I got my first clubs when I was about seven and started playing complete rounds when I was ten. I grew up in Kokomo, Indiana, and my father was a member of the country club there. He had a golf scholarship at Purdue and still shot better than his age two years ago, the same year he died at eighty-three. He was sort of my inspiration, and he let me play all summer, until I went away to college, without having to go out and work. We played together a fair amount, and I caddied for him on the weekends. That was the deal: I'd caddy for him, and then I could play whenever I wanted.
"At that point I had a pretty simple swing, like him, and he worked with me if he felt I was doing something wrong. Mostly it was just going out and having fun. I played on my high school team in Indiana for two years, and then my father got transferred to New York, and I was captain of the golf team at Horace Greeley in Chappaqua, New York. I think we were undefeated my senior year.
"I played at Syracuse and lettered—and then I stopped playing. I just quit. Like most people, when you go out and start making your way in the world it becomes much more difficult. I played a little bit my first year out of college before I got drafted, and then went off in the Army for three years, and then I started working in this business and it just got really crazy. I'd play four or five times a year with my dad, and that was about it. And then my wife and I got a country house out on Long Island, a weekend house that I needed to kind of keep my sanity, and I started trying to resurrect my game about six years ago.
"One of the great things about golf—like any sport—if you play it when you're young, it's a lot different than starting at age fifty. A lot of it came back.
"I just played with Clint Eastwood at TehÀma, his course in Carmel Valley [California]. We've stayed in touch over the years, and he's great company. The first time I did a story on him he was just building the course, and so we went back and gave it a try.
I played in the AT&T Pro-Am in 2001, and that was a lot of fun, but the one thing I found out was that there's a big difference between a New York nine [handicap] and a California nine. . . . The California nines play all the time, and they've got their game in shape. But, you know, I didn't kill anybody—and it was tremendous fun. I made a lot of pars, a couple birdies . . . a lot of double bogeys.
"I had thought I was pretty much immune to being nervous doing anything—because I've done live news and all of that other stuff. But I could barely get the ball on the tee at Pebble. There were a lot of people out there. It made me pretty nervous. So I duck-hooked one—I didn't hit anybody—but I got it past the crowd and I was just glad to get outta there.
"I did a story on Greg Norman a couple of years ago and got the chance to play with him at Royal Dornoch in Scotland. By about the third hole the word had spread around the village that Norman was playing, and by the end we must have had four or five hundred people following us. I really couldn't putt that day—I couldn't make it from six inches. And that was a little embarrassing.
"You just have to take it one shot at a time. I'm always better if I don't know what I'm shooting, but I always keep score in the back of my mind. I wish I could just concentrate on the shot that I'm about to make, not the next hole. But you can always resurrect a round—always. You just have to, you know, do it—not give up and not get disgusted and try to play your way out of it.
"The most memorable rounds I've played were with my father down in Pine Valley and over at St. Andrews. We used to play in a lot of father-son tournaments. A good friend of mine says that father-son tournaments are responsible for huge psychiatric bills later in life. I'm a little too Catholic for that, but certainly there were days. . . . My dad always took it very seriously, and if I didn't hit a very good shot he let me know.
"My son and I played nine holes in a father-son tournament last year, which is about the extent of his attention span. As I told my partner afterward, 'That's not bad for a kid who's still got cartoons on his underwear.'
"It's something that's great about the game. Most of the golfers I know started off with their dads. It's a great thing to do with your sons and daughters. I mean, I can't play a round without thinking of my dad. It's a real family sport.
"It's also the reason why nobody retires at 60 Minutes. None of them play golf! They're all trying to figure out what the hell they're gonna do."
Kroft on Camera
ANALYSIS BY CLAUDE HARMON
Steve has a good stance, with just a bit more weight on his left side than on his right at address. He makes a classic one-piece take-away, but already his left shoulder is going a little down and his right hip is a little high. Steve then makes a really good turn. His arms are very close to his head, his club a little past parallel. His right knee has lost some flex, which is caused by the address position. There's a slight reverse pivot at the top. But he recovers well, coming into impact solidly, though you can see his weight falling slightly back and his hips turning out of the way as he follows through. His arms are a bit close to his body, but he's got a classic finish, and generally you have to say the man looks pretty good on camera.
Scorecard STEVE KROFT
BEST SCORE 70 at Tecumseh Club at Point East, NY
MEMBERSHIPS National Golf Links of America, Southampton, NY
FAVORITE COURSES TO PLAY National; Cypress Point, CA; Pebble Beach; Pine Valley, NJ; Kokomo Country Club, IN