The Uneasy Legacy of an Uncommon Golfer

It was a year ago this week that Michael Hoke Austin died in Los Angeles at the age of 95, and another week before everyone could gather for a memorial to send him off properly.

Mike Dunaway, the world-renowned long-driver who regarded Austin as a second father, flew in from Arksansas. Jaacob Bowden, spiritual grandson to the Austin legacy, came down from Carmel. Phil Reed, who memorialized Austin in his book "In Search of the Perfect Swing," was there from Long Beach, along with Gary Sanati from Torrance and other acolytes from the metropolitan area.

Thomas Dang, the arriviste who bought the rights to Austin’s name, was there, too, claiming that Austin wasn’t cantankerous when everyone knew he was, and had long ago forgiven him.

Only Dan Shauger, Austin’s other spiritual son and high priest of the swing brotherhood, missed the memorial. Austin and Shauger had a falling out near the end of Austin’s life, which was unfortunate since Shauger had spent 25 years mastering the intricacies of Austin’s glorious, fluid swing and perpetuating his legacy.

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Neal Donald Walsch and ‘Prior Assumption’

A few weeks ago, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution asked me to interview Neale Donald Walsch, the author of the 1995 best-seller "Conversations with God" and its sequels, and write a story about people who talk with God. The occasion was the impending release of the film version of "Conversations with God," and Walsh and the film’s director, Stephen Simon, were on an 18-city promotional tour. (The URL for that article is on this website under "Journalism.")

We met in a hotel conference room bereft of amenities except a big, square table, a few chairs and some bottled water. Walsch is a burly man, well over six feet tall, and wore dark slacks and a bright blue, long-sleeved shirt. With his full white beard, long white hair and spectacles, he looked like Michelangelo’s depiction of God, albeit a God who’d just finished with the day’s paperwork.

Walsch proved to be a willing and agreeable interview subject. Indeed, I got the impression that he has been interviewed often, and rather enjoys having an audience, however big or small.

Walsch said he thought it fairly commonplace that people talk to God, and pointed out that books, magazines, films and even TV shows over the past decade have abounded with reference to God, angels, etc. He said he still talks to God himself, and still sometimes wonders "if my mind is playing tricks on me."

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