Ed Heimann Has a Better Short Game Than You Do

Ed Heimann, Hyde Park Golf and Country Club, Cincinnati, Ohio, May 9, 2013.

Ed Heimann, Hyde Park Golf & Country Club, Cincinnati, Ohio, May 9, 2013.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the tremendous good fortune to play a round of golf (and give an evening talk and slide show) at Hyde Park Golf & Country Club, in Cincinnati. The club’s original course, which had nine holes, was laid out by Tom Bendelow in 1909, and the current course, which has eighteen holes, all of them terrific, was designed by Donald Ross a little over a decade later.

Among the members I played with was Ed Heimann, who has won Hyde Park’s club championship twenty-one times, in six different decades. His first win was in 1964, when he was twenty-six; his most recent was in 2010, when he was seventy-two. And he’s been the runner-up half a dozen times, during years when (I guess) he was struggling with his game.

Ed Heimann has won the Hyde Park club championship so often that his victories won't all fit on one plaque.

Ed Heimann has won the Hyde Park club championship so often that his victories spill over onto a second plaque.

His most recent victories. Still room for more.

His most recent victories. Still room for more.

Heimann isn’t very long off the tee anymore, but from inside a hundred yards he routinely gets the ball closer to the hole than many good players do from the fringe—a skill that’s especially devastating in match play, since guys who out-drive him by a hundred yards don’t expect to have to putt first. My advice to other golfers is to emulate everything Heimann does, including plumb-bobbing and wearing a green glove. And if you ever find yourself in a match with him you might as well just give him ten-footers.

Ed Heimann and Ian Wilt.

Ed Heimann and Ian Wilt. “That’s good, Ed.”

Heimann has a more interesting job than you do, too: he is the chairman of Hamilton Tailoring Company, in Avondale, which was founded the same year Hyde Park was. Hamilton has made clothing for customers as different as Perry Como and John Daly, and since 1967 it has been the exclusive manufacturer of the three-button, single-breasted sports coats worn by Augusta National members and Masters winners. (The exact shade of green: Pantone 342.) Heimann established his Augusta relationship by employing the same kind of creativity and determination that he has used to pick apart opponents in club matches for the past half-century. So watch it.

Masters Countdown: The First “Green Coats”

green jacket

Green jackets were first worn at Augusta National in 1937, but they weren’t popular. “The members were not enthusiastic at first about wearing a conspicuous Kelly-green garment,” Clifford Roberts, the club’s co-founder and chairman, wrote in 1976. “Besides, the original coats were made of material that was too heavy, so that the wearer became uncomfortably warm.”

A few years later, the club offered an improved version, and on January 13, 1941, Helen Harris, who managed the club’s office, wrote a letter to the members informing them that “the Club’s Tailor is prepared to make the official Green Coats bearing the club’s Emblem for $18.50 and if you should wish to order one, please have your own tailor fill in the measurements on the enclosed blank and return it to me.”

The club had recently done some much-needed remodeling in the clubhouse, which had been a wreck when the club and tournament began. “With the improved Club facilities,” Harris continued, “most all our Members will likely spend more time here and these green coats come in handy for lounging. They are also quite serviceable during the Master’s [sic] Tournament as they make it unnecessary to wear a badge. Moreover, they identify the wearer as a member and thus give our gallery patrons a reliable means of securing information.”

The first Masters winner to be given a green jacket was Sam Snead, in 1949. A decade earlier, the club had photographed the first five winners in green jackets, but those had been borrowed from members—in a couple of cases, from members who had significantly different dimensions. The club keeps a selection of sizes on hand, and if a player who hasn’t won before is in contention the golf shop makes a few phone calls, to get an idea of likely measurements.

Horton Smith, Byron Nelson, Gene Sarazen, Henry Picard, and Ralph Guldahl, 1939. You can order a nice print of this swell photo from the Masters website.

Horton Smith, Byron Nelson, Gene Sarazen, Henry Picard, and Ralph Guldahl, 1939. You can order a nice print of this swell photo from the Masters website. No green jacket, though.