U.S. Hickory Open and a Tribute to Mike Just
Two very important events took place in the world of Hickory Golf this month. Both events have an important part in my life and I am going to share them not necessarily in order of importance but in order of the dates they happened.
The U.S. Hickory Open was held at the beautiful and challenging Links of Lawsonia in Green Lake, Wisconsin. This is not only a great course, ranked in the "Top 100 in the U.S. by Golf Digest". It has plenty of history with golf legends like Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson taking on the fairways. 65 years ago my family would visit Green Lake many times a year to go camping. Green Lake is also the deepest glacier formed lake in Wisconsin.
Back to the Links of Lawsonia, the course that was designed by the famous duo of William B. Langford and Theodore Moreau, opened for play in 1928 with 90 bunkers +/- (I am quite familiar with most of them) on over 140 acres of rolling land. The cost was $250,000 which in those days was a huge sum of money. Having played it 6 times, I can assure that it is challenging but fair. Local lore explains that a buried boxcar was used to gain the elevation for the 146 yard 7th hole.
This year, 2016, Jeremy Moe of Ft. Smith, Arkansas became "Mr. 4-Peat" by winning the U.S. Hickory Open Championship for the 4th consecutive year. Mr. Cliff Martin of Los Angeles, California pushed Jeremy to a "Sudden Death" playoff 36 hole card of 151. I wish my congratulations to both as they are not only great players but great personable and kind men. Golf is a game of INTEGRITY and GENTLEMEN and both of these men have their picture next to the definition!
Lastly, a word about the "OPEN COMMITTEE" headed by Bill "Ernie" Ernst and Jim "Doc" Eike. FABULOUS! They presented an excellent event that was well organized and flawless. in other words, GREAT JOB! The Hickory Nation needs to have a glass of your favorite libation raised to them.
More importantly, on Sunday, October 2nd, the golfing world, especially the Hickory Nation, lost the person that was the HEART, SOUL and INSPIRATION for so many who enjoy the game as it was originally designed. Michael Charles Just or "Mike" as his golfing friends called him. There was not a person that Mike would not discuss the TRADITION and INTEGRITY of the game with. His knowledge of the game, clubs and history was second to none. To be his friend was to have a treasure as strong as family.
Family was Mike's highest priority. His love of Lynn was his will to beat cancer. He and Lynn had 3 children. His precious granddaughter was his "heart"! His second drive was to see the marriages of his two daughters.
Mike was the Tom Stewart of today. He was the "Van Gogh", as written in his memorial notice (see link below), to the Hickory Nation. He never stopped looking for the perfect club from the past. He studied his finds and would reproduce them to the finest detail so they could be enjoyed today. For example:
- Last year he introduced the replica KEMPSHALL PUTTER in both black and white. There are only a "handful" of these known to exist. Mike painstakingly found the equivalent of the material that is available today and made an exact computer milling program to reproduce this 1903 Willie Dunn design.
- For the past few years Mike worked to replicate the most sought after Stewart Irons. As Tom Stewart was mainly known as a "Cleek" craftsman, his irons were very rare. With the help of his friends, Jay Harris, Brad Gregory and Deal Hudson, he was able to assemble all of the originals to bring these irons to modern golfers.
Five years ago, Mike lured me out of retirement after making golf bags for over 30 years, He said, "Will, we need a TRADITIONAL BAG that is made with QUALITY!" At first I politely, with locker room words, said one of us was crazy. It was me - because here I am.
For the remainder of my days I will be grateful to Mike for encouraging me to create the "Steurer & Jacoby" line of products. There is no way to articulate my gratitude to Mike for introducing me to the world of Hickory of which I have become addicted.
As one of our friends, Mr. Joe Lauber of Davos Switzerland, always says, "Enjoy the Walk!" Mike we will enjoy the walk with every step any of us take, you will be with us until the end of time!
Rest in Peace my friend and enjoy the walk up the 18th Fairway on the Championship Course in Heaven!