Friday, June 19, 2009

Breakout Star of the U.S. Open: Dan Jenkins

UPDATE: Sally Jenkins filed a column for the Washington Post on her dad's Twitter presence.

Was going to publish this elsewhere -- yes, somewhere more "mainstream," which is why this reads for an audience with little knowledge of Twitter -- but opted for here:

The breakout star of the 2009 U.S. Open?


That is the Twitter handle of legendary sportswriter Dan Jenkins, who covers golf for Golf Digest (a bit of an understatement: this is Jenkins' 200th major) but has been something of an unlikely phenomenon on Twitter, going from a handful of followers at the start of the week to more than 1,500 by mid-day Friday.

Jenkins, who will turn 80 in December, signed on to Twitter on June 3rd with a simple tweet at 2:50 pm: "I'll have this Twitter thing figured out by the US Open, so check back as we get closer to Bethpage."

Since the 15th, he has been putting out a steady stream of tweets ranging from observations on:

*Thursday's weather conditions ("
If you want to get a swing tip today, try the aquarium. It's still cold, windy and rainy--beach weather at the British Open.")

*To the hilarious ("
Bulletin: Tiger Woods just made his second double bogey of the first round. Golf is dead.")

*To the bawdy ("
The portable toilet outside the media center has signs with tips on putting and hitting drives, irons and sand shots. Nothing on the grip.")

*To the
sublime ("My life on deadline: As my first boss, Blackie Sherrod, enjoyed saying, 'Stop feelin’ up that story, and get the damn thing in here.'")

Perhaps most enlightening the age of comments with time-stamps of "Less than one minute ago" is Jenkins' pitter-patter history lesson:

*10:30 a.m. Friday: "
I haven't seen players throw darts at the greens like this since Johnny Miller and Lanny Wadkins on the final day at Oakmont in '73."

*1:00 p.m. Thursday: "
Guys who were good wet-weather mudders: 1. Middlecoff, 2. Watson, 3. Nicklaus, 4. Ballesteros, 5. Player. But they ain’t here."

*10:58 a.m. Thursday: "
The worst-weather Opens include ’72 and ’92 (the final day) at Pebble, but this is the worst first day. Could be the most miserable week."

*7:48 a.m. Wednesday: "
Arrived yesterday; out to the course this morning. After you've seen 199 majors, one practice round is plenty."

It feels like an unlikely union of sportswriting's Texas-grizzled legend and technology's hottest new platform. But he is making it work for him. His daughter, the sportswriter Sally Jenkins, is covering the Open, too, and has her own Twitter feed (@sallyjenx): "
Talking to Pops, who has designs on Britney Spears' audience. He also just did a podcast. He is a renaissance man! A Medici." (2:30 p.m. Wednesday)

Beyond his legion of followers, he is earning "re-tweets" (or "RT," in Twitter shorthand), a combination of copied versions of his tweets, along with side commentary expressing astonishment and enthusiasm for Jenkins' embrace of the platform. Today, he is a popular choice for "#FF" treatment -- "Follow Friday" is the day of the week when folks on Twitter traditionally recommend their favorite follows to others in their network.

Perhaps his most telling tweet came at 1:38 pm Wednesday:

Another writer just dropped by and said, 'I never thought I'd see the day: Dan Jenkins on Twitter.' I told him, "Bob, it's a new world.'"

-- D.S.

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