Originally created 08/15/97

Sarazen's grandson gets lessons from the best

BRASELTON, Ga. (AP) - As a child, Jeff Sarazen had no idea that his grandfather was a legendary golfer. Now the younger Sarazen is a teaching pro at a course that Gene Sarazen helped design.

Gene Sarazen, 95, won seven major titles and numerous other tournaments, and is known as the inventor of the sand wedge. He had two children, who in turn produced nine grandchildren, but none of them appeared to take a serious interest in golf.

Jeff Sarazen, now 24, grew up in Boca Raton, Fla. He said he was unaware of Gene Sarazen's golfing feats, including a double eagle that helped him win the 1935 Masters, even after the family visited the man often called "the squire" at his home on Marco Island.

Then, at age 12, Jeff played a par-3 course with a friend. "The first time I played I hit the flag with an approach and from there on I was hooked," he said.

That's when Gene Sarazen stepped in. He invited his grandson to his summer home in New Hampshire, and over four years taught him the game.

First, he made Jeff move from the left side to the right. After that, it was a matter of repetition and hard work.

"He made me chip and putt until my back hurt. In the evenings he'd make me swing a heavy club 50 times out on the porch. It was in the early 1980s, when he was still playing, and we'd play three or four times a week."

In 1994, the two attended the Masters together, where Jeff met Don Panoz, founder of Chateau Elan. The complex includes the Legends golf course, which the elder Sarazen helped design and where his annual world tournament is played.

Panoz, interested in hiring Jeff as a club pro, drove Jeff to the course himself. Jeff took the job, and is now first assistant at the course. He earned his PGA certification in January.

His last name brings a little extra attention to the younger Sarazen.

"There's a little pressure on you when you get on the first tee. After a while you just get used to it. I always tell people my name may help me get in, but I've go to earn it once I'm here," he said.


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