It was nice to see such a full rich obituary of Eliot Asinof in today’s Times, dead at age 88. I have an oddly vivid memory of him, because he was the first “good” player I ever played a round of golf with, in the summer of 1981 when I took up the game. It was at Noyac Golf Club, a tough and gnarly course in the shadow of the more established courses of eastern Long Island: you then could join for the price of dues. I had started playing about two months earlier and was still pretty terrible. But I went out walking on hot mid-week afternoon, carrying my bag, and Eliot asked me to join. He was carrying too, at age 61. He knew where the little bushes of raspberries were hidden on the course. He had a wide stance and every drive he hit hooked 15-20 yards, hardly ever more or less. I remember him making a “two trap four” on Noyac’s number eleven (fairway and greenside bunker, making the putt) and topped one shot, a 2 iron on the 15th hole. “A tired swing” he explained after three hours on the course. He must have shot 75 to my 108, so you can see why the round was memorable to me.
I was an aspiring neoconservative, gearing up to write for Commentary. Eliot was a black-listed leftist (the Times said he “signed a petitition” for integration outside Yankee Stadium but I would guess there was more to it than that). There’s too much else to think about to have to reconsider everything, but I increasingly doubt the evil of communism required the blacklist and generalized climate of fear of America in the 1950’s, an hysteria today’s neoconservatives are now working to recreate. I’m sure Eliot would have been more rich and famous without the blacklist taking some of his best years, but he was successful enough. And what a grooved swing– producing that great rarity, the controlled, repeatable, right to left shot.