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Greatest golfers provided night to remember

Published: Sun, April 27, 2014 @ 12:05 a.m.

“So let’s give a big Youngstown welcome to Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam.”

Who ever imagined we’d hear those words spoken in a literal sense?

Well, for those who attended a United Way fundraiser Wednesday night at The Lake Club, those words became reality as the greatest male and female golfers in the history of the world came together for one special night.

It was a special night for Bob Hannon and The United Way. And it was a special night for Youngstown.

I very quickly have to point out the rarity of that statement, “the greatest in the history of the world.” Think about that for a second.

Can you even fathom what that feeling would be like? Not the best golfer at your course. Or in your city. Or your state. Or even your country. But quite literally ... since the beginning of the sport ... out of the millions and millions of people who have EVER played the game ... to be the best EVER?

It’s a pretty crazy thought.

But on Wednesday at The Lake Club, Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam shared the stage and the spotlight for a few special hours. And while I could probably write an entire column on each of the following topics, I only have so many words. So I’m just going to touch on each.

Understatement of the Night

During the Q&A part of the evening, which was beautifully run by Hannon, Nicklaus had the following to say when asked about his historic comeback in the 1986 Masters: “Yeah, ’86 was OK.”

So to borrow that thought, here are three immediate takeaways from that special night:

It’s OK to have a vision

In 2008 I worked at a deteriorating Fonderlac Country Club. In 2014, Nicklaus and Sorenstam shared the stage in a beautifully renovated Lake Club banquet room. That kind of transformation and the special evening that was Wednesday night doesn’t happen without the vision of The Lake Club’s owner, Ed Muransky.

Youngstown is OK

We’ve all seen the local and national articles depicting the blight and negativity of Youngstown. But let me tell those who weren’t there — if Wednesday night is an indication of the direction Youngstown is heading, things will be OK.

Business owners and community leaders came together for a night of fundraising for The United Way. And four hours later, more than $250,000 was raised to help improve the lives of local people in need. It was a single event fundraising record for the local United Way chapter.

It’s OK to be a good guy

Yes, the United Way is a great cause. And yes, Nicklaus and Sorenstam are obviously great people. But let’s be clear about this — if Jerry McGee weren’t the “good guy” that he’s been over the last 50 years, neither would have been here.

A win-loss record is a stat on a piece of paper. Being a “good guy” is what brings the greatest golfers in the history of the world to your club, for your cause, simply because you asked them to come.

So let me repeat for the third straight year now: “There aren’t a lot of Jerry McGees in the world. We’re lucky to have ours here with us.”

I wish I had a full page to properly portray all the special moments from that night. But the truth is, I don’t even know that a full page would suffice.

For the first, and probably last time ever, the greatest male and female golfers shared the stage in Youngstown.

Thank you Ed and Chris Muransky for your vision. Thank you Lake Club staff for your professionalism. Thank you Jack and Annika for your kindness. Thank you sponsors, fans, donors and auction winners for supporting the event. And thank you Jerry for making it happen.

After the event I congratulated Muransky on the fantastic night: “Great night for The Lake Club,” was one of the comments I made to him.

He rightly corrected me (Ed, I hope you don’t mind me sharing this quote): “Great night for Youngstown.”

He sure was right about that.

Jonah Karzmer is a former golf professional who writes a Sunday golf column for The Vindicator. In his spare time he sells commercial insurance for Huntington Insurance and loves getting feedback on his weekly columns via email at jonah.karzmer@huntington.com

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