Provo • Karl Tucker loved to talk, but he also could make an impact with just a couple of words.
As a junior golfer, I once hit a few balls from a shag bag that Tucker lent me, picked them up and dutifully returned them. “Done already?” he asked.
That memory struck me Wednesday when the clinic ended and the youth from the Boys & Girls Club of Utah County were about to leave East Bay Golf Course. A boy named Marcos, who never had swung a club until that day, ran back to his pile of range balls and asked if he could hit just a few more. Tucker would have loved to witness that scene.
Partly through the achievements of his former golfers as PGA Tour players, Tucker was involved in the game at its highest levels. Yet he was committed to providing a golf experience to children who otherwise would not have that opportunity.
Soon after retiring as BYU’s golf coach, Tucker immersed himself in the Provo Open. Like everything else Tucker was involved in, the tournament became a much bigger deal than before he got hold of it.
PGA Tour players from Utah competed in an annual Skins Game, the tournament purse increased significantly and charities benefited from the community effort led by Tucker.
Sponsorship issues reduced the tournament’s impact, prior to Tucker’s death in 2010 at age 83. Yet as the 73rd Provo Open is staged this weekend, there’s evidence of a revival. Organizers are determined to bring back the Skins Game next year and maximize the efforts of the Coach Karl Tucker Foundation to introduce Utah County youth to golf, according to Provo Open executive director Gary Golightly.
In the mid-1990s, the Provo Open Skins Game became a Memorial Day tradition, with the likes of Dan Forsman, Mike Weir, Mike Reid, Jay Don Blake, Bruce Summerhays and Keith Clearwater competed at various times. One year, former BYU quarterbacks including Jim McMahon and Gifford Nielsen teamed with the pros.
They participated mostly out of loyalty to Tucker — even though not all of them played for BYU — and the charitable cause.
Wednesday, most of the 30 members of the Boys & Girls Club who were involved in the clinic had never touched a golf club, but they learned fast and swung enthusiastically — with brand-new clubs the organization could keep, thanks to the Provo Open and the Utah Section PGA.
This weekend, local club pros, mini-tour players and top amateurs will compete in one of their biggest events of the year. None of them will have more fun at East Bay than those kids did Wednesday, I’m convinced. Karl Tucker continues to make an impact on young golfers.