PGA Director of Instruction and Events – Bob Burk
After a couple of gin and tonics my mom confessed to me in a nostalgic moment that she and my dad, at times, went through some rough patches in their marriage. My father worked and my mother stayed home to tended to me, my sister and her male chauvinist husband. He didn’t try to be like that he was just a product of a culture in his upbringing that existed when doting on the male members of the home was accepted as normal practice. My mom told me one time that my dad had “tamed her”. I remember wondering why she needed to be tamed and if she was trying to tell me how it would be when I got a girlfriend, fiancé or wife. What I saw was the constant pressure applied by my father to force her to go along with anything he wanted to do because he was the sole breadwinner. He acted like he earned the right to force his will upon the members of his family that were making no measureable contribution to financial demands of a growing post World War II family. At the time I didn’t know if it was right or wrong I just knew that’s how it was at our house. She cooked the meals, did the laundry, shopped at the grocery store, feed the dog and most of the time mowed the lawn. And she did not seem depressed, discontented or stuggled with any sort of psychologically diagnosed stay at home mom disorders. My mother was comfortable and competent in her role, did not need constant recognition for her many homebuilding talents and seemed to enjoy celebrating the accomplishments and company of her little tribe at the price of her own freedom and pursuits. Her attempts at financial independence took her through the sorted world of ceramics entreprenuers, dog grooming curriculums, clothing alteration start ups and gourmet cooking. She repressed her inner ghetto girl and only allowed her ugly head to surface when the normal capacity for tending to other people reached its breaking point. I remember, as a 10 year old kid, seeing it triggered by my dad’s obsessive, delusional passion for playing golf on beautiful sunlit Saturday mornings in south Florida ocean breezes. She looked at him and said, “you’re not going to that golf course today”. The disagreement escalated and went on for some time until my father could only muster a repeat of what he’d said several times already during the spat, “yes, I am”. My mother then resigned herself to the inevitable by saying, “well, if you’re going, you’re taking him with you” and pointed directly at me. That is how I got my start in golf. The good news is that shortly after this clash my parents took my big sister and I to the club pool more often, saved themselves thousands of dollars in college tuition when the “him” earned a golf scholarship, and have now been married over 60 years.
Prior to attending Georgia Southern University I took lessons from a couple of PGA professionals who worked at clubs where we belonged. In Palm Harbor, Florida I attended junior golf camps directed by, and took private lessons from, our club’s PGA professional, Bill Kennedy. Bill spent some time pursuing a playing career on the PGA Tour before accepting his position with the General Development Corporation at Port Malabar Country Club. He would sometimes compete in Monday qualifiers for spots in tour events and I remember how cool it was when my dad took me to Rio Pinar Country Club in Orlando to watch our club’s pro tee it up with the likes of Sam Snead, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. To this day I remember the specific detail of Bill’s instruction. The left thumb was to be “only slightly” down the right side of the grip. The handle was to be held “in the fingers with the pressure firmly in the last three fingers of the left hand”. And my junior buddies and I hung on to every word and tried to get it just right because, after all, this guy just played in the Citrus Open! Once we progressed a bit and started to play in junior interclub matches with other clubs, we used to love telling other kids that our pro could kick their pro’s ass. Bill took us to the side and let us know he did not think our comments did much to develop camaraderie with the other little linksters. I also remember the crack of his smile and the twinkle in his eye as he turned to walk away from us. I liked Bill Kennedy and I was proud he was my golf pro.
By the time I got to high school our family had relocated to Jacksonville, Florida where my dad had a good job as a regional vice president with a large lumber company. We joined Baymeadows Country Club where I came under the tutelage of PGA professional Jim Pringle. He was an older, more grizzled, crusty golf pro whose father gave lessons to, and mentored, the legendary Patty Berg. His methodology involved a lot of moving my arms and body into the right position without the assistance of any current or resent video technology. Even without video analysis at lessons he was effective and attracted a following among the juniors in the area that were trying to get better. I met a girl named Beverly Davis at Baymeadows and we became instant friends. She was a tomboy with a soft side, had the best swing of any junior player I’d seen up to that point and she never backed down from a fight, including the boys. She and Jim would sometimes argue during her lessons. He would accuse her of being lazy and not practicing and she would tell him that he couldn’t teach a lick. Beverly was from a broken home and I can remember many long stretches when Beverly lived with Jim and his wife Dottie. She was a tomboy with a soft side, loved to be the life of the party, and could absolutely golf her ball. She was ranked in the top 10 among female amateur golfers in America after winning the Trans-National Championship in 1975 and was an All-American at the University of Florida in 1976 and 1979. As a freshman she finished as the runner-up in the 1976 National Championship behind Nancy Lopez. She played the ladies tour from 1980 – 1986 and I remember being so proud of my friend when she finished 10th in the 1982 U.S. Womens’ Open. My golf swing got a lot better working with Jim and my scores got lower spending time practicing and playing matches against “Bevo”.
I won some tournaments including two club championships and the district high school championship before the end of my senior year and heading into the Florida State High School Championship had garnered some attention from several college coaches whose decisions on awarding their last few available scholarships hinged upon their performances in the respective state tournaments. Three days before the state competition I broke my left wrist and fell off the radar screens of these same coaches. Growing up in a beach town most of my friends were surfers and skaters so they were on a mission to school their golfing friend in the skills of negotiating parking lot ramps and other steeply sloped makeshift concrete slants. My dad was furious. After my wrist healed up I decided to enroll at Florida Junior College and attempt to make the golf team as a walk on. During the first semester I qualified for every tournament, had several top 10 finishes, and earned a full scholarship which eased our family budget concerns and put me back in the good graces of my pop. By the end of my two years at FJC I won my first college tournament, had the fifth best stroke average in the state, and once again had attracted the attention of several Division I coaches. By the time my two years at FJC ended I had scholarship offers on the table from Florida State, East Tennessee and Georgia Southern. I ruled out East Tennessee when the coach told me they had a great indoor facility to practice in the winter time. I grew up in Florida and wondered why they needed indoor facilities to practice. After visits to Florida State and Georgia Southern I signed a letter of intent to play at FSU. The girl to guy ratio on campus at the time was four to one and my best friend from high school, Allen Johnston, was going to school there and seemed to be having the time of his life. One night after signing the letter of intent I was home watching television when my dad came into the living room and said Buddy Alexander, the golf coach at Georgia Southern was on the phone. I was shocked and honored that he called. Buddy was an accomplished player in his own right being named to the All-American teams while playing for Georgia Southern in 1974 and 1975. He also won the prestigious Azalea Invitational in 1976 and the Eastern Amateur Championship in 1977 before becoming the golf coach at Georgia Southern. He later solidified his place as one of the best amatuers in the United States with his selection to the Walker Cup Team after his win in the 1987 U.S. Amateur Championship. We talked about life, we talked about the future and we talked about what it took to be successful in college golf. He said the guys on the team thought I’d be a good fit on the team and that they were disappointed I wasn’t coming. By the end of the conversation I knew I wanted to play for Buddy and was already thinking about what I’d say to my best friend and the the FSU coach. That’s how I ended up in Statesboro, Georgia playing for the fighting Eagles.
Buddy was a well connected ATO alum who had natural born communication skills with players, school officials and deep pocketed boosters alike. We were guys from a small school but he entered us in big events, escorted us for fun trips to venues like Harbor Town, East Lake and Augusta National, and required our conformance to his old school ways of saying please, thank you and behaving yourself like a gentleman at all times. He was the consummate players’ coach. His playing resume made anything he said to us to sometimes reach epic proportion. He once said, “when I’m playing well I’m not in any hurry to get to my next shot”. He would not allow any member of his team to hit a tee shot off the ground on a designated teeing area. He said, “if the rules of golf give you an advantage, you will take advantage of it”. One of our players, Mike Cooney, was from Connecticut and rarely made the trip home to visit family during holiday breaks. He spent several Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks riding in my Ford LTD and breaking bread with the Burk family in Florida. Mike was the nicest guy I think I ever met. He was always smiling, always had a positive comment about anything, and was honest to a fault. After several qualifying rounds in which he called penalty shots on himself when his ball moved as a result of removing various loose impediments, Buddy had had enough. He told him the next time he moved a loose impediment he was to turn his head and look the other way before removing anything. Problem solved. Stupid penalties and poor management of your game during a qualifying or tournament round drove Buddy beserk.
Mike Donald was a senior when I got there. He was from a blue collar neighborhood in Hollywood Florida and drove a 10 year old red Camaro with windows that were mechanically disabled and incapable of sealing off the interior of the car. He had extra large wax snack bar coke cups for headcovers, a New Jersey style vernacular, and had the most simple effective golf swing on the team. He was a Broward Community College transfer just coming off a win the the Junior College National Championship who did not fully appreciate the value of attending college classes at an attempt at a better life. Mike thought his chance at a better life rested more on his abilities to negotiate rolling hills, strategically located water hazards and tree lined fairways with the lowest score he could possibly shoot. On trips in the van to and from college competitions, Buddy’s archives of funny stories, jokes and anecdotes would at times have Mike climbing over the back seat of the van to find his golf towel and dry the tears streaming down his face. Mike had a lot of top five and 10 finshes and when we wrestled the Cyprus Gardens team title away from the likes of Wake Forest, Florida and Oklahoma State, Mike won the individual title. He asked me on the way home if the Cyprus Gardens win was bigger than the National Junior College win. I told him I wasn’t sure. I also told him I thought he was a hell of a player either way. Mike was from a very poor family. He was two room wood plank shotgun house kind of poor and grew up lacking the type of financial backing sometimes necessary for young players to gain experience and earn their stripes. His mother used to hide money from his father so that Mike could pay entry fees, and buy plane tickets when his performances had qualified him for bigger regional and national events. When he graduated, the farm system currently in place to develop players for the PGA tour did not exist and a lot of guys who graduated from college would hunt down various mini-tours to polish their games for the annual pilgrimage to PGA Tour Qualifying School. At the NCAA championships his senior year a guy spoke who was some kind of golf big wig at the closing ceremony of the NCAA’s and told all the collegiate tour hopefuls that the mini-tour circuit was basically a waste of time. Mike played poorly at the NCAA’s, planned his first few mini-tour events and told us he thought the guy who spoke was full of shit. Mike played those mini-tour events, kept working with his instructor, Gardner Dickenson, earned his card and competed on the PGA Tour for 20 years. He lost to Hale Irwin in the U.S. Open in a Monday 18 hole play off. He was able to buy his mom a home, set up his dad and brother in business and pretty much do anything he wanted to after he stopped playing. I saw him at a few tour stops and he always stopped to chat, one time walking from the 9th green to the 10th tee box. In the middle of the conversation he pulled a wad of $100 bills and handed it to his caddie to find something to eat. It was nice to see a guy with money who probably appreciated it more than someone else. He never had a girlfriend and don’t know that he dated anyone serious. With Mike I think it was more a self aware realization that the amount of interpersonal challenge involved in developing an intimate relationship with a member of the opposite sex was a pursuit he never got around to needing or wanting strongly enough to devote the proper amount of time to.
Jody Mudd was a freshman when I was a senior and captain of our squad. He was more pequliar than quiet but had moments of being equally both. He’d won the U.S. Publinx and the Kentucky Open two years in a row so he was well acquainted with performing under pressure. We roomed together on a lot of team trips because he was young and disciplined and I had not acquired the tolerance for beer drinking that my other mates had developed and did not accompany them in their fraternity excesses. Now, maybe I wish I had. Jody made me go to mass with him on Sundays when we had late tee times. He thought there may be something to the whole catholic God concept but he didn’t really know how to get deeper into without becoming like most of them. He like the potential of the gospel but couldn’t reconcile it’s presentation with its presenters and could not picture himself as a traditional parishener. After making bogey on the last two holes at the Duke Intercollegiate, his first college tournament, he was irreconcilable. He slammed his clubs into the back of the van, sat in the back corner of the van with his head and his hands and refused to be comforted by the fact that in 54 holes of a division I golf tournament he had hit a lot of shots and turned in a great performance. I think he won three times that year, five times his sophomore year and at the start of his junior year could not tolerate the thought of another class in a college curriculum standing in the way of him working on another part of his finely tuned golf game. He left without graduating and was successfully competing on the PGA within the year. He made just shy of $3 million in earnings in 13 years with four wins including the Tournament of Champions and the Tournament Players Championships.
Jody was a blue collar kid from Kentucky whose brother Eddie had also won the U.S. Publinx tournament and who Buddy was quite proud of landing. We heard about Jody coming and looked forward to watching him try to take our spots. He was 6’1” and I’ll be didn’t weigh a buck twenty five when I first met him. His swing was long and smooth and he hit it a mile. He was wirey and strong and had great technique. A golf pro told me one time that to be a good player a person would have to endure long hours of isolation being comfortable by themselves. Jody would never have to struggle with this truth. He would always be the last to leave the range or putting green and seemed to have the same energy level with the sun wiggling down below the long thin pines as he did when he pulled his sticks out his neatly kept, recently oil changed ford sedan his family had probably scraped to buy for his trips back and forth between Statesboro and Louisville. He had a reputation on tour for being a bit essentric. One time when his caddie did not show for the second round of a tour event he was leading, the committee saw it necessary to disqualify him when he needed more time to find a bag man. In the rules trailer near the clubhouse he told Deane Beamon, the commissioner at the time if it had been Jack Niclaus, they would have change his tee time and rearranged the pairings. When Beamon took exception to it Mudd asked him to step outside to settle it. Beamon declined.
After building up a substantial nest egg, Jody lost interest in playing and started to buy dilapidated horse farms, fix them up and sell them for profit. The first one he bought he showed up with cash in a briefcase at the closing. He now owns 11 acres or so near the World Golf Village near St. Augustine and does what he wants to do.
I was glad two of my teammates from Florida Junior College decided to spend their last two years at Southern as well. Dewey Arnette was just a really good athlete that could have probably played at an elite level in several sports. Before getting into golf exclusively, he was a golden gloves level boxer. Very competitive but maybe always two fights away from getting to a place where he could actually make money doing it. He told the story of one of his last fights when the other guy caught him with hardest shot he’d ever taken to wake up several minutes later in a haze. Up to that point he’d done pretty well, been the aggressor more than not and liked the action. After the guy caught him coming in and knocked him out he decided he did not want to absorb the number of shots it would take him to reach an elite level. He was only average in junior college and at Southern but he possessed an abnormal amount of positive mental attitude for any endeavor he chose to pursue and continued to work on his game and test his skills in Mini-tours, Monday qualifiers and the annual pilgrimage to tour school and after a couple of tries successfully completed the grind to secure his ticket to the show. He only made just over $42,000 in several years on tour and found his niche teaching in the northeast. He now commutes about 7 hours a day from his home in Jacksonville to his job at the Windsor Club in Cocoa Beach. He’s worked with the likes of Daren Clark and Padraig Harrington and has become known as the golf whisperer and charges $400 per lesson. I just remember a quirky guy who sometimes had tendencies to become obsessed about things that would not, in a lifetime, ever accumulate enough legitimate value to matter to me. He had to have apple pie and vanilla ice cream as he pre-game college golf tournament meal. I think he later changed his culinary superstition to Waffle House, but I’m not sure. Part of the golf scholarship negotiations included the extremely valuable Georgia Southern Landrum cafeteria meal card. Just a simple swipe through the reader terminal and meal plan students had access to more protein, carbohydrates and sugar than any kitchen refrigerator in America. For a blue collar kid who routinely spent the monthly $100 stipend check sent from home 15 days into the month, the meal card was golden. The first semester I lived in Statesboro I became a creature of habit in selecting my seat in the busy eatery-second table from the front in the middle section. I have a friend who has season tickets to the Jacksonville Jaguar games. The same season ticket holders all sit in the same seats each week and over the years became good friends, It was the same way at Landrum. We counted it as pure, unadulterated entertainment to see the transformations of the svelt bodies of the freshman straight out of their mothers’ kitchens begin to use the café as an escape from the pressures of college curriculums and pack on the pounds. Especially funny was their attempt to wear the same size clothing as their bodies morphed over the boundaries of their high school wardrobes. Again, pure entertainment.
Dewey would sometimes make a mockery by stacking up a half of loaf of white bread, the only kind he would eat, along with a bowl full or peanut butter and a bowl full of jelly and tell the group sitting with him that he was trying to stretch his stomach out so it would have the capacity to hold more fuel for the grind of a four hour round of golf. A lot of times Arnette just got bored with life and invented weird stuff to stimulate insane conversations. He once told me that during his search to find the meaning of life, and his subsequent investigation of Christian dogma, he had determined by sound reasoning that the devil or concept of evil forces in the universe did not, in fact, exist. He later passed me crossing campus to inform me that due to the number of trials and tribulations he encountered after our previous conversation he had subsequently adjusted his theology.
Hilton Head Island
I moved to Hilton Head Island in January 1980 after a grueling month in Greenville, South Carolina living with my parents following the completion of my Bachelor of Science journalism curriculum. Although teammates had voted me captain of the team my senior year, probably based solely on my unexpected quarterfinal appearance in the U.S. Amateur the summer before, I couldn’t hit the side of a barn with a golf ball from close range during my last six months playing college golf. The combination of the deterioration of my golf game and an incomplete in a class that delayed the presentation of my degree apparently communicated to my post World War II ex-Navy father that he had a responsibility to detail as many of my shortcomings as possible, on a daily basis, in an effort to improve my chances of being a productive human being. It was a long three and a half weeks.
After graduating some of the guys who played at Southern had migrated to the coast to work for Brooks Simmons an older, former GSU player who was the director of golf at Palmetto Dunes Resort on Hilton Head Island. Brooks was fond of hiring former Georgia Southern players and after a few years reduced his interview questions down to when a guy played at Southern, and how soon could he start. I played two years, 77 and 78, and I could start immediately. That’s how I got my first job after college.
I made minimum wage plus tips alternating between the morning and afternoons shifts slinging the oversized leather golf bags of cigar chewing, hard drinking gamblers who travelled in caravans of cadillacs, crown vics and mini-vans with coupon books full of travelers checks and pockets full of cash. The cart boys, or “outside staff assistants” as we were respectfully referred to by Brooks when he introduced us to celebrity visitors, raked in gobs of bills when the seasonal resort business was rocking which made our menial positions more lucrative. Some of the guys who drove the electric wagons through the parking lots of the Robert Trent Jones and Tom Fazio course parking lots loading golf bags were doing their time completing internship requirements from colleges that offered golf business degrees. Other guys worked for spending money and golf privileges at the island’s numerous championship courses tuning their games for PGA Tour Monday qualifiers, two day mini tour events, and possible trips to different stages of tour school. The rest were logged in as potential assistant professionals in line to be promoted into the climate controlled environments of the two well stocked and overly staffed golf shops inside the development. I wanted to get one of the inside assistant jobs but was also trying to get better by pounding balls on the range and playing in the daily morning and afternoon gambling matches.
Graduated from Georgia Southern University with B.S. in Journalism. Captain eof the GSU golf team and former quarterfinalist in 1978 U.S. Amatuer Championship. Started as Stone Creek Head PGA professional in 1992 and left in 2000 to pursue other interests. Came back as Director of Instruction and Events in 2009. As a senior player in the Georgia Section PGA Bob has qualified for the National Senior Club Professional Championship three times in the last four years, won the 2010 Georgia Senior PGA Championship, the Pot O Golf Senior Championship in 2011, 2013, and the Red Dobbins Senior Championship in 2012.
Bob graduated from the Leadership Lowndes class of 2012 and serves as tournament director for Stone Creek’s annual Wounded Warrior Golf Benefit which raised over $20,000 in the last four years. Part of the proceeds from the event also went to benefit the Moody Air Force Bases Family Readiness Support group. Bob has also served as tournament coordinator for numerous charities including the American Cancer Society, Hugs for Hope and the Muscular Distrophy Association.