, shiny Spalding HBA blade putter that apparently became expendable to Dudley and he swapped it for my grandfather’s old putter.  My dad must have thought he had made a great deal.  Maybe Dudley did too.  What I know is that a few years later I started playing golf with my Dad who was then an avid and pretty good golfer, no more that silly game.  I remember that Spalding HBA in his bag but remember more that it found a place in the closet. 

Fast forward to playing for Mc Callum High in the 1967 High School Regional tournament at Olmos Basin in San Antonio following our team’s impressive District win at Morris Williams.  Likely playing with teammates Tom Kite and Richard Buratti, we take a lunch break from a practice round to return to our bags left near the practice putting green.

Disaster, my Wilson 8813, not quite the same as Ben Crenshaw’s beloved 8802, is gone.  When the putter doesn’t turn up, it’s to the closet and after reviewing the options, the Spalding HBA is in my line up.  We didn’t win the Regional although some kid named Kite did win the individual and later won the State Individual title a week later at Morris Williams.

The disappointment of losing the putter and the team’s chances to play for State at home was softened by the fact that I kept playing with that putter during college days under the watchful eyes of George Hannon and some guys that won the National Championships in 1971 and 1972.

In those days, my teammates and I liked to call my putter “National Velvet”, because I liked to think the ball came off the putter like it was rolling on velvet.  I am fortunate enough to have my name on a trophy that Mike will talk about and won a few tournaments or matches that I can recall fondly, but I can think of few golfing times since 1967 without the Spalding HBA in the bag.

For many years, the grip wasn’t changed, then only to a type of pistol grip that was conforming to USGA standards.  Frank Paul and guys at Golfsmith and Ben Crenshaw have warned they don’t know of a replacement.  So just like the advice given me from great players like Chip Stewart at the University to teachers like Harvey Penick to never, ever change the shaft in National Velvet, the grip changes and an occasional piece of black tape on the back of the putter head have been the only modifications in now well over 40 years. 

Ben was kind enough to loan me a couple of spare HBAs he had found at garage sales and I in turn lent one to my father, now 88, to help on some putting mishaps.  Kind of full circle I guess.

The swap my Dad made with Dudley in the early 1950s was a swap for my lifetime.

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