Wednesday, March 29

RIP Ken Still, Member of 1969 U.S. Ryder Cup Team

THE DEATH OF PGA TOUR PLAYER KEN STILL was reported a little more than a week ago. He was 82. A native of Tacoma, Washington, where he died of kidney failure, Still won three times on the PGA Tour and played on the 1969 U.S. Ryder Cup team captained by Sam Snead.

I wrote about that team and Ryder Cup in my 2014 book, DRAW IN THE DUNES: The 1969 Ryder Cup and the Finish That Shocked the World.

Still was one of 10 rookies on the '69 U.S. team. The other 11 team members were Dave Hill, Raymond Floyd, Miller Barber, Lee Trevino, Gene Littler, Billy Casper, Dale Douglass, Frank Beard, Dan Sikes, Tommy Aaron and Jack Nicklaus. A quirky character known for his friendliness, Still began a long friendship with the Golden Bear.

"Nicklaus had called Still during his final days," wrote Craig Smith in The Seattle Times, "and so had fellow golfers Raymond Floyd and Chi Chi Rodriguez and baseball legend Sandy Koufax."

When I spent time with Jack Nicklaus in 2013 for my book, he talked and laughed about Still. He told me that he and "Kenny" talked regularly on the phone.

Arnold Palmer was noticeably absent from the '69 team, in part because of Still's late-season victory that vaulted him up the points list and secured his spot on the squad. There were no captain's picks in those days for the Americans.

When I interviewed Ken Still in September 2012, he told me 1969 was the "best year of my life, as far as competitive golf goes."

Still won the Florida Citrus Open in March and the Greater Milwaukee Open in August. His last tour victory would come the following year in a playoff against Lee Trevino and Bert Yancey. Not too shabby.

I asked Still what stood out about the 1969 Ryder Cup, his one and only.

"The last thing to be on my mind was that I'd be on the Ryder Cup team," he said. "The competition was pretty stern, as it is today. It was such a positive part of my life."

Still also told me this, which I always remember:

"[It] was an honor to be on the team and represent the United States of America. It really was. I'll cherish it to the day I die. In fact, I may be buried in the dark blue [Ryder Cup] jacket."

I don't know if Ken Still was buried in the jacket, but I have no doubt that he cherished that Ryder Cup experience to the very end.

1 comment:

Mark Evans said...

He was buried in (one of his) his Ryder Cup jackets. The other hangs (framed), at Fircrest Golf Club. The first time he had worn his team jacket in years was at my wedding (he’s my dad). Yesterday mom gave me his Ryder Cup ring. He always joked that I went to more Ryder Cups than he did (I went to Valhalla in 2008 & Celtic Manor in 2910), of course my witty comeback was, “well you got to play in the event, I just paid way too much money to not watch golf.” But if it’s not the greatest event in golf, I don’t know what is. Although his & my love for Augusta is never ending (Mr. Nicklaus hosted dad & I in 2010. One of my favorite memories (of which there are TONS) with dad.