By JIM PARKER The Post and Courier
Legends come about in mysterious ways. Consider The Putter Frog.
The foggy origins can be traced to Randy Bazemore, real estate agent with ERA Tides in Charleston. Elements include a purloined frog statue from close to half a century ago, a young serviceman growing up in the 1970s, the Putter Boy bronze at U.S. Open golf site Pinehurst Golf Club #2 in North Carolina, and an uncle nicknamed Fast Freddie.
They all came together in a children’s book. After a five-year try, Bazemore published “The Legend of the Putter Frog” last fall. The hardback, illustrated by noted artist Warner McGee, has sold more than 3,000 copies in less than six months and is available in most book stores.
Bazemore is planning to write five more Putter Frog books, with the next in the series to showcase the amphibian’s trek to the British Open.
According to his publicity write-up, The Legend of the Putter Frog is about “a little frog realizing his dreams in becoming a great golfer and creating a golf course made of lily pads on a pond. He meets up with his new caddie, Fast Freddie, and becomes a legend all around the country.”
Bazemore says he chose a children’s book approach to make it reasonable that a frog could be a golfer.
By the early 2000s, Bazemore, who grew up near Beaufort, had a newspaper comics- style prototype for the book with rough sketches and captions underneath. He was told to read a bunch of children’s books, that they’re more than a picture and a few words underneath.
In time, he fleshed out the storyline. Enter McGee, a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design who has illustrated 63 children’s books including Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants, to pen the drawings.
Recently, the book was nominated for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Golden Kite Award for Best Picture Book Illustrations. It was chosen by the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau to be included in the PGA Championship gift bag for this summer’s tournament at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course.
Bazemore says the bags go to the participating golfers. “Tiger Woods will get one.”
The inspiration for the book, he says, revolves around two seemingly unrelated statues.
One day 49 years ago, somebody swiped a frog statue from the Post Office in Frogmore, a tiny town in Beaufort County. The statue didn’t return right away and eventually the caper was picked up by national radio commentator Paul Harvey. The statue finally reappeared a few days later with makeup on it. Even seven years later, Bazemore, as a candidate officer for Naval aviation, was harrassed for 14 weeks by Marine Corps drill instructors in Pensacola for stealing the statue —something he didn’t do. But from then on, the frog was an indelible image.
Separately, Bazemore visited Pinehurst, N.C., in 2001 on a sales trip, meeting his future wife Wanda Edwards. Outside the Pinehurst Golf Club is a bronze statue of The Putter Boy.
The imaginary light bulb went off over his head. Now he had the vehicle to bring the frog to life. In his story, the Putter Frog crafts a club, fashioned from a stick and shells and a red berry for a golf ball. He brought in real-life elements, such Fast Freddie, named for an uncle.
“Every child is admonished by their parents for doing something (successfully) that they didn’t want him to,” Bazemore said in an interview this week. “The story is all about how you are told you can’t do something and dreaming you can.”
All the while, Bazemore was running his real estate business in Beaufort. Hit by the housing downturn, he would relocate to Charleston last year to work for ERA Tides, which he says has been great.
Meanwhile Bazemore has a true-to-life tale that would be fitting for Harvey’s most famous segment.
After an article about the real estate agent was published in the Beaufort Gazette last fall, Bazemore got a letter that stated in part, “I thought it was time to confess: I am of one of the people who took the frog from the post office in 1963.” Turns out she was Bazemore’s old babysitter and she, a friend and two lieutenants at Parris Island cooked up a scheme to take the frog and dress it up in a hat, sunglasses and lipstick for a party. The lieutenants were supposed to return the frog but didn’t. Then the news broke on the radio, and they smuggled it back after dark.
She concluded the note, “To quote Paul Harvey, ‘and that’s the rest of the story.’”
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.