Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Saying Goodbye to a Friend

Without a doubt this is the toughest blog I have ever written.....

Yesterday afternoon, after a 14 month battle, Jimmy Hurst lost his fight with cancer.  He was only 53 years old.

The above photo doesn't show at all the type of man that Jimmy was.  Jimmy was THE most dedicated, THE most hard-working, and THE most motivated person on the Turf Crew in my time here at Sawmill.  Jimmy had a passion, and desire to make sure that the product that he put out, was absolutely perfect.  He would stress, lose sleep, and absolutely fuss over the quality and condition of not just the bunkers, but everything that he set his hands on.  For many of you members, it was not uncommon to see this man break into a run while trying to stay ahead of that next group coming down the hole.....

My first encounter with Jimmy, gave me an idea of the type of person that he was, and the type of person I knew I could rely on everyday.  Of course you all know that my time at Sawmill started under some extreme conditions; the golf course was simply not in the condition or shape that we all knew it was capable of.  It was the middle of June, the season was well under way, and we had to act quick to turn things around.  Unfortunately, not every piston was firing in the Turf Department, and some drastic changes had to be made. 

On my second day at Sawmill, Jimmy presented me with a full binder, packed with information about every single thing he knew about every hole.  Information such as irrigation satellite locations, drain tiles, sand types, bunker numbers, and many other great tid bits of information that was extremely useful to a guy who had never set foot on the property.  It was the middle of June, it was getting hot, and I needed to act quickly.  Thankfully, Jimmy took it upon himself, to put together in one night a book outlining all of this information.  Not once did I ask for this effort, it simply was what Jimmy felt was right to do.

That summer progressed, and Jimmy's knowledge continued to come in handy.  He helped guide me through some very sticky situations, and for that I will always be thankful.

As the months turned colder, and Jimmy was laid-off for the winter, he simply was not satisfied with this "gospel-book" which he had given me.  As such, just prior to his annual 3-week getaway to the warm beaches of Cuba, he requested to "borrow" the book back.  Of course I obliged, without quite knowing what his plans were.  Once he returned from Cuba, the book was updated, and was bigger and more detailed than ever; the very day he returned from his vacation.

As the next two seasons followed, I learned just how much this man was a valuable asset, not just to me, but to Sawmill Creek itself.  He diligently worked his 12 on 2 off shift for 7 seasons, without a single complaint.  He was constantly one of the first in the door in the morning, and always one of the last one's out.  If he ever felt that something was out of place, he simply went ahead and made it right.....

I'm not sure that I ever really realized just how much Jimmy cared about his role, until we were awarded the 2010 Royale Cup from Golf Canada. 

I had a meeting with the Turf Team regarding this event about 10 months in advance, to fill them in on all of the details of what would be expected.  It was within a matter of days, that Jimmy presented me with his plan on how we could make sure that the bunkers were there absolute best, and even included some contingency plans should Mother Nature not cooperate. 

As we neared the event, I could see Jimmy becoming anxious, and very nervous.  It was at this point that I realized just how much he cared.

Of course the event went off without a hitch, even though Mother Nature tried her best to knock us back with a mid-week storm. She certainly couldn't contain Jimmy's desire to give the girls of Canada the very best.

It was shortly after the Royale Cup, when Jimmy was unfortunately hit in the back by an errant shot.  He went into the hospital for x-rays, at which time the discovery was made that he had stage 3 lung cancer. 

And what ensued after this tragic news, was something that I will carry in my heart forever; The Bunker Man Benefit.  In just a matter of 4 short days, the staff, friends, and family of Sawmill Creek joined together in our support of Jimmy, and raised an incredible $7000 to help Jimmy in his fight.  It was an absolutely incredible evening, in which some laughs were shared, and a few tears, as we stood behind Jimmy as he began what would become a very intense battle.

At the time of his diagnosis, Jimmy was given a timeline of 6 to 9 months to live.  Of course, to those of us who knew him, it is no surprise that he fought for 14 months.

Over this past summer, and with every visit and beer that was shared with Jimmy, he always expressed his frustration with not being out on the course.  He absolutely loved what he did for a living, and we absolutely loved having him on our team.  It wasn't until the beginning of September, when he finally made the concession that he didn't think he would return for the 2011 season.

My final visit with him was this past Sunday, a mere 24 hours before he passed away.  As a testament to his character and strength, we shared a few laughs, reminisced about some great times, and talked about what he wanted to do for the 2012 season.

Operating the Turf Department without him this season was certainly a challenge.  He was the longest serving member of this team, and we will miss him dearly.

But more than just missing a strong worker, I will miss him as a friend.  He was a caring person, a trustworthy person, and strong supporter of everything that we did.  I will miss his phone calls in the winter (to both me and my wife!), letting us know what he could do, to become better, stronger, or more efficient in his ways.  I will miss his abilities to find anything out of place, and fix it, before the first group in the morning ever knew there was an issue.  I'm simply going to miss him.

As per Jimmy's request, there will be no funeral or memorial services.  There will be an account setup to the charity of Jimmy's choice, which when this is finalized, I will be sure to let you know.

While the flags at Sawmill Creek are flown at half-mast, and when you pass by them, please remember everything that this man did for your golf course.  Every single man and woman in the Turf Department who knew him, are better off for it, and so is your golf course.

From all of us in the Turf Department, thank you Jimmy.

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