The Art of a Friendship (not what you’re probably thinking)

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While in the basement the other day, I came across a mildewed pencil sketch of me done by the great Jack Sneiderman. Jack was among a handful of men and women who traveled with the PGA TOUR and hand-calligraphed scores, tediously, hole-by-hole, player-by-player, on the scoreboard at the front of the Press Room and on the outdoor scoreboard adjacent to the clubhouse.

He was a tall, fit man, about 70 at the time we met (45 years older than me), and I was fascinated with how expertly and beautifully he hand-crafted scores, names, even the periodic cartoon vignette calling attention to a hole-in-one or a course record. And he did this while standing on milk crates to reach the top line of the oversized scorecard.

His printing was machine-like in its preciseness and as elegant as the finest font you can find on your laptop. In the rare event of a slip of the hand or an incorrect spelling or number, Jack would carefully cut out a patch of matching cardstock, glue it over the “oops”, and right the wrong. From the front row of the Press Room, you couldn’t see even a hint of imperfection.

These days, scoreboards are dynamic and digital and completely devoid of personality and style. We didn’t have online, real-time scoring back then so denizens of the press den would wait in anticipation when a score came in — would Jack reach for the red marker (below par) or black marker (par or above)? He was an integral part of the tournament excitement, not just the old dude with a fistful of Magic Markers and slick handwriting.

I would always make a point to seek Jack out if he was working a tournament I was covering and a friendship developed. I enjoyed his company and loved listening to him as he shared tales of other tournaments and TOUR players who’d commissioned him to do pencil sketches or watercolors. Amazingly, he was never formally trained as an artist. It was simply something he did periodically on the side while he was still working a traditional job and nearly full-time in retirement.

Jack had a deep voice and a strong Massachusetts accent (he was a long-time member of legendary Pleasant Valley Country Club in Sutton, MA) but he always spoke slowly and politely. He was a true “Nawth’n” gentleman and polite as the day is long.

Jack had been a widower for several years before he was introduced to Skeeter, a slightly younger tournament volunteer at The Texas Open in San Antonio. She’d been told to “Go see the old geezer on the scoreboard,” he used to say. Not too long afterward, the widower married the widow and they traveled together from tournament to tournament. Skeeter was blond and as Texas-kind and friendly as Jack was gentlemanly. Their eyes lit up when the other was around and their second-time-around love affair was obvious and enviable.

I wrote an article about Jack and Skeeter that ran in the USGA’s member magazine sometime in the early ’80s and, not too long afterward, ran into them at the 1984 Tournament Players Championship (now called The Players) at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL where I lived at the time. It was Wednesday of tournament week, Pro-Am Day, so things were loose and easy in the TPC Press Room. Jack and I were talking when he said, “Pete, pull up a chair.” Fifteen minutes later, he presented me the sketch.

As you can see by the other sketch, he generally dealt with people of slightly greater prominence than me.

I doubt Jack, or even Skeeter, are still with us since he would be 101 years old and she right behind him. But I still treasure that sketch (despite allowing it to deteriorate over the past 32 years) and even more deeply treasure the memories of conversations with my friend, Jack Sneiderman.

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