SARASOTA, Florida (WWSB) – The Suncoast has many great golf stories behind it. But who knows the golf story of John “Johnny Rocket” Murray at Palmer Ranch?
“I’ll be 98 on October 30,” said the former Michigan school teacher and principal.
Johnny is a novice at Stoneybrook Golf and Country Club on the Palmer Ranch. He has been with the club since the club was founded in 1994. “There was a lot of dirt here,” he says, pointing to today’s tennis courts.
The club matured, and so did Johnny. He is old enough to be the parent of most of the members, the grandparent of even more.
“He’s beyond character. There is only one – there is only one of him. You never did one of him again! ”Said a guy walking off a green wondering why a TV crew went with Johnny.
Johnny is a relapse who has apparently lived three or four lives in one. Try to be clear about this: he served in both the European and Pacific theaters of war during World War II. He’s a retired teacher, headmaster, college football player, football and basketball coach, and the starter at Stoneybrook. Everyone here comes through Johnny. “He’s always running the show, everywhere he’s gone,” says Ted Carico, an employee in the luggage room.
When he’s not at the club, Johnny is working on his game. He plays three or four times a week. He’s shot his old man so many times it’s hardly worth counting anymore. The first time he did it, he was 76.
And the nickname “Johnny Rocket”.
“I guess it’s because I’m moving fast,” Johnny shrugged.
Has he ever. And you can’t believe the guy’s fashion sense. On the day of our visit, he was wearing a tam-o-shanter hat with a small pompom. This is heady stuff for Florida. Likewise the checked Bermuda shorts, the bright gold shirt and the red-white-blue golf shoes.
“If you stay home and sit on the couch, you’re done,” says Johnny. So true. A wise man and a true legend among us.
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