There are many forms of immortality a golfer can achieve.
In his nearly 101-year life, Jack Burke, Jr. - a.k.a. "Jackie" - achieved two of them.
The first is the one most golfers of a certain age would know: Burke won 16 total PGA Tour events from 1950 through 1963, including the Masters and the PGA at suburban Boston's Blue Hill Country Club - the second-to-last one competed under a match play format - in 1956.
The immortality of peeling off a couple of major championships is nice, but Burke's second big contribution to the game goes far beyond his on-course exploits. In 1957, he and fellow Texan major champion Jimmy Demaret founded Champions Golf Club in the western section of Houston.
Competitive golf has been part of Champions' DNA from the beginning, with two midcentury-modern golf courses that are known as stern tests. Cypress Creek, the bigger and more famous of the two, was laid out by Ralph Plummer and features narrow, tree-lined fairways snaking through trees and large, sweeping putting surfaces no doubt inspired by those at Augusta National. Jack Rabbit, the club's other course, originally laid out in the 1960s by George Fazio, is no slouch, either, stretching past 7,000 yards as it weaves through a neighborhood.
Champions' membership carries one of the lowest average handicaps of any club in the world. In 1967, the Cypress Creek course hosted the Ryder Cup, where a Ben Hogan-led U.S. team drubbed Dai Rees' GB&I squad, 23.5 to 8.5, the largest margin of victory in the event's history. Two years later, Champions played host to one of major championship history's unlikeliest winners, when Orville Moody won the 1969 U.S. Open. Thirty years later, Tiger Woods won the second of four Tour Championships held at Champions. In 2020, A Lim Kim won the U.S. Women's Open at Cypress Creek. The club also regularly hosts other tournaments, including qualifying for the Drive, Chip and Putt.
Similar to Arnold Palmer at Bay Hill, Burke was a near-constant presence at Champions, keeping an office there, overseeing the day-to-day goings-on alongside his wife, Robin, and holding court in the restaurant and practice grounds, telling stories and offering advice to members and guests. A YouTube video where Burke discusses "toe-putting" and his winning putt from the 1956 Masters with fellow PGA Champion Steve Elkington is an all-time favorite of mine.
The only centenarian major champion to date, Burke lived long and well enough to both become an institution in the game, and establish one that golfers will get to enjoy for decades - hopefully centuries - to come.
More golf course news and notes
'BLACK & BLUE' AT STREAMSONG - The sought-after Florida resort released its annual tournament schedule, including for the first time a best-ball event that will see two of its three courses play their toughest. [LINK: The Golf Wire]
NEW UTAH COURSE PLANNED - Three Bridges Golf Club will be built on 530 acres 15 miles south of Provo at the base of the Wasatch Mountains. It will be the first Utah golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones, II, set to open in 2025. [LINK: The Golf Wire]
FIGHTING FIRE WITH GOLF CLUBS - Jacelyn Yun, a Maui High School senior, has stepped up to help golfers whose lives were upended by the fires that devastated Lahaina, collecting and distributing 50 sets of donated clubs. [LINK: Maui News]
GOLF-ADJACENT - Nemacolin, a western Pennsylvania resort with two Pete Dye-designed golf courses and more fine art on display than some museums, just reopened its Grand Lodge, one of three distinct hotels within the eclectic resort property. [LINK: Nemacolin]