Remembering the Golf Instructor Who Fact-Checked Frank Deford

A former pupil pays tribute to the ombudsman skills of Ed Coleman.

Glenn F. Bunting, who took a buyout at the Los Angeles Times in 2007 and now oversees a crisis PR firm, has returned briefly to the article beat in spectacular fashion. For LAObserved, he has written a wonderful obituary for Ed Coleman, a legendary West Coast golf instructor who passed away over the weekend at age 92.

One of the many pleasures of the tribute is that it affords Bunting the opportunity to recall a piece he wrote for the L.A. Times Sunday magazine, published in January 2004. The article, titled “Picking Nits with Frank Deford,” grew out of conversations Bunting had with Coleman after he started taking golf lessons with the master at Rancho Park in 2000.

As Bunting notes, Queens native Coleman had been calling out errors made by reporters in newspapers, magazines and elsewhere his entire life, starting as a teenager with letters to the New York World-Telegram. From Bunting’s piece:

In an effort to call Ed’s bluff (and shut him up), I handed him a six-inch stack of printouts of Deford articles with a challenge: See how many factual errors you can find. Within a few days, Ed returned the printouts with handwritten notes scrawled in pencil detailing dozens of inaccuracies.

Every one of Ed’s corrections checked out. That did it. Ed and I agreed to a quest that would lead me to interview Deford in his New Jersey home… The article infuriated Deford, his loyal readers and his editors at Sports Illustrated. And it pleased Ed to no end.

Jon Weisman, a veteran L.A. journalist who now works for the Los Angeles Dodgers, had a great comment at the time of publication about Bunting’s Deford feature. On his Dodgers blog, he took issue with some of the article’s fact-checks and wrote:

This reminds me of my all-time favorite newsroom moment, when one of our [Los Angeles] Daily News copy editors asked aloud, “I know this is gonna sound minor, but is nit-picking hyphenated?”

[Photo of Rancho Park driving range via: lacity.org]