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Published: Thursday, 4/24/2003

Hardin turns feel-good stories into book

What almost ended up in the garbage instead was turned into a golf book by a first-time author, 77-year-old Toledoan Rex Hardin.

Entitled Sunday's Heroes, the book is a compilation of stories and anecdotes from Hardin's four-decade association with many of the game's great players.

“I had all these notes stacked away and I decided one day to throw it all out,” Hardin said. “My wife, Betty, suggested that maybe I should put it all in a book instead. So I did it and I'm very happy I did. It has produced a lot of satisfaction from people telling me how much they've enjoyed it.”

There is no garbage, or dirt, in Hardin's book. It is a series of short, feel-good essays about his many friends in pro golf who he met either through charity endeavors or as a businessman.

“I was on the Cancer Society board in the early 1960s when we started a local fund-raising tournament out at the old Glengarry Country Club,” said Hardin, a one-time practicing dentist whose nickname is Doc. “Then several people in the community suggested that we turn it into a pro-am event.

“So, in 1967, I organized the first event, and for a number of years we brought in some of the game's biggest names, players like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino, for exhibitions. Eventually, it became a pro-am tournament where we would invite 10 or 12 players off the pro tour every year. I recruited each one personally and got to know them pretty well.”

Readers of the book will realize that Hardin, a member of Inverness Club who used a picture of the 18th green and clubhouse on the book's cover, developed especially warm relationships with Nicklaus and Johnny Miller, both of whom are written about at length.

One of the stories tells of the first time Hardin invited Miller to appear in the Cancer Society exhibition. It was early in 1971, before Miller had won a tour event, and Hardin informed Miller he would be appearing with Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf.

“Weiskopf and Nicklaus!” Miller responded. “What do you need me for? Am I going to caddy for them?”

Hardin knew better.

“I just felt he couldn't miss, that Johnny was going to make it big,” he said.

Hardin, whose career as a dentist was ended because of arm surgery in 1985, knows something about making it big.

In the 1980s, picture plaques emerged as popular gift items for golfers who paid to participate in pro-am events. Often, they were delivered to golfers weeks after the tournament.

“I thought there had to be a way to get those out to people the same day,” Hardin said.

So, in 1986, he basically installed a one-hour photo lab in a mobile home and founded Insta-Plak. Now known as IPI, Hardin's firm is still the leader in the field and is utilized by upwards of 100 pro-am golf events a year.

“Through Insta-Plak and the pro-am events we work, I've gotten to know many more golfers,” Hardin said. “In fact, just recently, I worked at a [Champions Tour] event in Naples, Fla., and spoke with many of the senior golfers. They are all really looking forward to playing in the Senior Open at Inverness in June.”

Sunday's Heroes, published by Hats Off Books, is available online at Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com. The list price is $12.95.

The greatest golfer of all time? The greatest single season? The greatest major championship player? All questions to fuel debates long into the night for fans of the game.

Now there are answers, thanks to a project conceived and coordinated by David Mackintosh, the golf correspondent for a major newspaper in Argentina.

Golf's Greatest Eighteen ranks the top 18 players of all time by moving them onto the same course, so to speak, with everyone playing for modern-day money.

For example, while Tiger Woods' earnings of $9.2 million (upgraded to more than $11 million in current value) in 2000 is the single-season PGA Tour earnings record, the book puts Byron Nelson's 1945 campaign at the top of the list with a “new money” value of more than $15.5 million.

“We wanted to construct a level playing field so that Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen and Walter Hagen could play fairly and honestly against the prime time of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and, of course, today's phenomenon, Tiger Woods,” Mackintosh said. “We found a way, given the vast changes in terrain and equipment during the past 90 years, to balance the value of holes when Hagen hit brassie and Hogan his illustrious 2-iron against territory that for Woods is now a mere 8-iron.

“It's a fresh look at golfing history and features 18 of the best golf writers in the world today whose magnificent narratives bring each and every one of the golfing legends to life. These writers debate, each cheering on their own man, making the case for greatness, then we present the data and let the readers decide.”

(The Blade's Dave Hackenberg authored the chapter on Byron Nelson.)

Golf's Greatest Eighteen, published by McGraw-Hill, is available at most bookstores and affiliated online sites with a list price of $24.95.



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