Remembering Jack Vickers: A man with class, grace, style, vision and respect for others

“It was under that Big Oak Tree with Wisteria in 1988
that I first talked personal business with Jack Vickers
while covering the Masters for the Denver Post – a
conversation that would change my life….”

By BUDDY MARTIN

Jack Vickers drove expensive cars, wintered in Palm
Springs, drank the best Scotch money can buy,
stayed at the Pierre when he visited New York, had a
Rolodex full of important people and set the standard
for great parties at his Vickridge mansion.

Among other things, Jack had class, grace and style. I
admired him for all that, but mostly I admired him for
his visions and the respect he showed for people in all
walks of life.

Jack’s daddy was a world-class polo player. On
August 8, in 1925, a few days after pulling his train
car up to the exclusive Broadmoor County Club in
Colorado Springs for a summer of competition – as it
did ever year — a son named John A. Vickers Jr.
would be born to him on the premises.

No wonder Jack Vickers would grow up fascinated by
any sport where a ball was struck by a stick. But his
father just didn’t want it to be polo. John A. Vickers Sr.
would even go on to have a golf course built for his
sons in Kansas. So it was golf, not polo or baseball,
which caught the fancy of the oldest brother of five
Vickers boys.

All of the Vickers brothers quickly made a name for
themselves as amateur golfers in at the highest level
around Wichita, then Kansas, then the country –
Jack, Jimmy, Bobby, Byrne and Tommy. They were
all good sticks, so to speak. Soon their prowess
began to spread far and wide.

To the Trans-Mississippi event where Jack would
meet another Jack named Nicklaus …To the
clambakes of Crosby and Hope at Pebble Beach,
where Jimmy became a fixture … U.S. Amateurs,
British Amateurs.

It was no wonder that while enrolled for a short stint at
the University of Oklahoma, Jack would soon befriend
a rangy Okie named Charlie Coe, where the two of
them decided one day they would drive to Augusta to
see this thing called the Masters. After all, Charlie had
qualified.

Charlie damn near won it on his third try as an
amateur, finishing second in 1961. Jack wasn’t in that
class as a golfer, but the Augusta experience thrilled
him and The Masters fascinated him.

Relentlessly pursuing his visions, once Jack became
successful as an oilman, he was able financially to put
his big dreams into play …. Owning a semi-pro AAU
team … Starting an NHL hockey franchise … Helping
bring a big time NFL Coach, Chuck Fairbanks, to the
University of Colorado … Building a world-class golf
course, Castle Pines, and starting a world class
tournament, The INTERNATIONAL.

For years Vickers stalked a piece of dirt just north of
Castle Rock on I-25, envisioning a magnificent golf
course in the foothills in the Rocky Mountains with a
line of sight to Pikes Peak. He convinced his partners
to invest in it, Jack Nicklaus to build it and the PGA
Tour to stage a tournament there in 1986.

After joining Augusta National and becoming one of
its most prominent members, Jack could often be
seen under The Big Oak tree behind the clubhouse,
where his friendships grew with the likes of Nicklaus,
Arnold Palmer and just about every big name in golf.

It was under that tree laden with Wisteria in 1988 that
I first talked personal business with Jack Vickers while
covering the Masters for the Denver Post – a
conversation that would change my life. He
offered me a job as a media director at The
International played at beautiful Castle Pines Golf
Club. At first I said thanks, but no thanks.

Jack Vickers usually got his man. A year later afar
having moved to Florida, I wound up returning to
Colorado and leaving the newspaper business.
Instead I took the job as national media director for
The INTERNATIONAL and another one,
simultaneously, as an associate producer at the NFL
Today on CBS to work with Terry Bradshaw.

For a good chunk of the next 16 years I was blessed
to be in Jack Vickers’ organization, working for his
right-hand man, Larry Thiel. As an innovator himself,
Jack allowed us to innovate change to media relations
with a full complement of resources – many of those
innovations later simulated all over the PGA Tour.

Castle Pines became my work place and there were
mornings, while looking out my back window at Pikes
Peak, the beauty stunned me, prompting me to ask
myself, “How did I ever get lucky enough to work at a
place like this?”

At times I played the golf course, sometimes
entertaining media figures like Ricky Reilly or Woody
Paige, and had full access to the facilities. It became
a second home to the Martins and even after I bought
part of two radio stations in Florida, I kept my job
there during the summer.

My son Brenden even became a caddie at Castle
Pines and wound up appearing on an NBC reality
show, “So You Want to Be a Hilton?” For six episodes
he carried the Colorado flag until finally getting cut.

Quite often “Mister V” would ask Brenden to carry his
bag. He recalled fondly those loops with “Mr. V.” and
Jack’s passion for a strong caddie program.

“He knew every blade of grass,” said Brenden, “and
he was always asking the caddies their opinion on a
green or a bunker of a hazard.”

It was Brenden who brought me the news on the
morning of Monday, Sept. 24, that Mr. V finally
succumbed to dementia and Alzheimer’s at age 93.

That night we remembered Jack Vickers with a toast
and a few tears on my live streaming sports show. At
the close, Brenden and I looked at each other with
moist eyes, clinked our wine glasses and said,
“Fairways and Greens.” And then we hugged.