Everyone that plays golf has said it to themselves or at another player at some point. “Hit it Alice!” or “Nice putt Alice!” The derogatory “Alice” statement has been part of golf for decades. We use it when you leave a makeable putt way short. But who is Alice? Even more importantly, what did she do to become a part of golf history and deserve being used as an insult towards other golfers?
The history of this oft used term is not quite what you might think. It is said that the term originates from the famous sitcom The Honeymooners. Jackie Gleason’s character on the show Ralph Kramden was a golf fanatic. His wife’s name was Alice, so it’s a good fit right? Wrong.
The real origin of the derogatory term was another Alice. Actually, it was an Alliss. Peter Alliss. Peter Alliss is a famous English golf broadcaster who can be heard on the BBC, and on ABC during The Open Championship. Before he became known as a famous broadcaster, Alliss was famous in the UK and Europe as a touring pro. Peter Alliss won 21 times on the European Tour and played on eight Ryder Cup teams.
During the 1963 Ryder Cup in Atlanta, Alliss was playing against Arnold Palmer. At some point during his match against Palmer, Alliss missed a routine three foot putt pretty badly. Someone in the gallery yelled out, “Nice putt, Alliss!”
Alliss described the moment in a 1997 issue of Sports Illustrated, explaining how the phrase became part of golf history. “I didn’t say the words myself, and didn’t hear who did, but they were certainly said and now are part of the lingua franca of golf. The BBC, for whom I now do golf commentary, played a large part in burning the phrase into the public consciousness. I was never renowned for my putting and therefore was an easy—and frequent—target for the many comedy programs on the Beeb, where great humor was found in such knee-slappers as “That girl Alliss sure hits it a long way.”
So there you have it. Peter Alliss would probably prefer to be remembered for his accomplishments as a player and broadcaster, but he’s also forever known as the true origin of that popular phrase. I bet you think twice before you use it next time your buddy leaves a putt hanging on the lip. He probably thinks you are calling him a girl, but really you are calling him something more like a charming Englishman with the yips. Strange, since he won 21 professional tournaments in Europe. He couldn’t have been as bad a putter as they say. By the way, he beat Arnold Palmer in that match in 1963…
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