By Greg Gulas
The 1977 Ryder Cup boasted an unprecedented four players from Ohio on its 13-man roster.
Three players from that contingent, Ed Sneed, Jack Nicklaus and team captain, Dow Finsterwald, have all been inducted into the Ohio Golf Hall of Fame.
The fourth, New Lexington native and East Palestine resident Jerry McGee, will join them when he is inducted Monday in Sandusky.
“They told me that I could bring 10 friends, free of charge, but all of my friends work on Monday. If you think that I am going to ask them to take off just to see me get a plaque, you’re crazy,” McGee said.
Joining McGee will be Don Padgett, longtime general manager of Akron’s Firestone Country Club; James Logue, Canton Brookside Country Club pro and the late Sylvanus Pierson Jermain, credited as the person who presented the concept for the initial Ryder Cup.
Other Hall notables include Arnold Palmer, Byron Nelson, Bob Hope, Tom Weiskopf, Pete Dye (a noted golf architect), former Ohio University golf coach Kermit Blosser and McGee’s former coach at Ohio State, Bob Kepler.
McGee vividly recalls the recruiting war waged by both Blosser and Kepler for his services.
“Both coaches were very candid about their programs and very professional in the recruitment process,” McGee stated. “I really liked Athens and the Ohio University campus, but in the end it was the Buckeyes that won me over.”
A 28-year veteran of the PGA and Senior PGA, McGee has four PGA victories and a fifth-place finish at the 1972 Masters.
He said he could never have done it without the support and encouragement of his loving wife, Jill, who he has selected as his presenter for his induction.
“If not for Jill, I would not be standing at this podium receiving such a prestigious award. With three children I missed a lot of their programs and athletic events, simply because of the tour events in which I was participating,” McGee stated. “During that time not only did she encourage me, but she was mother, father, ‘Dear Abby,’ cheerleader and coach to our children as well.
“She gave me an opportunity to hone my skills and for that I will be forever grateful.”
In 1979, McGee became the 57th player on tour to earn $100,000 in a year.
“I won two tournaments that year, was 15th on the money list and earned $167,000. Today, that’s ninth-place prize money for just four days work,” McGee said.
Retired since 2005, he’s happily playing grandfather to three grandchildren, two of whom are the children of son Mike and golfing legend daughter-in-law, Annika Sorenstam.
Health problems have limited McGee to just eight rounds since retirement, yet he maintains he will play a little more when on Lake Club grounds, where he is a member.
“While most clubs in the area are hurting, the Lake Club under the direction of Ed Muransky is doing it all right. He has a waiting list for golfers hoping to play and also for the many social events that they wish to hold at his facility,” McGee said. “There is no aura about him and that’s the main reason why he is such a successful businessman.”
While McGee is most proud of his Ryder Cup selection and ultimate championship, the end of his speech will summarize his four decades on tour.
“I didn’t hit a ball past a lot of players and usually came from out of nowhere,” McGee said. “I’d just like to be remembered as a fighter and grinder who gave it his all on every single shot.”