February 10, 2021
Remembering Jimmy Powell
Jimmy Powell died a few weeks ago at age 85. I played a lot of golf with Jimmy Powell in a two year stretch around 1980 in California and became friends. At the time he was 45 years old and kind of in a no man's land for a professional golfer. He had played the Tour without success. He had been a golf professional at a few golf courses without lasting success and now he was a teaching professional at La Quinta Country Club. It wasn't his ideal job, but one that would make him a living and allow him to play in area tournaments. He was always considered to have a Tour quality game and did win 3 Southern California PGA section championships, but he lacked one big element that doomed his success. He couldn't putt!
He was always a golfer first. He wanted to compete and never gave up on his dream of making it on the PGA Tour. Playing with him those two years at La Quinta, I knew he had the game, but he just couldn't consistently putt up to the Tour standards. I believe it was either1981 or 1982, when members of La Quinta financed another try for him to qualify for the PGA Tour. At age 46, he qualified and at that time was the oldest player to go through Q-school and secured a card. No success happened that year, but it probably confirmed he could play with the best, if he could just figure out his putting. Then a magical intervention happened, the Long Putter! Around 1983, a few professionals started to experiment with extra-long putters that they anchored against their sternum. Charlie Owens was the first to prove it could work. Jimmy tried it and suddenly he wasn't just a below average putter, but a legitimate good putter. Upon turning 50 in 1985, he played in nine tournaments on the PGA Senior Tour and was a regular on the Tour from 1986 to 2002. He won four individual titles and six partner events with Orville Moody and Alan Geiberger.
Powell wouldn't give up on his dream and it finally came to fruition. I was very happy for him, because he was a good person. He constantly worked to improve his putting in his younger years, but nothing seemed to work. Psychiatrists would probably theorize that he put too much pressure on achieving a perfect stroke that it paralyzed him. I talked with Dale Douglass a few years ago about why the long putter was such a godsend for so many golfers. Dale theorize that the poor putters had such a massive backlog of missed putts in their minds that they couldn't replace them using their conventional putter or putting stroke. When using a long putter, they were basically starting over again and didn't have the large inventory of bad experiences. It was like a new lease on life for most of them.
Jimmy won over $3,000,000 on the Senior Tour. He only played a handful of tournaments on the Senior Tour after he was 64, but he still wanted to compete. He was a regular in Southern California PGA pro-ams and events. I didn't see him often after my time in the desert, but we did occasionally cross paths. I remember playing with him in the Nevada Senior Open, when he was 70 and he was still long and competitive. Later that year, we met again at the PGA Senior Club Pro Championship in Florida. I think he made the cut.
Jimmy was a picture of health throughout his life. My friends have told me that he was still able to shoot in the 60's when he turned 80. Unfortunately, his health declined after that, but knowing him, he lived a life that he envisioned. I'm glad he was able to fulfill his dream of succeeding playing professional golf. Rest in Peace.