Last week I was honored to write a column about one of this area’s golf legends, Mr. Rick Jones. So I now consider myself doubly honored to follow that column up with a congratulatory column for a man who has become a dear friend of mine over the last five years, Jerry McGee.
Monday, McGee will be inducted into the Ohio Golf Hall of Fame.
Obviously, McGee’s record speaks for itself. Four PGA Tour victories. A member of the winning 1977 Ryder Cup Team. And a top-five at The Masters. It’s a resume 99.9 percent of all golfers could only dream of.
I’m sure there will be numerous stories written by actual reporters recounting his statistics, win totals, major finishes, etc. I simply want to use my limited words to congratulate my friend on this well-deserved honor.
I met McGee in 2008 while I was working at the then-Fonderlac Country Club. McGee would stop by just to hang out and chat with the pro shop staff. He was unassuming, down-to-earth and always willing to share stories about his days on the Tour.
I’ve since been lucky enough to get to know McGee the man, and I can tell you, it’s been quite an honor.
Last weekend McGee actually asked me if I would have considered accompanying him and his wife Jill to introduce him at the awards ceremony. A bit surprised, I said I would be honored. He said his wife Jill was obviously the best person for that job, but if she was unable to go on for some reason, I would be a good back-up person.
Knowing I won’t be needed Monday — and KNOWING I could never compare to Jill’s eloquence, insight, personal stories or any other parts of her introduction — I would like to take just a few moments to introduce the man I have gotten to know.
He is humble. When I asked him about what it meant to be inducted into the Ohio Golf Hall of Fame, he pointed out that three other members of the 1977 Ryder Cup team were already members (Jack Nicklaus, Ed Snead, and Captain Dow Finsterwald) and he was honored to join his old teammates.
He is unassuming and accessible. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reached out to him with a golf question for my column. Whether it was insight into a course, a tournament, another player, a piece of equipment, a players’ mindset, or some other crazy part of the game, he always made himself available and answered all of my crazy questions honestly and straightforwardly.
He is a true golf fan. It’s always a thrill of mine when I get to spend time talking golf with him. Whether it’s technology, tournaments, players, or any other facet of the game, McGee is in tune with the state of the game.
He is a teacher. I know I am just one of many golfers McGee has helped over the last month. There’s no money exchanged. Nothing in it for him. But when I told Jerry I was struggling with my ball striking, it was an immediate, “Let’s go to the range and hit a few.”
He is an historian. Spend a few hours with McGee and I swear you’ll hear some of the most interesting, most honest and at times most hilarious golf stories ever told.
He is a “hometown” man. This past winter my wife and I went to a YSU swim meet to support a friend of ours. Guess who else was there?
He is a friend. I’m amazed how McGee remembers personal things and then asks about them at just the right time several months later. Whether it’s my work, my golf game, my friends, my family, and now my pregnant wife, he is always asking how I am doing.
And most importantly, he is a family man. Spend just a few minutes with McGee and you’ll know pretty quickly just how much his wife and the rest of their family means to him. From the story of how he lipped a putt in years ago to win a trophy handed out by a beautiful woman who was destined to be his wife, to talking about his grandchildren today, he lights up when talking about his family.
So congratulations my friend. I know I speak for all of us lucky enough to know you personally when I say we’re all extremely happy for you and Jill to enjoy this well deserved honor.
I want to close with a line I first wrote for last year’s Jerry McGee piece: There aren’t a lot of Jerry McGees in the world, and we’re lucky to have ours with us here in the Valley.