Toby Lyons was a cigar chewing marvel on the golf course. An accomplished player (at one time held PGA Tour record for lowest round, played over two dozen US Opens & PGA Championships), I met him in the late 1970’s early 1980’s. He was a wizard of the short game, as his tiny size made evident immediately… as arrow-straight as he was off the tee, his incredible short game was head & shoulders above anything I had ever seen at that time.
Toby took pity on me after seeing me three-putt a number of times in a round we played. Afterwards, he took me to the putting green, and gave me probably the best bermuda-grass putting lesson I ever received. Greens were grainy back then, especially the bermuda grass in Florida and Texas, and for a bent-grass caddy, watching putts break uphill due to grain just blew my mind.
Toby explained that I needed to keep the putter very low after the strike, to keep from hitting up on the ball, which would in his words… “make the ball grab the grain”. He wanted the ball to slide along the surface more than bite the grass with topspin. Back then, it was a neat trick to minimize the grain effect in a putt. Toby used a heel shafted “Iron Master” style putter, and it seemed he never missed a short putt with it. To me, that was about as good as I hoped… just don’t miss the short ones.
Toby’s other help, bunker & wedge play, was just as valuable. He climbed down into a bunker with me one day, and though I went in a semi-decent bunker player, I came out that day thinking that I was another Gary Player. Using his bunker technique, I later got up and down out of all 12 bunkers hit at Pinehurst #2, on my way to a 68 in a match. Twenty years later they were still talking about that round at the Pine Crest Inn. Amazing what improved technique can do. I owed it to Toby.
Toby stressed one other thing about putting that I often thought of… he wanted me to keep the back of my left wrist pointing at the hole. For a wristy putter like me, that was difficult. So I trained myself by hitting thousands of putts with just me left hand, trying to keep my wrist from breaking down. When I designed the Black Swan, I tried to solve that problem, and thought of Toby when I came up with my solution.