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Merrins is golf prince of Bel-Air

By By Marty Stamper / EMG sports assistant
Aug. 16, 2002
Meridian has produced some fine golfers in its past. Perhaps the one best-known would come as a surprise, however.
There's Mike Taylor, a 10-time state amateur champion, and Clay Long, who has designed clubs for several companies. Jack Nicklaus used a putter designed by Long to win a Masters championship in 1986.
But Eddie Merrins takes a back seat to no one from around here.
Born in Meridian, Merrins became a student of the game in 1944 at the tender age of 11. At 17, he outscored Sam Snead and Byron Nelson in separate exhibition matches.
He went on to win the Mississippi state amateur championship in 1950, 1953, and 1955.
According to Golf Digest, Merrins was the fifth-ranked amateur in the U.S. in 1955. In 1957, he turned pro, playing the Winter PGA Tour. In all, he has played in more than 200 Tour events and 35 national championships.
While Merrins could hold his own on the course, he's even better known for teaching the game to others.
Merrins has been the head professional at Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles for the last 40 years. Known as the "Little Pro," his golf instruction has become legendary.
Merrins recently released a video collection called "Swing the Handle." Among those appearing with Merrins in the eight-volume video library are Tour pros Duffy Waldorf, Bob May, Helen Alfredsson, and David Feherty, along with Hollywood celebrities Craig T. Nelson, Robert Wagner, and Jack Wagner, and singer/songwriter Mac Davis.
Others who have received instruction from Merrins include George C. Scott, James Woods, Corey Pavin, Steve Pate, Ben Crenshaw, and Raymond Floyd.
Showing players how to carry themselves on and off the course has been a strong suit of Merrins.
Craig T. Nelson said, "If you want the best advice you can get, and as simple as it can possibly be, then you have to take a lesson with this man."
Merrins explained his formula.
While many golfers wind up talking themselves out of making good shots, actor Robert Wagner says Merrins' philosophy is one of instilling self-confidence.
For more information on the "Swing the Handle Video Collection," call 1-866-MERRINS or visit
Dancing Rabbit
honored again
Dancing Rabbit Golf Club near Philadelphia has been named to Golf Magazine's biennial "Top 100 You Can Play" course list.
Dancing Rabbit was No. 35 on the list with famed Pebble Beach checking in at the top spot. Dancing Rabbit was the only course in
Mississippi named to the list.
A panel composed of PGA section directors, regional golf association directors, golf writers, and other members of the golf community voted on the "Top 100 You Can Play" from a list of more than 400 daily-fee, resort, and semi-private courses.
Kennedy catches fire
Thomas Kennedy didn't let a little thing like not being in the championship flight keep him from winning the Newton County Invitational at Union Golf Club last weekend.
A 5-under par 67, easily the best round of the two-day tournament, vaulted the Union native into the lowest 36-hole score at 142, 2-under par. He was the tournament champion despite being bumped to the first flight after opening with a 75.
Second place went to defending champion Dan Luke of Decatur at even-par 144. Luke was the winner of the championship flight.
Al Jones of Union was third with a 1-over 145. Terry Sessums of Union was fourth, also at 145, while fifth place, also at 145, went to Jim Humphreys of Newton.
The next two lowest scores also came from the first flight as Bo Welch of Union had a 146 and Terry Rainer of Union had a 147.
Upcoming tournaments
Lakeview Golf Course will host a two-person scramble to benefit the Girl Scouts of Gulf Pines Council Saturday. Entry fee is $90 per team. For more information, call Richard Camp at 601-693-3301.
The 27th-annual Philadelphia Country Club Four-Ball is this weekend. David Calhoun and Kent Smith of Oxford are the two-time defending champions.
The eighth-annual Ryder Cup competition between Newton Country Club and Decatur Country Club will be held at Newton, Aug. 24-25.
The Harry Lackey Labor Day Tournament will be Aug. 31-Sept. 2 at Briarwood Country Club. For more information, call Briarwood pro Rob McGraw at 601-681-6183.
Northwood Country Club will also host a Labor Day Tournament, Aug. 31-Sept. 2. For more information, call Northwood pro Jimmy Gamblin at 601-483-5551.
Newton Country Club will host a Two-Person Select Tournament, Sept. 1-2. Entry fee is $25 per person. For more information, call Joel Nelson at 601-683-3101 or 601-683-3770, Clay Chapman at 601-683-3351 or 601-683-3422, or Steve Nelson at 601-683-3586.
Philadelphia Country Club will host a one-person scramble on Aug. 31. Entry fee is $25 per person. For more information, call PCC pro Michael Novorot at 601-656-8512.
The fourth-annual Citizens Cup match between Union Golf Club and Philadelphia Country Club is set for Sept. 7-8 at Union.
The third-annual Laurel Exchange Club/Child Abuse Prevention Center Invitational Golf Tournament will be held Sept. 27 at Laurel Country Club. The format is a four-person scramble. For more information, call Don Hall at 601-649-2437.
This is the final golf column for this summer as next Friday begins a series of columns dealing with high school sports in the area with several taking a look back at teams and coaches who had good years.
Thanks to all the golfers and pros who have provided information for this year's golf columns. We'll revive the golf columns in June.