The first time I met Bev Norwood was in the media center at the 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational. I was a rookie on the beat and still trying to figure out the whole covering the Tour thing, so I was relieved when the first person I ran into after checking in was John Paul Newport from the Wall Street Journal.
Then, Bev, a longtime publicist at IMG, appeared and JP introduced us and told Bev to take care of me. Almost immediately, Bev moved my seat from the slums in the back corner of the media center to the a first class seat in the second row near all the veteran, established writers.
On Saturday of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, there’s a special annual dinner in the Bay Hill clubhouse where only a select number of media members receive invitations. I didn’t realize that at the time when Bev invited me. (And I’m sure there were some WTF looks from the veterans when I showed up.) And again, the next two years.
This past March, when Bev, who was sitting across the aisle from me, leaned over and in a slightly hushed voice, said, “Dinner on Saturday?”, I replied, “Of course! Thanks for thinking of me again.”
He smiled and then asked me if I had a birthday recently because he had seen something on Twitter a few weeks ago. I told him that it was actually the following week, but I had started a countdown or it had been my friend’s 30th, whatever — I was caught off-guard for two reasons: 1) I didn’t know Bev was on Twitter; 2) I couldn’t believe he remembered a throwaway tweet from earlier that month.
But, that was Bev for you. He was frail, but sharp as a whip.
When Saturday rolled around, I wasn’t feeling that well, and after a long debate I had with myself, I decided it would be better for me to get some rest. I looked around for Bev that afternoon and I couldn’t find him. I thought, “Weird, I saw him this morning.”
An hour or two later, Bev was back, with his hair tousled and his clothes slightly ruffled. I apologized to him for canceling on dinner, but I was exhausted and it was probably better for me to rest. He said, quietly while smiling mischievously, “I just got back from taking a nap.” (He was staying in the condos right next to the media center, I think.) It was like he was a kid who got away with playing hooky from school.
I obviously didn’t know him nearly as well or as long as just about anyone else in the golf media, but I knew him well enough for him to have an impact in my life and I considered him a friend (and enough that I have tears streaming down my face as I’m writing this).
In June at the U.S. Open at Merion, there was a hotel bar at the media hotel, where many would congregate for a beer or some food after a long day at the course. One evening, I was up way past my bedtime, but it was still only around 11pm at the latest.
Suddenly, Bev and Art Spander rolled in (as pictured above) and both started mumbling about something and getting drinks — it was a classic moment that it’s too inside-golfy to describe, but it was one of those moments where it was amusing and you’re kind of like, “Is this really happening right now? You can’t write this scene!”
It still makes me smile.
Bev walked over and announced they had just come from the Rolex dinner. I asked how it was. “Oh, it was very nice. Very nice. Some very good red wine. Is this seat taken?”
I saved it for you, Bev.
I asked how he was doing and he replied, with a wry smile, “I’ll be much better once I get a beer!”
What are you drinking, Bev?
“A Belgian beer,” he said.
As we were chatting about his evening, he leaned over and said in a hushed voice, “Stephanie, I feel so bad, but what’s the name of that guy over there by the table wearing the blue shirt?”
“That’s [Joe Writer],” I said.
“That’s right! I knew that! Darn it! I can’t believe I forgot, I feel so bad. I usually never forget a name,” he said (paraphrased).
He kept apologizing for forgetting and I told him that it wasn’t a big deal and it happens to the best of us, but I could tell he was still slightly annoyed with himself.
That was Bev for you.
I asked how old he was because I hoped to be as sharp as him at his age. He was 66.
We talked about the past U.S. Opens he had attended at Merion. I was a few glasses of wine deep, so the details are a little hazy, but I loved hearing him tell stories or just talk about anything. He was always there with a one-liner and his classic, mischievous grin.
Bev asked if I was covering the Open Championship again and I said, of course. He added it was going to be the (x-number) Open that he’d covered.
A few weeks later when the Open rolled around and I didn’t see Bev, I thought it was odd, but of course, now it makes sense. And it should have set off a red flag.
From reports I’ve read, Bev passed away after a short battle with cancer. I wish I could have told him how much I appreciated his kindness — especially when I first started out and the majority of the old boy’s club weren’t so welcoming — and company, but isn’t that usually the way things go. He will be dearly missed.