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"The future of golf is the good amateur. That is what is at the heart of every club and that is the lifeblood of the game. Always has been."
Basically that is what Mr. Burke said when we described what Elk and I
were planning for Secret In The Dirt. JB did not know a whole lot about the Internet but we showed him some things and described to him how golfers could use a computer to learn from us and to help one another get better at the game. After a quick look at what we were up to Jack said "I can see what you are trying to do and I don't know if it will work but if it can help people get better and get more people into the game then I'll help you in any way I can." And so with that Mr. Burke became our partner and in a way our guiding influence here at Secret In The Dirt.
Today Mr. Burke is 90 years old. I won't go on too much about all the things that he's accomplished in those 90 years because generally he doesn't like it all that much when anyone goes on too much about him but I can't help but say a few things.
Born January 29th, 1923 Mr. Burke, following in his own fathers footsteps, became a golf professional in 1940 at the tender age of 17. Almost right on top of that he served 4 years in the Marines during WWII. Once the war was over he resumed his career as a golf professional. By 1950 he was one of the best players in America, if not the world. In 1950 he won 4 times. He did the same 5 times in 1952 when he also won the Vardon Trophy for low scoring average. In 1956 he won the PGA Championship and The Masters. By the end of the 1950's it was time for a new chapter and that was the formation of Champions Golf Club in Houston with Jimmy Demaret and that is the Jack Burke that I know. The guy who runs Champions and tries to help people enjoy every day and fall in love with golf.
The Jack Burke that I know cares about people and about the game of golf and its; traditions and rules and protocols. As I've said before he can be a bit crusty about some things, but they are always the right things and they are always for the right reasons. More importantly he knows what sort of things just have to be done right. Mr Burke has always treated me in the most respectful, meaningful and supportive way. He is a gentleman, a mentor and he is a friend. When my father accompanies me to Houston from time to time seeing Mr. Burke is always a major highlight for him too.
I've had some wonderful moments in golf. I've got to play with and be around some great players. It is always a treat to hang out and play with Elk of course.... but the highlight and the thing that nothing could top for me for the rest of my days in golf are the times spent talking golf in Mr. Burke's office and the day he watch me play and said to me "Mike, you haven't missed a shot all day." It probably wasn't exactly true and perhaps he wasn't thinking too much about what he was saying. He was just being himself and encouraging me the way he encourages every other golfer he comes across who has a spark for the game but if meant a lot to me. I remember turning to Terry Okura who was filming us and saying, giddy as a kid..."Did you hear that Terry? He said I hadn't missed a shot all day." Terry probably thought I was nuts, but it was so nice to be noticed and for something I cared so much about. I think deep down JB must have known what it would mean to me to hear something like that from him so thank you for that Mr. Burke.
Anyway, the story isn't about me. It's about Jack and the way that he is and the way that he touches peoples lives and the way that he has done so for 90 years.
Happy Birthday Mr. Burke and thank you for being a continuing inspiration to all of us and to The Dirt. Looking so forward to seeing you again very soon.