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Humble Howard: Golf's Spiritual Leader and the Relentless Pursuit of Perfection

By Tim O’Connor

 

Note: I have co-hosted the Swing Thoughts podcast with “Humble” Howard Glassman since 2016, creating more than 250 episodes.

Howard Glassman (left) and Tim O'Connor

Most people wouldn’t claim such an exalted space, but Humble Howard is not most people.


Besides, no one else realized the huddled golf masses were crying out for someone to lead them out of their darkness. No one else had the vision to imagine such a paragon of golf enlightenment could exist.


That’s why soon after we co-created the Swing Thoughts golf podcast, he became—nay, he ascended—to becoming GSL: Golf’s Spiritual Leader.


Well, of course, he is.


And, of course, it’s a “bit” invented by the radio legend and stand-up comedian whose career spans 40 years.


“Sure, I’m the GSL. Why? Because I said I am,” he said, laughing. “It’s just the ridiculous nonsense that comes out of my mouth.”


If Howard Glassman is into something, he’s head-hands-and-feet in.


Talk to his friends and family about him, and you hear the same word many times: intense. “He has a tremendous desire not to leave an ounce of potential unused,” says Kent Osborne, a friend and former performance coach to the Detroit Red Wings.


That intensity helped make Humble and Fred the No. 1 morning drive show in Toronto in the late 80s and early 90s, and they still attract a large audience 35 years later on their weekday podcast. 

Humble Howard Glassman (left) and Fred Patterson 2003. Photo courtesy Standard Radio.

For good measure, Howard became a pilot in five months, expert snowboarder and wakeboarder in one season, and mastered the unicycle in six weeks. Oh, he also quit smoking and became sober in 2015.


Among all his achievements, however, the one that has tormented and tested him the most was becoming an expert amateur golfer. “Nothing consumes me the way golf has for long as it has,” said Howard, who played on the Saskatchewan junior golf team at 15. He was born and lived in Moosejaw.

Howard wins the Senior Club Championship at Glencairn (2020)

He’s in the top one or two percent of amateur golfers in Canada. His lowest index was 0.3, his lowest score is 66, he was club champion at The National in 1997, he’s played in all three of Canada’s men’s national stroke-play championships—Canadian, mid-amateur and senior—and won the senior club championship at Glencairn three times.


“He doesn’t do anything halfway,” said Fred Patterson, his radio partner since 1989 when they began working together at CFNY-FM in Brampton, Ontario. “There’s no one else I know who commits himself like Howard.

“There was no question he’d be good at golf. The same as in in radio. He has an intensity to get the results that successful people get.”


Being intense has payoffs and costs. On the negative side, for most of his playing career, he was prone to temper tantrums, walking off mid-round, sulking, pouting, and slamming, throwing, and drowning clubs. He jokes that one of his clubs lies at the bottom of every pond at The National. After a disappointing tournament, he punched the inside of his windshield so hard that he broke it. As listeners in the early years of Swing Thoughts will attest, GSL has spent many weeks in “golf hell.” 


“I’m definitely more intense than the average bear,” said Howard, who freely shares his experiences both good and cringe-worthy on the podcast. “It’s helped me in my professional career and in golf, but it’s not for everyone.

“I’ve experienced the myriad of emotions a golfer can experience, to being a bit mentally unstable. Even eight or nine years ago, I was still getting so mad it was embarrassing at times. But I don’t have that gear any more. I’m not the freak-out guy anymore. I left that in my 50s.”


What happened?


“I grew up,” said Howard, 64. “I also availed myself of counselling of golf professionals and mental health professionals to put everything in perspective. On the course, I’m intense but I’m a lot less intense as a competitor than I once was.


“I now understand that no round of golf defines me, but it’s about how I show up. I like the approach of (fellow Glencairn member) Mike Bondy: ‘Play great or be great to play with.’”

 

As happens with public people with big personalities, Howard has his detractors. As his friend and podcast co-host, I’ve heard people mock him. People laugh at his wriggly warm-up routine on the range, scoff that he records his swing, and deride his serious approach to improving.


Charles Fitzsimmons, a friend and coach with a PhD in sport psychology, says Howard’s intensity is one of his lovable characteristics, but people who don’t aspire to the same level of excellence often don’t understand people like him.


“Like a lot of very good golfers, he’s semi-addicted and perfectionistic. With all his knowledge, he’s still fallible and has his moments of being a human,” says Fitzsimmons, the 2022 and 2021 Canadian Mid-Amateur Champion, and Howard’s partner in the Ontario Better-Ball Championship.


“We all have a range of emotions, and he experiences that full range. It’s obviously something he’s worked on. In tournaments, he can be laser focused, tight and trying too hard, but over time he becomes Howard again, and he starts chirping people and telling inappropriate jokes. The joy he finds in the game is childlike at times and infectious.”


Grant McDougall, who became his friend through listening to the podcast, says: “He wants to be scratch at everything. That’s his strength and weakness. He beats himself up over his reactivity, but he’s made great progress in mastering his emotions.”


McDougall says some people fail to notice that he’s very “thoughtful of other people” and loves to help other golfers. “He’s a really good coach, and he’s a plus-six communicator. He cuts a very large wake. If I play four or five times with him on a trip, I always come out playing well.”


Kent Osborne admires how Howard uses his vulnerability to help others. “On the podcast and in his personal relationships, he’s very upfront about the emotional difficulties he had years ago as a golfer. It’s impressive that he’s an accomplished player, but the most impressive thing is that he’s helped a lot of people through his willingness to share.”


Like a lot of radio personalities who earned their reputations as funny guys who call ‘em as they see ‘em, Howard has a side that not everyone can understand. His brother David, a corporate coach and consultant, says Howard has been funny and confident in front of people since he was a kid, “but I’ve seen him become kind.” 


“He’s low on agreeableness. He won’t do things to make other people happy. He says what he means. I think he has a big heart. That’s hard for non-show businesspeople to understand.”


Howard admits that his ego has driven him to become as good as golfer as he can, but he believes the biggest driver is curiosity.


“I think it’s the quixotic nature of the game—never being able to solve the puzzle and vagaries of the game—that’s held my interest so long. Even now at 64, I am nowhere near as good as I could be. Isn’t that ridiculous? My best golf is still ahead of me.


“There are very few things in my life where the best is still to come.”


Writer Tim O’Connor lives in Guelph, Ontario. He is the author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story, and co-host of the Swing Thoughts podcast. His most recent book is the upcoming Getting Unstuck: Seven Transformational Practices for Golf Nerds.

 


 

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1件のコメント


David Goodman
David Goodman
6月21日

Great guy, played with him at the senior better ball; we both loved to hate the guy who couldn't stop telling us how much he loved Jews throughout the round!

いいね!
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