Most athletes aspire to be inducted into a Hall of Fame.
Then there is Jerry Tucker. Soon he will be inducted into his fifth Hall of Fame. That’s right – five. The thumb came as a surprise to the Stuart resident.
Tucker had been asked to act as captain for the South Florida PGA team at the recent Challenge Cup games in Ocala. Geoff Lofstead, Executive Director of South Florida PGA, took the moment to announce at a team dinner that Tucker and Alan Morin, PGA Assistant Professional at The Club at Ibis in West Palm Beach, would be inducted into the Section Hall of Fame .
Tucker and Morin became the first players to be elected to the South Florida PGA Hall of Fame based solely on their results. Most of the newcomers are honored for their decades of service to golf, the section and its community.
“He shocked me the hell, he really did,” Tucker said. “I was inducted into the Hall of Fame in the Gateway Section (in St. Louis, where he was Head PGA Professional at Bellerive), but that was different. It was (during) the main part of my career.
“A small part of me didn’t just want to be known as a player. I am proud to say that I was Player of the Year and Teacher of the Year in both areas. You should be good in two or three areas. “
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Tucker also meets these criteria. In addition to winning tournaments at 72, he co-founded and directs the Treasure Coast Senior Tour, served on the PGA of America’s national rules committees, and teaches one of the game’s best young players, 17-year-old Alexa Pano of Lake Worth.
When asked what it means for him to be inducted into another Hall of Fame, Tucker laughed, “That means I’m getting old,” he said.
Lofstead said the section has always used playing records as one of the HOF criteria, but it was not emphasized as much as, for example, being a section official. The South Florida PGA officials decided to establish strict criteria, much like the LPGA Tour uses for their Hall of Fame requirements.
1. Must have been Player of the Year in this section at least five times (Tucker was POY seven times, including Junior and Senior Awards in 2010).
2. Must have won at least eight major titles in the section
3. Must have participated in at least two PGA Championships.
“When we first came across it, we said, ‘Nobody’s going to do this,'” Lofstead said. “Then we found out that we actually had two people who met it. I was almost stunned that they made it, especially in this section with all the great players. “
The South Florida PGA wouldn’t have to go far to research Tucker’s career. Since 1980, four years after becoming a PGA Professional, he has meticulously made notes of his game.
For example, he can tell you that he has won more than 250 events, around 100 of which are “significant”; he has participated in 19 major championships, including two US Opens and PGA Championships (at the PGA 1992 in Bellerive he only missed the cut by three shots, despite running the merchandise tent); and he shot more than 300 times at his age.
It’s been an amazing career for someone who admittedly struggled with his nerves on the first tee when he started taking golf seriously.
“I was so nervous about starting a lap I almost made my tee shot,” said Tucker. “I said, ‘Let’s just save time and drop the ball about 120 yards from the tee on the fairway.'”
Tucker gradually overcame his nerves with a system of treating every stroke in a training round as he would in a tournament.
“I always scored points in training and never took a practice shot without evaluating it,” said Tucker. “I would increase the intensity in training and reduce it in tournaments. If you don’t, you create tension when you play in a tournament. “
Tucker specializes in the short game, which probably explains why he continued to win tournaments in his early 70s. It can also tell you on a cold day how far a ball heated before the round will go.
“Jerry would certainly be one of the most analytical PGA professionals I’ve come across,” said Lofstead. “He just keeps getting better and that’s usually not the case.”
One of the best ways to stay young is to be with young players. Working with a phenomenon like Pano gives Tucker an incentive to keep his game sharp.
“Without a doubt,” said Tucker. “I have to work on my game to stay in front of Alexa. I want to be better than my students in the short game. It keeps their attention. “
And it keeps him young.
Craig Dolch is a TCPalm.com correspondent with over 30 years of golf writing experience.
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