Penick, Harvey Morrison (1904–1995)

By: James A. Wilson

Type: Biography

Published: October 1, 1995

Updated: April 28, 2019

Harvey Morrison Penick, golfer, the youngest of five sons of Daniel, a city employee, and Molly Miller Penick, was born in Austin on October 23, 1904. At age eight he began caddying at the Austin Country Club; at thirteen he became an assistant professional; and in 1923, upon graduating from Austin High School, became head professional of the club, then located at the site that became Hancock Park. In 1929 he married Helen Holmes, of Whitesboro, and they had a daughter and a son. A solid competitor in regional tournaments, Penick often claimed that watching young sensation Sam Snead convinced him to concentrate on teaching. From 1931 to 1963 Penick coached, mostly without pay, the University of Texas golf team to twenty-two Southwest Conference titles and from 1932 to 1934 was president of the Texas chapter of the Professional Golfers Association. He moved to ACC's Riverside Drive location in 1950, retired to Golf professional emeritus status in 1971, and in 1984 relocated with the club to its present site on Lake Austin. A broken back in 1972 resulted in degenerative arthritis and increasing immobility and pain in later years. He died on April 2, 1995, at his home near ACC. Penick was part of the first American generation to succeed the English and Scottish professionals who brought the game to the United States. His conversation was frequently flavored with firsthand references to Jimmie N. Demaret, Mildred "Babe" Didrickson Zaharias , Walter Hagen, and other pioneers of the big-money professional tour. His regional, national, and then international fame, however, came as a teacher, who mastered and conveyed the fundamentals to beginners, duffers, and tournament professionals, including Texans Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite and six of the thirteen members of the Ladies Professional Golfers Association Hall of Fame. His instruction emphasized clear communication, devoid of complex analysis and attuned to each pupil's makeup. His use of real-life images, like swinging a bucket of water, allowed him to "guide learning" rather than dictate. Among others, Tommy Armour, often considered the greatest teacher, bestowed that title on Penick. In the 1930s Penick began recording observations in a red Scribbletex notebook, tabbed according to subject, i.e., "hooks," "slices," "putting." Intended strictly as a teaching aid, he decided to confide its contents to writer Bud Shrake. The result, despite Penick's deteriorating physical condition, was the collaborative Harvey Penick's Little Red Book (1992), the all-time best-selling sports book that remained on the New York Times best-seller list for fifty-four weeks. There followed two more books (with Shrake), And If You Play Golf You're My Friend (1993) and For All Who Love the Game: Lessons and Teachings for Women (1995), instructional tapes, a teaching facility named for him, and three lines of clubs. He was inducted into both the Texas Golf Hall of Fame (1979) and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame (1984), was the PGA's first National Teacher of the Year (1989), and received a posthumous resolution in the Texas House of Representatives (1995).

Golf Digest, September 1985, June 1995. Curt Sampson, Texas Golf Legends (Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 1993). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Herbert Warren Wind, The Story of American Golf: Its Champions and Its Championships (Cincinnati: Golf Shop Collection, 1986).

  • Sports and Recreation
  • Sports (Golf)

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

James A. Wilson, “Penick, Harvey Morrison,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 11, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 1, 1995
April 28, 2019