The Herald: “Jack Kerins was true Hall of Famer in all areas of life” By Lynn Saternow
By Lynn Saternow Herald Sports Editor
IT WAS WITH heavy heart that I teed off in The Herald Golf League Friday at Tam O’Shanter Golf Course. I had just been informed of the death of a long-time friend — Jack Kerins.
Jack, the patriarch of the Kerins family at Tamie, had been in failing health lately and died at the age of 97. But as Tamie pro Jerry Smith and I talked, we discussed that Jack had 96 pretty good years and how many of us are lucky enough to experience that?
While Jack had back problems and could hardly straighten up at times in recent years, his mind was still as sharp as a tack. When ever I would visit him in the hospital during a couple of stays over the last few months, he would always have another story to tell me about golf.
He was a walking encyclopedia of golf lore. One of my favorites was that shortly after he bought the course in the late 1940s, he received a call from Mrs. McMullin, the matriarch of the McMullin clan at Yankee Run Golf Course.
She asked Jack and George Lee of Leeland Golf Course (now Hickory VFW) to get together at Yankee.
“She was a person that didn’t beat around the bush,” Jack said. “She said, ‘George, I heard you are going to reduce the price of your season passes to $10.’ Instead of fighting each other, we need to work together and be able to put money back into our courses.
“The she said, ‘That all.’ And we left. Well, we all kept our season passes at $20. She was right.”
Man, could you imagine a $20 season pass?
Jack had made a lot of friends in the golf business over the years. As I attended the Tri-State PGA Section media-sponsor appreciation golf outing on Thursday, several people asked me about Jack and how he was doing.
Jack was one of the true promoters of the game. After he took over the Hermitage course, he was looking for a way to build the business. Herald Sports Editor Johnny Pepe convinced him to bring in legendary pro Sam Snead for an exhibition.
These were the days before golf became big on TV and many people had never seen someone of his stature play. So Jack called “Slammin’ Sammy” and he agreed to come for $1,000. Needless to say, a lot of money in those days. “I didn’t have that much money,” Jack confessed.
But Pepe had been right and the masses came to watch. Jack charged $1 per spectator and about 2,000 people came. He paid Snead with 1,000 one-dollar bills.
“The worst thing is,” Jack once related to me. “We went out to dinner after and he was so cheap, I had to buy.”
Jack helped build the sport for everyone. He was one of the first to offer women’s leagues. And he was a huge promoter of junior golf.
He and Pepe conceived The Herald-Tam O’Shanter Junior Golf Championship in 1949. Shenango Valley youths were allowed to play free. The 61st tourney was recently conducted and it is believed to be the longest continuous running junior tournament in the country.
For his many contributions to sports, Jack was inducted into the Mercer County Hall of Fame in 1987. But he was also a “Hall of Famer” as a person.
He was a generous man who was always willing to lend a helping hand to those in need. And as a husband, father and grandfather, he was good as they come.
Even the times he spent in the hospital, he wasn’t thinking of himself.
“I feel bad that I can’t be home to take care of Mary Lou,” Jack told me, referring to his wife who had been in ill health herself.
When Jack’s son John, Jim Tamber and I met recently to go over the applications for the Jack Kerins Scholarship Awards, I couldn’t help to think to myself that someday we would have to call them them memorial awards.
I just didn’t realize it would be this soon.
He was a proud Irishman and he and I sang a few Irish songs together a few years ago when we traveled to a Tri-State banquet where he was being honored.
Our condolences go out to the entire Kerins family — wife Mary Lou, sons John and Rick, and their wives and the grand-children.
Jack Kerins was a special man and I’ll think about him and smile every time I tee it up at Tamie for as long as I live.