May 23, 2024

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Scoreboard calligraphy brought flair, old-school class to tournament golf

8 min read
Scoreboard calligraphy brought flair, old-school class to tournament golf

Ray Stansberry didn’t even have to switch about. He realized when Miguel Ángel Jiménez was lurking at the rear of him. The thick odor of cigar smoke always gave him away.

As the PGA Tour’s longtime scoreboard calligrapher, Stansberry was, for several years, between the most popular figures on Tour — the guy with the pens who posted the scores that each player and tournament patron required to see. In an era predating electronic scoreboards and ShotLink, hanging out close to “the board” — as those people in the company affectionately known as it — was the position to be. Just after all, it was typically the only place on the system exactly where leaderboard info, in one tidy and remarkably lavish sort, was to be observed.

Jiménez was a person of Stansberry’s most frequent guests. Again in the working day, the amiable Spaniard would complete his spherical, pour a large glass of pink wine, gentle up a Cohiba and head out to the board, greeting Stansberry with an enthusiastic “Mi amigo!” Then he’d research the wall of exquisite letters and digits to see exactly where he stood.

Ray Stansberry leans into it at the 2009 Travelers at TPC River Highlands.

John Woike/Hartford Courant

Stansberry, regarded to several gamers as “Rayzor Ray,” is just one of numerous scoreboard calligraphers who at the time created a dwelling with his flawless penmanship, meticulous eye and gift for quick math. A great deal like persimmon woods and balata balls, scoreboard calligraphy has been rendered practically obsolete by advances in know-how — specifically, by the megapixel electronic screens now scattered across match venues and the a great number of leaderboard choices offered by means of smartphone.

But two items can be legitimate at the very same time: Is scoreboard calligraphy a dying art, especially on golf’s expert circuits? Indisputably. Do we miss out on its quirky grandeur? Unquestionably. The very sight of it conjures match golf’s freewheeling, minimal-tech times and evokes the game’s centuries-previous roots.

Aside from, who wouldn’t want to be able to create like this?

Calligraphy in golfing scorekeeping is thought to day again to at the very least the 1950s. PGA gurus had been even schooled in the artwork in purchase to deliver upscale flourish to scoreboards for area situations. Typically, there’d be a board positioned on the program and yet another in the press place, with a calligrapher and, typically, a few of assistants for each individual.

A calligraphy board from Paul Pope.

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Most scoreboard calligraphers use four or five pens (pink, black, blue and environmentally friendly are the go-tos), but there is no one particular way to ply the trade. Refillable-ink markers are an alternative. So are Sharpies, in bulk — six of every coloration may be employed in a one function. What ever the crafting instrument, ink-stained fingers had been and still are inescapable fight scars of the perform.

“I’ve always explained I’m just an grownup who hardly ever gave up my crayons,” jokes Stansberry.

But kid’s participate in it is not. Event months, particularly pro situations, were being a extraordinary grind. Just prepping a board with the players’ names and (at times) hometowns — neither of which you dared misspell — took several hours of concentrated hard work. Then, on the morning of the to start with spherical, the frantic penmanship would commence. Scores arrived in furiously, even more so when a second training course was wanted to accommodate a massive subject of players.

A commemorative scorecard for Johnny Miller’s famous 63 at Oakmont, inked by Casey Jones, who delivers very similar personalized do the job at

Courtesy Oakmont CC

Choose the U.S. Novice. Calligrapher Mark Passey manned the boards for every U.S. Am from 1990 to 2016 and many U.S. Opens. At the newbie events, from 9 a.m. until sunset, Passey would be handed 9-gap scorecards for 12 distinct gamers each and every 10 minutes. If play was distribute across much more than one particular training course, people programs essential to be colour-coded on the board. In addition to the principal scoreboard, there were round-by-round boards, summary boards, even signage for stats like eagles or holes in 1. Passey estimates that he inked, on typical, 40,000 letters and quantities for each U.S. Am.

“It was a sprint,” he states. “It was a lot of exciting. But oh my gosh!”

The energy was worth it. Calligraphy boards are not only excursions de power of a fading art, they have also lengthy been a normal accumulating location, the nucleus of a golfing match, a spot buzzing with camaraderie. And, of course, a key supply of information.

“Whether they appreciated the artistry of it or not, they appreciated realizing the scores,” Stansberry says. “Golf is a activity of tradition, and it is a shame that tradition of [players and fans] gathering in one particular place went by the wayside.”

Casey Jones pens a headline for this story.

Courtesy Casey Jones

Stansberry received his commence in golf calligraphy as a club professional in Oklahoma. He produced boards for area gatherings, earning a status for good function along the way. In 1994, he landed a aspect-time occupation with the PGA Tour and grew to become its comprehensive-time scoreboard calligrapher in 1996.

About the exact time, Casey Jones, another grasp of the form, first fell in love with it. He continue to remembers the working day — a Friday in March 1995. The Nestlé Invitational was currently being held at Bay Hill Club and Lodge. Jones, then a 26-calendar year-previous graphic designer, experienced moved to Orlando two many years previously seeking for do the job, but on this working day he decided to choose in some golf. That was the system, at the very least — until he stumbled upon the board Tour calligrapher Irv Batten was functioning on.

“I was fascinated by it,” Jones recalls. “It just appealed to anything I appreciated. I enjoy golfing, and I love the scoring aspect of golfing, and I also experienced the artistic potential to respect his operate. I just stood there and thought, This could be a factor. This could be a thing I could do.

Batten, the Tour’s team calligrapher prior to Stansberry, taught Jones about the enterprise and encouraged him to achieve out to other tours and tournaments to current market his solutions. So Jones acquired to perform, mocking up calligraphy boards, having photographs, slapping them on flyers and sending them off to any event director he could uncover. In the summer time of 1996 he commenced to get responses in 1997 he experienced about 30 events on his calendar as he traversed the state honing his craft.

Casey Jones in entrance of his summary board at Jack’s property, the 1999 Memorial Match in Dublin, Ohio. Notice the winner: Tiger!

Courtesy Casey Jones

Existence was excellent. Then tech began to remodel golf’s now elaborately wired fields of participate in. The glory times of people exquisitely rendered numbers, stylized names and mesmerizing colors? Just about completely absent.

“It’s on life guidance,” Jones laments. “It’s a point that is nonetheless wonderful to have at a match, but I feel immediately after a whilst men and women are heading to forget about scoreboard calligraphy even existed.”

For Stansberry, the turning position arrived in 2010. That’s when the PGA Tour stopped subsidizing boards and eliminated his personnel situation. Tournament directors continue to experienced the possibility of paying contractors out of their have pocket to proceed the tradition. And some did. But that operate at some point dwindled also.

Boards experienced grow to be almost extinct at Tour stops by about 2015, says just one Tour official. Identical goes these days for the LPGA, Korn Ferry and Champions excursions. The USGA nonetheless employs them for some of its events but, notably, not the U.S. Open.

The LPGA’s halt at Kingsmill Resort was a person of the last holdouts, and it was the only perform remaining in the professional ranks for longtime calligrapher Paul Pope. There was a time when Pope tackled 20 to 30 functions a yr, touring with the LPGA, the Champions Tour, the PGA Tour and more. He’s labored his magic markers at NCAA championships, Solheim Cups and Walker Cups also. But the tournament at Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va., which was in limbo with an uncertain sponsorship, was left off the 2022 LPGA agenda. Pope, 60, is of the similar classic as Stansberry (61), Passey (74) and Jones (52).

“We all appreciate the perform,” Pope says. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t have stayed in it for as long as we did.”

Paul Pope penning a showpiece at the 2017 LPGA Kingsmill Championship in Williamsburg, Va.

Mark Gormus/Richmond Periods-Dispatch

Searching for fiscal security — and, probably, observing the writing on the wall — Jones, in 2003, took a work with the PGA Tour as a scoring formal, which he now does portion-time. His previous board for the Tour was at the 2016 RBC Heritage at Hilton Head, wherever he labored up the scores in the media middle for the press. He’s 99 percent selected it was the final push-tent calligraphy board produced on the PGA Tour.

These days, Jones picks up the random match gig — mostly at the club stage, in which boards continue to supply a throw-back thrill — but he’s focused most intently on his facet hustle: building personalised golf awards at He just lately inked commemorative hole-in-one plaques for Justin Thomas and Tony Finau.

Jones’ slice of Tour daily life could be a bit on the wane, but the recollections live on. He penned John Daly’s infamous 18 at Bay Hill in 1998. In ’99, he was on-web page for Tiger Woods’ very first Memorial victory and stood just a couple ft away as Woods and the Golden Bear bantered off the inexperienced. In 2000 — back when he would at times compose the champions’ names on all those big winner’s checks — he obtained into an argument with a event staffer who accused him of misspelling Phil Mickelson’s name. (He hadn’t.) 8 years later on, at the U.S. Open up at Torrey Pines, Jones encountered some of the loudest roars he’d ever read on a golfing class as Woods and Rocco Mediate battled down the extend.

“I kind of sense like I was born to be a scoreboard male,” he says. “It was the perfect relationship of my passion for golf and my inventive capacity and type of a fluky matter. If you were to request me in higher education what I’d be performing for a living, I would hardly ever have guessed I’d have a vocation in penmanship.”

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