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Herbert Warren Wind, 88; captured essence of golf in elegant prose

Herbert Warren Wind, 88, a retired writer for The New Yorker magazine who has been called the poet laureate of golf, died Monday in his home in Bedford.

Mr. Wind's unerring eye for detail, knowledge of the game's history, and penchant for classical allusions made him a must-read for golf writers and fans of the game. He wrote for The New Yorker from 1948 to 1953, and spent several years writing for Sports Illustrated before returning to The New Yorker from 1960 until his retirement in 1990.

''He was a great historian of the game and a terrific writer," Jack Nicklaus said yesterday, moments after finishing a practice round at his Memorial Tournament. ''He was very much the intellectual. Herb was a great guy."

It was while writing for Sports Illustrated in 1958 that Mr. Wind dubbed the tricky 11th, 12th, and 13th holes at the Augusta National Golf Club, the ''Amen Corner." It was a name that stuck, and it can be heard frequently during coverage of the annual Masters Tournament, which he attended more than 20 times.

''Herbert Warren Wind was one of the greatest golf writers that ever lived," Masters chairman Hootie Johnson said.

''He was just crazy about golf," his sister Gertrude Scheft of Weston said yesterday. ''But that's not the only thing he wrote about."

Other subjects he covered for The New Yorker included tennis, writers, politicians, and social figures. He was the author or co-author of several books, most about golf, but also one about humorist P.G. Wodehouse.

With the golfer he considered the greatest, Ben Hogan, he wrote the still-popular instruction book ''Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf."

The son of a shoe company executive, Mr. Wind grew up in Brockton, where he began playing at the Thorny Lea Golf Club when he was 7 years old.

He played whenever he got the chance, but he said it was a radio program that really ignited his passion for the game. In a story published in the Globe in 2001, he recalled listening to a radio show that golfer Bob Jones used to do with sportswriter Grantland Rice.

''It was marvelous," he said. ''We huddled around the radio every Friday night to learn about golf."

Mr. Wind graduated from Yale University and earned a master's degree in English at Cambridge University in England, which allowed him to play on many of the storied golf courses of the British Isles.

He was accomplished enough on the links to compete in the 1950 British Amateur.

During major tournaments in the United States and Europe, he was familiar figure walking the courses, usually dressed in a tweed cap and jacket, white shirt, and tie, even in the hottest weather.

''I think all his clothes were tweed," said his sister. ''He really was a bit of an anglophile."

Mr. Wind even wrote glowingly about watching golf on TV. ''Is there any greater pleasure in this astonishing age of telemechanics and microcircuitry than to lean back on a wintry weekend and watch the latest installment of the professional golf tour?" he wrote in a story published about 35 years ago in Golf Digest.

In 1985, a selection of his golf stories from The New Yorker was published in a book titled ''Following Through."

A 1985 review of the book in the Globe, Charles Kenney wrote: ''Wind knows golf and its history so well -- and he writes so lovingly about the game -- that for one who cares about golf, reading his book is sheer pleasure. His unhurried tone is so relaxing that it makes reading these pages nearly as soothing as playing 18 holes on a sunny summer morning."

In addition to his sister, he leaves a brother, John B. of Brockton; and two other sisters, Martha Wind Finger of Providence and Rose Stone of Plymouth.

Among the many young writers he encouraged was his nephew, Bill Scheft, former head writer for ''Late Night with David Letterman" and now a Sports Illustrated columnist. ''He was a great writer and an even better man," Scheft said. ''He showed me the possibility of a writer's life."

A graveside service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday in Plymouth Rock Cemetery in Brockton.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this obituary.

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