June 25, 2007

Golf will miss John Mineck

Mineck's legacy extends far beyond Boston GC, the course he co-owned and died taking care of

Many years ago a wise old editor named Lamar Hoover told me the quality of a well-written column is inversely proportional to the number of personal pronouns it contains. "People don't want to know about you," Lamar said, "they want to know about the people you know." It was one of the best lessons I ever learned about journalism. I violate that rule now because to do justice to John Mineck a few personal pronouns are needed. John died last week much too young and much too good.

My life crossed paths with Mineck for a total of 12 hours on a glorious spring day this past April that began at Boston GC, the course he co-owned in Hingham, Mass., and ended later that night at Fenway Park, where the Red Sox rallied to beat the New York Yankees. Mineck's life ended tragically on May 24 when a roller he was driving while doing work on a road at Boston GC tumbled down an embankment. John was 54.

As we played the remarkable Gil Hanse design carved out of gently rolling terrain a mere 20 minutes from downtown Boston, Mineck spoke with the unrestrained joy of a man completely in love with golf. But here is the swing key to understanding Mineck. When I asked him where he grew up he answered, "In Connecticut. Byram." That made me smile. He didn't say "Greenwich."

You see, Byram is the other side of the tracks in Greenwich, the New York City suburb that has more hedge-fund operators per square foot than any place on earth. It was especially the other side of the tracks when Mineck was growing up there, a place of which he said, "The people who took care of those yards had to live somewhere."

John could have said he was from Greenwich and he would have been telling the truth. But his heart and soul was from Byram. Mineck became an extremely wealthy man, selling his company that provided computer support to physicians in 1995 and using the money to build Boston GC. But he remained a man who started in golf as a caddie at Stanwich Club in Greenwich, becoming active in the Massachusetts Golf Association and developing a series of inner-city junior golf clinics in the state.

Before our round, John took me on a tour of the clubhouse, which was still under construction. He knew every worker by name, and every worker called him by his first name. That he died while working on the course came as no surprise when I received the shocking phone call about the accident.

Many of us who write about golf once covered other sports. A not small reason we ended up in golf journalism is because the athletes who play the game are more accessible and more reasonable than those in other sports. We also do what we do because we love golf, and because there are people in this game like John Mineck, people with whom spending 12 hours creates memories that last a lifetime.

While sitting at Fenway Park that night John found out the wife of Golf World managing editor Tim Murphy, who was with me that day, is a huge Red Sox fan and grew up in South Boston, an enclave of Irish decidedly not of the lace-curtain variety. "You have to come back and bring Rose," John told Tim, the sincerity in his voice conveying it was no idle offer. It was a boy from Byram wanting to do something nice for a girl from Southie. That's who John Mineck was, a man who left behind a ton of good work — and one really good golf course.

For more from Golf World's Ron Sirak, click here.