The below story on 2021 Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame inductee Danny Edwards is in the Oct.Nov. issue of Golf Oklahoma. The 2021 induction of Danny Edwards, David Edwards, Scott Verplank, Art Proctor and Floyd Farley is Nov. 21 and the deadline for ticket purchases is Friday. Call 918-280-0787 if interested in attending or go to www.oklahomagolfhof.org.
By Ken MacLeod
Danny Edwards has lived such a unique life, it’s worthy of a book.
And as reflective of his life, Edwards is not waiting on anyone else to get it done. “My Driven Life” will be out this fall, hopefully in time for Edwards’ introduction into the Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame, which occurs Nov. 21 at Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club.
It’s a brilliant title, reflecting Edwards’ drive to learn and master golf basically on his own, his fascination with auto racing and his passion for business, resulting in several ventures, the most notable being Royal Grip, which at its height in the early 1990s was making a million grips a month and supplying 82 different manufacturers.
In addition to capitalist, add labor leader to Edwards’ credentials. In 1998, he headed the short-lived Tour Players Association that advocated for the PGA Tour to become more open about the revenues it received and distributed. That’s a battle still ongoing in some respects.
“Danny has lived a more diversified life than just about any other professional golfer,” said Bob Denney, PGA historian emeritus who collaborated with Edwards on the book. “There’s quite a few that have been in business, but how many have also been a champion race car driver?
“Danny is just a unique individual,” said Oklahoma golf historian and Baylor coach Mike McGraw. “He taught himself to play long before there was even a golf course in Edmond. And he was good at everything, whether it was basketball, ping-pong, baseball.
“He excelled in all sports and became a master of many of them. And he was even a very good race car driver in the middle of his professional career. To think that he could accomplish something at a high level in all those endeavors is pretty amazing.”
Danny, the older brother by five years of fellow inductee David Edwards, learned the game in vacant lots and school fields with childhood friend Paul Walters. They emulated swings and shots they saw on television and improved together.
By Danny’s sophomore year he made the newly formed high school team in Edmond and in the summer of his junior year they took down Mark Hayes and his brother Larry Hayes in the Golf Inc., Oklahoma City Four-Ball at Lincoln Park. As a senior he was the state champion and caught the eye of Oklahoma State coach Labron Harris Sr.
“He came by at the state championship at Lakeside and asked me if I wanted to come play golf for the Cowboys,” Edwards said. “Well I knew about OSU golf and that Mark Hayes was the big star, but I would have bet anything he didn’t know me. The next week we drove up there and he told me if I worked really hard by my junior year I would have a chance to make the team.
“I thought to myself, the only thing I can control is how hard I work and no one will work harder than me. The first qualifying round I shoot the lowest score of the day and ended up playing in two tournaments my first fall.”
Edwards roomed with Hayes that year and vied with future coach and then-player Mike Holder for playing time, complaining that he beat Holder in almost every qualifying round but Harris still selected Holder to go to the Big Eight Championship (which Holder won) and the NCAA Championship in Columbus, Ohio.
“I was not a happy camper and Mike wasn’t too thrilled with me, but he was the heir apparent,” Edwards said. “I got over it. I kept putting my head to the grindstone.”
“Danny came in ready to play and I think Coach Harris thought the same thing,” Holder said. “He had a lot of talent and he worked hard and that makes for a good combination. I know you always wanted him on your team when we played pickup basketball over in the Colvin Center.”
Edwards used his quick reflexes to improve enough to become a two-time Big Eight champion, three-time All-American, a member of the 1973 Walker Cup team and low amateur at the 1973 British Open. He won the prestigious North and South Amateur as well.
Back at OSU, Edwards used his quick wits to upgrade his vehicular status, boldly going to see then-OSU athletic director Floyd Gass and telling him he couldn’t drive around any longer in his beat-up 1962 Volkswagen convertible, particularly not while all the football players were driving around in beautiful muscle cars that he coveted.
Much to his surprise, Gass started a process that resulted in Edwards soon driving a 1971 LT-1 Corvette which his father unsuccessfully ordered him to return. Edwards said he had to come up with $150 every six months to keep the car. Today Edwards might be able to advertise for the local dealership and drive the car and get paid on top.
Edwards embarked on a successful PGA Tour career in 1975, one in which he won five times between 1977-85, including the 1980 Walt Disney World Team Championship with brother David.
It was a cool moment for the brothers who approach life differently in some respects but are both incredibly hard workers whose achievements are due in great part to their work ethic.
Danny may have been able to accomplish more than he did in golf, but by 1982 he was balancing golf with a serious interest in GTO racing.
“I had a dual career in two professions that are about as far apart as they could be,” Edwards said. “But I loved them both. Racing was a very exhilarating, physically challenging endeavor where golf was slow and precise. It was a very interesting marriage of careers.”
“If you’re going to drive a race car, you’ve got to be on prime alert and have tremendous coordination,” Denney said. “Danny was not your average, ‘Oh I like to race’ guy. He was intense about it, knew cars and machines and was really talented at it.”
Edwards had met Roger Penske and become a part of his team. He won two Midwest Division National Championships, in the highly competitive Formula Ford class, in 1984 and ’85. He drove a Mustang LX for Kaufmann Racing in the World Challenge Series – formerly the Escort Endurance series – and a Sports 2,000 Swift for the Pfeiffer-Ridge team of Sonoma in the American City Racing League.
His love of racing also led to another inspiration — why not make golf grips out of something tacky similar to a racing tire. Thus, after much research and hard work, was born Royal Grip.
“It took two years and a lot of work with rubber compounders, learning the ingredients and the formula, durability, and working in different climates and humidity, before we had the product like we wanted it,” Edwards said.
But the result was a company based in Scottsdale, Ariz., that wound up making and selling millions of grips before Edwards took it public in 1988. There were ups and downs from there and Edwards returned to golf on the Champions Tour from 2001-08.
He has not hesitated to dive back into golf-related business ventures, first with a Greens Fix tool that offered a better way to repair divots. His current passion is The Chipping Equation, a video series that teaches average golfers an easy formula for how to use the bump-and-run shot rather than flop shots to consistently land their chips close to the hole and lower their scores.
“People are not going to get better by buying a brand new set of irons, they’re going to improve by learning how to chip a golf ball,” Edwards said. “We’re the first ones to put the science to this through a statistical analysis of chipping through Trackman.”
“Danny’s life shows what determination and perseverance are all about,” Denney said. “He never leaves a task undone. He’s a good example of what this country is meant to be.”
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