Archives for March 2012

Tucker remembered for exceptional service to members, colleagues

PGA Life Member Ken Tucker of Seattle, Wash., whose 74-year golf career made him the longest serving Pacific Northwest PGA Section member and the second longest among current PGA Professionals, passed away March 20, following a short illness. He was 99.

Tucker’s devotion to golf encompassed the praise of those who witnessed his talent on the course, his skill in mentoring of juniors and his natural ability to make the members of Everett Golf Country Club in Everett, Wash., feel as if they were part of his family.

Born in the Seattle suburb of Ballard, Tucker picked up golf by caddying at Everett Golf Country Club and became a member of the Everett High School golf team.

“He was a people’s person, exceptionally warm, and truly enjoyed working with juniors,” said Tucker’s wife of 36 years, Mary. “He taught young and old, juniors, men, and women over the years and said that his joy was getting to enjoy people. He often talked about beginning as a caddie, and making 50 cents a day, and then the rates moved up to 75 cents and then 90!” Tucker turned professional in 1933, working at the former Mountain View Golf Course in Lacey, Wash. In 1936, he began a 42-year tenure as the fifth PGA head professional in the history of the Everett Golf Country Club. His starting salary was $50 per month.

During the winters of 1937-39, Tucker competed on the PGA Tour. With the outbreak of World War II, Tucker enlisted in the U.S. Navy, and served from 1941-45, attaining the rank of chief petty officer. While spending much of the war in the China Sea and the Philippines, Tucker added to his duties as athletic trainer.

Tucker was one recipient of legendary entertainer Bing Crosby’s affection for PGA Professionals, and their role in growing the game. When Tucker and Bud Ward paired up to compete in the first “Crosby Clambake” in 1937, (now the ATT Pebble Beach National Pro-Am), Crosby’s uncle, whom Ken had worked with in Olympia, insisted that he and Ward stay at Bing’s home during the tournament.

What followed was years of friendship, with numerous golf games involving Crosby and other Hollywood celebrities. With the exception of World War II, Tucker played in the Crosby Pro-Am every year through 1963.

Tucker was one of the finest players in the Pacific Northwest PGA Section, and was one of its most active leaders. He served as Section president from 1952-53. On the course, Tucker displayed how a PGA Professional can be as solid a player as a reputed instructor. He posted a 60 at Hillcrest Country Club, a predecessor to Cedarcrest Country Club, and had a 63 at Everett Golf Country Club. Tucker won the 1939 Pacific Northwest PGA Championship at Tacoma Country Club; later won in 1947 and 1950.

His lone experience in a major championship came in the 1939 PGA Championship at Pomonok Country Club in Flushing, N.Y., where he was defeated in the second round by Al Watrous.

Tucker also registered the Tucson Open’s first hole-in-one in 1947, and shared first in the 1952 Tacoma Open.

He competed in the 1950 Hudson Cup, a Ryder Cup-style competition named in honor of Ryder Cup benefactor Robert Hudson of Portland. Tucker also served as Hudson Cup captain in 1952 and ’53. In 1956, Tucker was named co-recipient of the Everett Herald Man of the Year in Sports.

“I used to play about four Tour events a year – just for the experience and the vacation,” Tucker told the Everett Herald in 1976. “The members come first.”

“The members loved him, and I felt honored to have known him when I joined Everett Golf Country Club,” said Everett PGA head professional Brent Webber. “Ken would help guide member trips to Hawaii and Alaska. I was a 20-year-old professional when I met Ken in 1984, and he helped me out right away. He was a mentor to me and to many others over the years. He was very proud to be a PGA Professional.

“I just keep paying my dues every year,” Tucker once said once to Webber, at the time well into his 90s.

The Pacific Northwest PGA Section named Tucker its 1960 PGA Golf Professional of the Year, and the honors continued to flow over the years. The Everett Golf Country Club membership honored him during his 40th anniversary in 1976, by hosting a golf event in his honor, bestowing honorary lifetime membership, and giving him the keys to a new Oldsmobile.

In 1982, Tucker was inducted into the Pacific Northwest PGA Hall of Fame. In 1984, he was honored for his 48 years of dedication to junior golf with a special award that preceded the national PGA Junior Golf Leader award by four years.

“Ken’s joy and commitment to teaching juniors will be one of the great parts of his legacy,” said Webber. “And, it was his joy of serving his club members that left a lasting impression for young and old. He was not just a pro that left the club after work and called it a day. I remember him last playing golf at the club about two years ago. Every Thursday, he would gather with a threesome and play about three to four holes.”

Tucker is survived by his wife, Mary, of Seattle; and daughters Mary Helbach of Seattle and Kathleen Brooks of Evanston, Ill. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Rita, in 1971; and by a daughter, Barbara, who died in 2010.

The Tucker family planned a private funeral and graveside service on March 28, followed by a public reception on March 30, at Everett Golf Country Club. The family requested that donations be made to the Pacific Northwest PGA Junior Golf Fund.

Powell named co-recipient of Athena International Leadership Award

PGA/LPGA Professional Renee Powell of East Canton, Ohio, was named a co-recipient of the ATHENA International Leadership Award, which was presented March 21 in Canton at the University Center at Kent State University’s Stark County campus.

Powell, the 2003 PGA First Lady of Golf and the head professional at Clearview Golf Club in East Canton, was cited for a career of community outreach. Her initiatives include beginning the LPGA Girls Golf Club at her family-owned facility; the Renee Powell Youth Gold Camp Cadre in 1995, which provided golf instruction to inner-city junior high students; and in 2011, launched Clearview HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere), the first PGA-inspired year-round program exclusive to women veterans. Clearview HOPE currently has 36 members spanning service from Vietnam through Iraq and Afghanistan.

Powell, a PGA of America member since 1996, was the second African-American to compete on the LPGA Tour. She was honored along with Stark County Commissioner Janet Weir Creighton, the first female auditor in Stark County and the first female mayor of Canton. Creighton also served as the director of intergovernmental affairs and deputy assistant to President George W. Bush.

“I was shocked, but also very honored to be the recipient of such a prestigious award,” said Powell. “I thank my parents for their support and inspiration. It was my honor to be recognized among so many exceptional people within our community.”

The ATHENA Leadership Award® was inspired by the goddess of Greek mythology known for her strength, courage, wisdom and enlightenment—qualities embodied in the ATHENA Leadership Model®. The award is unique in both scope – local, national and international – and the ATHENA mission upon which it is based. The ATHENA Leadership Award® is presented to a woman – or man – who is honored for professional excellence, community service and for actively assisting women in their attainment of professional excellence and leadership skills.

Since the program’s inception in 1982, nearly 6,000 exemplary leaders in more than 500 communities have received the ATHENA Award in the United States, Bermuda, Canada, China, Greece, India, Russia, Unite Arab Emirates, and United Kingdom.

Ted Bishop: Jack Nicklaus still leading the way

To say that Jack Nicklaus needs no introduction to golfers or even sports fans would be the greatest understatement of the year. “The Golden Bear” has won 18 major golf championships while amassing 115 professional wins in his celebrated career. His place in golf history as the greatest player ever, seems pretty secure for now and decades to come.

Nicklaus was an eight time PGA Tour leading money winner. He was a five time PGA Tour player of the year. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974. Nicklaus has received the Bob Jones Award, the Payne Stewart Award and the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award for humanitarian contributions in and out of golf.

My path crossed Jack’s for the first time in the winter of 2011 when several of us spoke to him about being a spokesperson for Golf 2.0, an industry wide player development initiative spearheaded by the PGA of America. Jack embraced the idea and it was pretty evident that he welcomed the challenge of doing something for the betterment of the game.

Nicklaus and his wife, Barbara, have 21 grandchildren. Only one of those grandkids plays golf. At age 72, Jack is very aware of the hurdles and distractions that families often times face when it comes to finding time to play the sport that he dominated for decades. Nicklaus understands that the perceived time commitment associated with golf has got to change in order to attract new players to the game.

Last summer, he instituted a couple of totally unconventional ideas at two of his premier golf facilities. There are no finer golf destinations in this country than Muirfield Village in Dublin, OH and The Bear’s Club in West Palm Beach, FL. These are traditional private clubs and Nicklaus devised a 12-hole routing plan at each course that allowed golfers to play “six, six and twelve” versus the traditional two nines and 18 holes. His goal was to shorten the time it takes to play.

“Twelve holes is about all I am interested in playing myself,” smiles Jack when he talks about the concept. “Many women enjoy the six-hole concept. It’s faster and less strenuous.”

Nicklaus refers to himself as one of the staunchest traditionalists in golf history, so when he introduced an 8-inch cup for a day at Murfield Village and the Bear’s Club last summer it was monumental. The official diameter of a golf hole is 4.25 inches and Jack gave his golfers a hole twice the size as the regulation cup. Players loved the novel idea, although one golfer quipped, “You can still miss ’em on the edge.”

Over the last few months, Jack has continued to explore unconventional ways to attract and keep players in the game. A couple of weeks ago, we met at the Bear’s Club and he was presented an idea promoting forward tees for family and beginning golf. Upon seeing the concept, he ordered the forward markers for both Muirfield Village and the Bear’s Club.

Nicklaus didn’t stop there. He has instructed his design teams to institute the concept on all new courses that Nicklaus design builds. I wouldn’t be surprised if he sends a memo to all Nicklaus designed courses in the U.S. and encourages them to install these forward tees.

Last week, several of us met in Jack’s office at West Palm Beach to discuss the idea of bringing the 12-hole concept to the PGA Grand Slam of Golf. The idea was born out of a discussion that Ian Baker-Finch, former British Open champion and CBS commentator, had with me at the Grand Slam Pro-Am a couple of years ago. Finch and I presented our case study to Jack, the all-time major champion, and he offered ideas and opinions on how players, television and viewers would perceive the concept.

The PGA Grand Slam of Golf features the four major championship winners in a 36-hole format each fall at Port Royal in Bermuda. We are still working out the details, but the fact that we even discussed a monumental format change like this was in large part because of Jack Nicklaus.
It is Jack’s hope that facilities and operators around the United States will follow his lead and embrace some of these new concepts. While I certainly can’t play like Nicklaus, I can at least think like him! Here are some of the new programs that we will be introducing in 2012 at The Legends Golf Club.

– Offer 6-hole and 12-hole rates on our championship 27-holes.
– Forward tees with Level 1 9-hole yardage of 1,530 and Level 2 9-hole yardage of 2,070.
– Offer a 6-hole SNAG golf course for entry level players (adults and kids) with fees under $5.
– Create an hourly family rate for hitting balls, playing our par three course or SNAG course.
– Add a new Men’s Club event utilizing the proposed Grand Slam of Golf format.

It has been my privilege to serve as the PGA’s spokesman for Get Golf Ready. This program allows the consumer to sign up for five 1.5 hour lessons from a PGA professional for a cost of only $99. Each instructional session includes an “on course” experience where the players actually get to play on the course. Get Golf Ready classes can be tailored to all types of players- beginning women, kids, senior men, accomplished players, couples, etc.

The most compelling statistic regarding Get Golf Ready is that 84% of those who take all five of the instructional sessions- stay in the game as golfers. Nicklaus liked that and he has also endorsed the program at his facilities.

Jack Nicklaus has given golfers of all ages many memories for a lifetime. Who can forget that image of him holing a putt on the 17th green at the 1986 Masters and CBS’ Verne Lundquist exclaiming, “Yes Sir!”

For me, my best memories of Jack will be sitting around a table and talking about ways to grow the game of golf. Thanks, Jack!