Dan Jenkins died last week without a major championship, or even any FedEx Cup points to his name. Yet it’s hard to think of a figure who influenced modern golf, and the way we talk about it, more than he did.
Jenkins, who died at age 90 in his native Fort Worth, Texas, was a newspaperman when newspapers were at their peak, stood at the center of the golden age of magazine journalism, and was a surprising early adapter to Twitter, often shaping the conversation about the game during the biggest weeks of the year. It was Jenkins who helped turn the likes of Palmer and Nicklaus into stars, and also clarified why stars in golf mattered so much in the first place. Those were the players who earned the cover of Sports Illustrated back when Jenkins was covering majors for the magazine in the ’60s and ’70s, whereas the anonymous tour pro who snuck into contention was derided as “low nightmare.”
By the time Jenkins arrived at Golf Digest in 1985, he had already revolutionized the vocabulary of golf, and in his tenure here, no one worked closer with him than executive editor Mike O’Malley. O’Malley was the editor of Jenkins’ magazine features from 1996 right through his final piece for the magazine on Golf Digest’s Greatest of All Time Invitational published this month. And he was also Jenkins’ “co-conspirator on Twitter,” assisting the technologically-averse Jenkins navigate the platform while also ensuring the veteran scribe’s biting wit didn’t venture too far off line.
On this week’s Golf Digest Podcast, O’Malley discusses the incredible mark Jenkins made on the craft of sportswriting, what it was like to edit a living legend, and how the generous Jenkins differed from his ornery public persona.