The fascinating story of the man behind the pencil putting grip

The Scoop

They used to call Paul Trevillion the 'Putter Nutter' when he suggested splitting your hands when putting. They don't any more. Mark Townsend met him

They had a par 5 at my club and I couldn’t hit the ball over this river – I never could, I’m not a golfer. One sunny day, the balls were warm, I hit the green in two to four feet. It rolled a lot but, still, I had never done this before.

I took the putt with the Vardon grip and missed the putt. And I have never played a full round of golf since.

Peter asked me how it went and I said I just wanted to putt, ever since Hutton had shown me how to hit a straight drive that’s all I wanted to do, so I practised and practised.

***

Peter brought out a golf game with Dave Thomas and he rang me up and asked if I would come to an exhibition to promote the game and hit a few putts as, by his own admission, he and Dave weren’t the best putters.

I split my hands and bang, bang, bang, bang – I couldn’t miss. That’s how I draw, I can’t draw a straight line with my hands together. I have never used a ruler. I’m 84 now and I can still draw a perfect straight line.

I once showed Neil Coles the grip and he took it as straight back as I have ever done it. It frightened the life out of me. It was the best I had seen.

I practised against a chair leg and hit it every time. Peter had a go and he was brilliant at it. I saw him at a tournament at Stoke Poges a week later and asked if he was going to do it and he said he was a bad enough putter without having to explain this method.

***

Peter and I did a book together, it wasn’t very traditional and 24 publishers all turned it down. Stanley Paul agreed to do it and gave us an advance.

Peter took the advance and I said I would take the royalties. The publisher said I might be working for nothing but I knew I wouldn’t be.

I wanted to put a picture of Charlie Chaplin in there – Peter didn’t want it, but I got my way. They reprinted the book 10 times over 20 years. Peter asked me how I did with the royalties, I said you should see my villa in Spain.

***

A four-foot putt was a six-foot putt for me, that’s how hard I hit it to take out the borrow. I never told anyone, that was my secret.

The night before the 1972 FA Cup final between Leeds and Arsenal, I had the Peter Alliss game. There were two holes almost the size of a golf hole and one hole in the middle about half the size, so we went for that.

It came down to me and Johnny Giles and he couldn’t miss. Neither of us missed from four feet. Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang…

Revie said this was going on too long so he moved it back. Johnny almost got it in, it spun out.

This was now a six-foot putt so it was my distance but I didn’t want to beat Johnny, not before the final. I knocked the ball behind me.

Big Jack Charlton picked me up off my feet and said, ‘You’re going to hit the putt.’ He put me down and, bang, I knocked it in.

As I walked out the door Allan Clarke put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘I’ll score tomorrow – and if Arsenal score, I’ll score two.’

He scored the only goal of the game.

Jack Charlton

Ben Sayers contacted me and said they had seen me on the practice putting green at The Open and that I didn’t appear to miss any putts.

‘Not from four feet, no,’ I replied. ‘Every putt is straight. Outside four feet the borrow comes in.’

They asked if I would endorse a putter – the Pencil Putter – and I said I would have to engrave a pencil on the blade. They agreed.

At the Open, Doug Sanders and Ray Floyd had cardboard cut-outs so I asked where mine was and we had some heated words. Someone overheard this and asked if I wanted a coffee. It was Bernie Silver of Dynaflyte, the biggest mail-order company in America.

He asked how good a putter I was. I said, ‘Have you seen me?’ He said, ‘No, but I’ve heard you talk – and if you can talk you can sell.’

They put six balls around the hole all four feet away and I banged them all in. He said, ‘You’ve got a deal.’ I was under contract so I went back in and asked for the cut-out again which got my contract terminated.

Dynaflyte gave me some first-class tickets to the States and I was off there.

Find out how Trevillion’s American adventure panned out on the next page…

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