AZ Golf Insider is a quarterly magazine that I usually pick up in the pro shop or locker room of golf courses across the state. The magazine is the official publication of the Arizona Golf Association (AGA), a not-for-profit founded in 1923 and today consists of more than 400 clubs and 55,000 members.
“Huff,” time to share:
Even though I’ve been doing the job(s) for 30 years now, I never set out to be a writer and a radio broadcaster in the world of golf. But after receiving my Bachelor and Masters degrees in Journalism (editorial sequence) from the University of Iowa, I kind of “morphed” into reporting about that specific sport.
I guess that goes back to my childhood and growing up in Iowa, where I took up the game at age 10 and fell in love with it, playing most of my early rounds on Iowa City at courses like Fairway and Finkbine. I played a little golf for the Little Hawks (City High School), too.
Actually, my first “real job” out of college, not including working for the student-run Daily Iowan, was covering high school football in San Antonio for the Express-News. It was at The News, a Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper, where I got my first big break, being promoted to assistant sports editor when the sports editor and assistant sports editor moved – over night! – to the New York Post, which Murdoch had purchased, creating a large resignation by the then-Post staff. They needed editors in New York, and they needed them in San Antonio, and so I took the job and ran – to the Des Moines Register – where I also became a writer/editor.
It was at The Register – “the Big Peach” -- where I gained most of my newspaper knowledge and writing style by working with such great scribes as Maury White, Ron Maly and Buck Turnbull, and editors like Gene Raffensperger and David Witke. (You might not know this, but The Register has won more Pulitzers, 16, than any other newspaper but the New York Times!). And that “education” lasted about five years, or until I took a job at The Arizona Republic as its assistant sports editor in 1981. At that point, I thought I was on my way to becoming sports editor, but a regime shakeup four years later left me dangling to the point where they asked me what I’d like to do at the newspaper rather than be an editor? I thought about it for about two seconds and replied: “How about golf writer?”
Verne Boatner, the golf writer at the newspaper at that time, was retiring, and so I spent a few months working with Verne and then I covered the 1986 Phoenix Open at Phoenix Country Club. I was on my way. At The Republic, I covered all the majors, including our own version of a major – the Waste Management Phoenix Open. That continued at The East Valley Tribune from 2000-2010. All totaled, I have covered 20 Masters, 12 U.S. Opens, three British Opens, 12 PGAs and five Ryder Cups. There were years when I covered as many 26 tournaments including college and amateur events, meaning I was gone a lot. Like 1992, when I got divorced.
I started doing Backspin the Golf Show in 1999 on KGME. That’s been a fun ride, as the show is now in its 25th year and airs in Phoenix on Fox Sports 910 and in Tucson on 1290 The Source. I’ve also written a book, Arizona’s Greatest Golf Courses. Some other things I’ve taken a lot of pride in being involved with include being elected national president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association; being on the executive board of the Golf Writers Association of America; hosting the Media Classic – an annual gathering of 72 international golf writers -- for 16 straight years; and getting to play Augusta National Golf Club – twice! (That’s right, during 20 of those Masters I was lucky enough to have my number in the media lottery drawn twice.)
These days, besides the radio show, I’m also the editor-in-chief of AZGOLF Insider, the official magazine of the Arizona Golf Association. I love planning and executing the magazine, because it’s different than the daily deluge of a newspaper. You have to think way ahead of yourself, you get to work with some outstanding golf writers like Joe Passov, Tom Mackin and John Davis, and you have to stay on top of the golf scene from every angle – players, equipment, amenities, travel, etc.
But the best part of my job? That would be getting to know some incredible people through the years, like Arnold Palmer, Betsy King, Bob Goldwater, Heather Farr, Phil Mickelson and Karsten Solheim, to name a few. Plus, I did it my way, writing and reporting and telling it (at least from my perspective), “like it is.” It’s cost me what I thought were a few friendships, but there’s a good chance those really weren’t friends. Like I tell people who watch Bill Huffman from a distance, including my wife Wendi and my three kids and eight grandchildren, “Being a golf writer is a tough job. But somebody has got to do it!”