For the past few weeks I kept hearing about Jackie Burke. I thought I was a fairly decent student of golf, but I didn’t really know who they were referring to.
Well, John Joseph (Jackie) Burke should not fly under the radar. He’s still going strong at 92 years old. He owns the Champions Golf Club in Houston – and has since it opened in 1957. The year before – 1956 – he won the Masters and the PGA Championship … thus putting him in position to get off the Tour and own his own golf club.
Mr. Burke is very old school. He grew up in Texas and his buddies were Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Jimmy Demaret, Henry Picard, and Claude Harmon. Most good golf instruction comes from those guys. Jim McLean and Steve Elkington have great YouTube interviews with Burke. Jackie talks about how he focused on hitting the inside corner of the golf ball – not the direct back of the ball. And he was a putting wizard and teacher – very influential on Ben Crenshaw and Phil Mickleson. He believed in rolling the ball into the hole at a slow pace.
About 10 years ago GOLF DIGEST magazine did a great interview with Mr. Burke. Here are some of his quotes:
* To succeed at golf you have to master the art of not being embarrassed.
* Stomping around looking for the sprinkler head that has “162” marked on it is a complete waste of time. Before they invented 150 markers we had a formula that worked better than numbers. Determine what club you need that will fly the ball over the green. Then use one club less and hit it soft, medium, or hard depending on where the flag is. It never fails. And it will save half an hour off your round.
* I was raised in a good home. The worst luck someone can have is coming up in a bad home. It can be too much to overcome. Remember that when looking around.
* Hang the Mona Lisa in a country club boardroom, and sooner or later an incoming president will lobby to repaint the color of her hair.
* Live your life so that when you die your funeral will fill up the church. A big funeral says something about how much you were loved, or at least respected. These people who get to church by way of the electric chair don’t get much of a turnout. They have to rent the pallbearers.
I think you get the flavor of the man. To me he’s an American at its best – independent, original, thoughtful, considerate, and warm hearted. A good model for this 4th of Julyweekend.
GM and Head Golf Professional