Jim King, who played on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions in five decades, died Tuesday of complications from COVID-19. Longtime Jupiter, Florida was 86 years old.
King was known for his excellent ball punch and tough guy image. At 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, the former boxer had his share of run-ins with rulers and other golfers.
“He was one of the toughest and worst men on the planet,” said longtime friend Jeff Lewis on Wednesday. “He was also the bravest, most intense, most fearless, most regulated person I have ever met in my life. He always had to have a plan. From waking up in the morning to going to bed, he had a plan. “
Although he only started the game in his early twenties while serving as a paratrooper in the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, King became an All-American golfer in western Illinois. He was also a linebacker on the college football team before competing in his first PGA Tour event in 1960.
He played in a total of 255 PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions events, garnered 12 top 10 finishes and earned nearly $ 370,000. His last start on the 50-year-old racetrack was in 2001.
A lifetime member of the PGA of America, King set the 72-hole tournament record of 278 on the PGA National’s Champion Course when he won the PGA Stroke Play Championship from the back tees in 1982.
His biggest problem was opportunity, not talent – he only had three seasons on both tours.
“I think I can hit the ball as well as anyone,” said King after finishing third in the 1986 Senior PGA Championship at PGA National. “Ask Orville Moody or Gary Player. You know I can hit the ball. If I get through the door, I can win a tournament. “
Arriving on Wednesday, Player said of King, “I’ve always got on really well with Jim. I liked Jim. He might not have the greatest talent, but he was a Trier. He never gave up. “
King was a proven winner on the spot. He won the Florida Open (1971, 1976) and the Florida Senior Open (1985, 1986) twice, and won more than half a dozen PGA Tournament Series events.
King began boxing while serving in the Army, rarely losing, and appearing to have a career in the sport. But Lewis said King sustained a serious eye injury when he was hit by a bottle in a bar fight, and doctors told him he could lose his eye if he fought again.
According to a story in the New York Times, during the second round of the 1973 USI Classic outside Worcester, Mass., King Peter Sesso “threateningly grabbed an officer by the throat” after King played 16 holes. He was then suspended from the tour.
King switched to golf and learned to play on a narrow Army course where he concentrated on striking the ball straight. As a professional, he has had the opportunity to play with celebrities like Dean Martin, Clint Eastwood, Mickey Mantle, Joe Louis, and Rocky Marciano.
“Who knows what would have happened if Jim had learned to golf in his youth,” said Player. “Life is a game of ifs. What if Ben Hogan hadn’t missed 30 majors in his prime during his military service? What if Lee Trevino liked the Masters instead of hating them – he would have won the Grand Slam? In life you never know. “
King’s daughter Marla Ribeiro, who was often his caddy, said her father had to overcome his fear of heights when he became a paratrooper. He made sure she didn’t have the same problem.
“He would make me jump off the building on the second floor so he could catch me,” she said. “He didn’t want me to be scared of heights like he was before he started jumping out of airplanes.
“I became his caddy just to be close to him on the golf course. I was very fortunate to be close to him for the remaining years of his life. “
King leaves behind his daughter, son-in-law Artur Ribeiro and grandsons Daniel and Rosalina.
A service will take place on August 22nd at 3-7pm at the Aycock-Riverside Funeral Home in Jupiter.