The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


December 2, 2012

Goodwin: Long putter suited 'Doc' Keeter

The late Jay Keeter likely would have been more than a little perturbed that the PGA, USGA, R&A and European Tour are considering a ban on long and belly putters.

“Doc” Keeter, a Joplin chiropractor who also happened to be one of the better players in the area, developed the first long putter that I had ever seen back in the early 1970s.

Jay unveiled his extended-shaft putter during a round at Schifferdecker Municipal Golf Course. It was nearly 48 inches long and was very, VERY heavy. It lined up nicely, although I had no idea how best to grip the club or even how to brace it against my chest.

Actually, I didn’t care much for it. Jay had taken the shaft out of a driver, lengthened it with part of another shaft and glued the result into a putter head. The weight gave a false sense that little effort was needed to get the ball moving. Actually, whether it was because of the weight or the flexibility of the driver shaft, a long, firm stroke was necessary to get the ball rolling on putts of 15 feet or more.

Jay practiced quite a bit with the putter and got pretty good with it. He took the putter on an annual golf sojourn to San Antonio, Texas, with Dr. Stan Knoderer, Bob Ames and me. We all gave the putter a try at some point and, other than Keeter, I don’t think anyone liked it. Furthermore, even though Doc was in great shape, running a couple of miles to Schifferdecker every time he played, he found the weight of the long putter difficult and complained about it.

Eventually, Keeter abandoned the putter and returned to his normal length club.

For the record, I’m not claiming that Keeter designed the first long putter. I really don’t know.

But Doc’s long putter was the first I ever saw. My fuzzy recollection suggests that Charlie Owens’ “Long Tom” putter didn’t surface on the Senior PGA Tour until a year or so later.

Doc also came up with an idea for a driver with an extra-long shaft. But that was too far ahead of its time. The graphite and lightweight steel shaft revolution hadn’t yet taken shape. The steel shafts of that day were too heavy for a golfer without big biceps and wrists. But Jay’s concept had validity.

Here’s a little history about Jay Keeter. He had strong hands and wrists as might be expected of a chiropractor. He could control the flight of the ball — high, low, draw or fade — by simply adjusting his grip. He didn’t open or close the alignment of his feet or shoulders or move the ball forward or back in his stance.  

You never saw Jay’s name at the top of a tournament list, apparently because he didn’t want to play golf on Sundays or compete for prizes. Within his own group of friends, he would tee it up anytime, anywhere with a soft drink at stake. I think he played once in the Ozark Amateur and didn’t do well.

One thing you could sense immediately about Keeter was his passion for the game of golf. He knew the rules better than most players. While we played “winter rules” much of the time at Schifferdecker, where fairway grass was scarce in the winter, spring, summer and fall, Jay frequently would keep the ball “down and dirty,” meaning he didn’t touch it until he hit it, while everyone else was looking for a tuft of grass on which to perch the sphere.

Whichever way he decided to play the ball, the result was usually the same: a score between 71 and 64.

In the early 1970s, Jay may have set a record at Schifferdecker. He shot par-71 or better for 60-plus consecutive rounds. It was an amazing feat that showed his consistency as well as his skills. Unfortunately, no one kept such records.

I have no doubt that Doc would have won quite a few tournaments if he had competed and might have found a plaque with his name in Joplin Golf Hall of Fame. But he was happy, and, in the end, that’s what counts.

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