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Golf in America: The Paul Szep's Story

Meeting people like former Boston Globe, and now globally syndicated cartoonist, Paul Szep, is why I love doing features.

Here is a guy that, on the surface, seems like your normal, “Everyday Joe”. Call him on the phone, cool and calm. Meet him at the golf course, cool and calm. He greets you at the front door of his house, cool and calm.

Walk into his house, however, and you begin to realize that Paul Szep has seen and done much more than your ordinary man during his 60-something years (we’ll go without mentioning actual age at Szeppy’s request).

His life is plastered all over the walls of his Largo, Florida condo. White House Press Correspondents’ Dinner? Been there, done that. Played Pebble? Sure. Pissed off a senator or too with some of his work? Maybe.

Szep has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with presidents, actors, athletes, you name it. He’s got the pictures to prove it. The long wall in his office looks like a who’s who of American pop culture over the past 50 years. Still, he remembers his roots. A seat from the old Maple Leafs Gardens hangs behind his desk to remind him where he’s from – Szep originally hails from Hamilton, outside of Toronto.

A few posters he whipped up for the Pebble Beach Pro-Am with caricatures of Bill Murray and Clint Eastwood adorn the hallway. He’s bartered some art for invites over the years, and wound up playing in the Pro-Am a half dozen times or so. A nice shot of him and good buddy, Matt Lauer, neighbors a signed caricature of Steve Elkington. Somewhere amidst the well-manicured chaos, a couple of Pulitzer Prizes for his cartoons are displayed; which for a cartoonist is like winning the Masters – twice. Szep respectfully refers to them as “those” as if he is taking about salt and pepper shakers and not the crown jewel of his profession.

When we originally found out Szep was the man who sold the putter to the shop who sold the putter to Jim Furyk who in turn used it to win the Tour Championship, we thought he was just a piece to the puzzle. One more dot to connect to tell the story. After meeting him and learning about his story, his love of golf and how the game has given back to him over the last 30 plus years, we changed the tone of the feature entirely. It was no longer, “Hey, meet the guy who sold the putter Furyk bought.” It was, “Hey, meet Paul Szep. You know, Furyk was using his putter when he won the Tour Championship last year.”

Don’t get me wrong. We could’ve done the Furyk story without Szep. A major winner and Ryder Cupper walking into a used club store and buying a $39 putter, then using it to win 11.35 million dollars is a story in its own right. But that putter didn’t belong to a bartender from Brooklyn or a bricklayer from Boston, it belonged to a great guy with a fantastic story, all his own.