The first of three articles is about the men who specialized in entertaining the crowds with their uniquely trained skills.
Paul Hahn-Trick shot specialist, comedian, philosopher, and great educator.
Born 1919 and died 1976
A look through the golf posts on the social media pages will soon find an act involving a trick shot. Somebody with Knees bending and elbows flying while performing an acrobatic stunt.
Some of these performances are truly impressive and must have taken some time to perfect, while others are more likely to have been as a result of repeating a trick until it worked with the camera filming.
As interesting and dextrous as the short trick might be it will be quickly erased from the memory. It was just a trick. The trick may have too much acrobat or chance and too little golf content, while a professional performance given by an experienced entertainer and high-level golfer does exactly the opposite, leaving the audience with a feeling of not only awe but also swing knowledge.
Former Tour Professional who also developed a great act in the eighties Noel Hunt entertains the German audience performing the "scissor hand" stunt in the 1980s
The normal candidate for the trick-shot professional artists of the past would be an extremely good player who never quite had the skills or mentality to win enough money on the Tour.
Joe Kirkwood performed the earliest international trick-shot act. He was a creative giant and maestro at inventing "clubs" that needed special skills.
Kirkwood broke the norm` as a multi-talented athlete who had previously won many times on the Australian circuit. He only started to build an act after positive feedback while performing before the troops in the first world war, but eventually, the tricks swallowed his golfing prowess up and spoilt his playing career.
The enigmatic John Montegue, who appeared from nowhere in the early thirties with a huge bag of specially made clubs .
Many other brilliant individuals were also recognized for their ability and talent to carry out shots that had never been seen before. They would invent and use implements that challenged the resourcefulness of even the greatest athletes.
Yet of all of those great individuals who have entered this specialized field in the past, it is Paul Hahn who worked the hardest to develop his show into an act that would reap maximum financial benefit. Hahn gave himself the title of "the Wizard of Clubs" and the king of trick-shot artists.
Although he was not alone in a growing niche market his grasp of commentary and satire ensured he lifted his act to another level that was above all other performers of the time.
Hahn left the tournament circuit in 1948 after a two‐year stint. “I wasn't a bad golfer,” he admitted in interviews, “but I wasn't good enough. I didn't make enough money to mark my ball. My attitude wasn't right for competition. I just didn't have the heart for it. I'm 6 feet 1 inch tall and weigh 187 pounds. It takes a lot of food to keep me going and I wasn't eating too well in those lean years."
Advertising his services in the fifties
Hahn started life in golf as a caddy in Charleston, South Carolina. He always gave credit to Henry Picard for helping him to develop a solid action. His game and natural charm allowed him to move up the ranks to that of club Pro before World War 2 took him to the sea.
Any player who saw those names on the competitors board must have felt weak at the knees.
Returning back to the game after the war saw him try his hand on the Tour circuit, whereby he quickly realized he didn`t have the game to compete against the likes of Hogan, Nelson, and Snead. Being a natural talker and entertainer helped him to choose a different path in Professional golf.
Many of the tricks Hahn developed are used as standard today.
He went to work on building up his trick shot abilities and routine, his early audiences were mostly students from the local university, who would provide the feedback he needed to develop each stunt to a professional level.
The scissor-hand stunt is the most important act in any trick shot performers repertoire. Done properly it is a magnificent example of rhythm and strength.
The final icing on the cake came when Bob Hope took a shine to him and loaned Hahn his scriptwriters.
Within four years his reputation as a trick shot specialist with a great act was growing fast. He was earning $60,000 per annum in 1952, piloting his own Piper Comanche airplane over 100,000 miles each year to exhibitions, contributing to Golf World magazine in a weekly column, and working on the first of two books and two pamphlets.
Hahn had developed an act that incorporated 40 trick shots and three basic routines. Some were done with flexible shafts, some with one arm, and some with a club in each hand.
His shots brought a lot of laughs, as did the patter that accompanied them.
It was in Hahn`s role as ambassador that Jack Nicklaus declared that the golfing world was indebted to him and his work, which helped spread interest in the game.
It was a natural development with his international engagements for Paul Hahn to become an ambassador for golf during the sixties. Traveling to international venues he had now integrated an educational element into his act. The fundamentals of the swing and the ethics of the game were smoothly interwoven into his dialogue.
The William Tell shot
His most famous and popular routine was the William Tell shot. Instead of an apple, his attractive blonde assistant held a wooden tee between her teeth with a golf ball on it! The routine was often repeated four times a day!
William Tell`s apple is substituted for a golf ball-click to expand
On deciding to cover the very small possibility of error Hahn decided to insure the stunt. The insurers would only take the risk if Hahn was prepared to use a special driver. The specification was that the shaft would be backed up with another shaft inside it!
After seeing the stunt at Augusta Ben Hogan advised him to drop it. "Everyone can make a mistake Paul." Hahn dropped it.
In fact, Paul Hahn has only one shot in his career that he felt he really muffed. That was when he had just attained a pilot's license and had bought his first Piper Comanche. On leaving the air hanger he miscalculated the wing span and caught it on a post, ripping the left wing off. That little misjudgment cost him 7500 dollars ( must be worth at least ten times that 62 years later).
Telling his audience
According to Hahn “Human frailty is never so manifest as it is on the golf course.”.
He would also often say ” If you want to play golf, it`s a case of either-or. You`ll have to get out and work at it, or just decide to play for the fresh air and exercise. You can`t expect a crop of corn if you don`t plant the seeds,”
Hahn was referring to all the golfers who expected to play a good round after having been sitting behind a desk all week.
He would continue his speech by advising “you should plan the day`s outing around the 95 that`s realistic instead of the 88 shot on a warm summer day when the fairways were firm and not a leaf was stirring in the trees, and everything was dropping….”
The Hahn viewpoint was if you played within your capacity and adopted a more realistic approach you could relieve the burden of self-pressure.
At only 5ft 7inch(170cm) tall Yogi was a legendary power hitter and catcher. Interestingly he played baseball as a left-hander and reverted to the other side for golf (although he putted on the left side).
Hahn's unofficial financial adviser was Lawrence Peter"Yogi" Berra, then the New York Yankee manager. After taking a golf lesson from Hahn, the erudite Yogi said, “Don't let them get you for nuttin,' Paul.” Hahn took Yogi's, advice. He charged $500 a day in the early sixties. That was not far off the amount paid to film stars of the time and was the equivalent of five thousand dollars in today's currency.
Paul Hahn junior When Paul Hahn senior passed away at the young age of 57 he was succeeded by his son Paul junior, who had been " learning the ropes " for many years before.
A successful teaching pro-Paul Hahn junior had learned all the tricks and could entertain the crowds just as well as father.