Charlotte, N.C. – Perhaps it is appropriate that Jim Grainger is serving as a caddie at this week’s U.S. Women’s Amateur at Charlotte Country Club.
After all, his grandfather was one of the most benevolent volunteers in USGA history, not only serving on the Executive Committee and later becoming president in 1954-55, but also having an award named for him as part of the Association’s Centennial celebration in 1995.
The Ike Grainger Award is given annually to those volunteers who complete 25 years of service to the USGA.
“I’m very proud of what he stood for in golf,” said Jim Grainger, whose grandfather passed away in 1999 at the age of 104. “Oh, I knew him for a long time. We did a lot together.”
While Jim Grainger, a Charlotte C.C. member since 1981, has never served golf in a similar capacity – Ike Grainger helped negotiate the first uniform code of Rules with the R and A (Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews) in 1951 – the game has always been a part of his life. He grew up on a golf course in Burlington, N.C., and Jim and his father, Isaac Grainger Jr., claimed the Carolinas Golf Association Father-Son Championship in 1976.
Jim has also won an impressive seven club championships at Charlotte C.C., and is the reigning titleholder. “I’ve won over four decades,” he said. “In my 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.”
He also has qualified for three USGA competitions: the 1997 U.S. Amateur at Cog Hill outside of Chicago, the 1997 U.S. Mid-Amateur at Dallas Athletic Club and the 2007 U.S. Mid-Amateur at Bandon Dunes. But he’s 0-for-3 in qualifying for match play.
That streak ended on Tuesday … sort of.
When his player, Kelly Shon of Port Washington, N.Y., advanced with a qualifying score of 2-over 146, he was thrilled.
Then Shon defeated the championship’s oldest-remaining competitor, two-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi, on Wednesday in the first round of match play, 4 and 3. She continued her good play Thursday morning with a 2-and-1 win over Canada’s Nicole Vandermade. She was eventually eliminated Thursday afternoon by Canadian Stephanie Sherlock, 2 and 1.
“I told the head pro (Bill Hall) when she made match play Tuesday, I couldn’t have imagined being more excited than if I had made it,” said Jim Grainger, who works in sales, but said that, this week, “I’m not selling anything.”
Grainger and Shon met by chance three weeks prior to the championship when the latter made a scouting trip to the club prior to the Women’s North and South Amateur at Pinehurst No. 2. She was walking the grounds when she was introduced to the 54-year-old Grainger, who had signed up to caddie for the Women’s Amateur. Shon is an incoming freshman at Princeton University – from where, incidentally, Ike Grainger graduated.
“I decided I would caddie when they announced they would have the tournament here,” said Grainger. “If I am going to volunteer, that’s what I am going to do.”
Grainger gave Shon his cell number and the two texted back and forth.
“I wasn’t even looking for a caddie,” said Shon. “It was just luck.”
Shon was quickly made aware of Grainger’s bloodlines and the fact that Jim’s grandfather went to Princeton, before a successful career in banking.
“There has got to be some fate with that,” she said.
The two have bonded well on the course. Shon, competing in her first Women’s Amateur, leans heavily on Grainger’s course knowledge, saying that he has helped her with course management and advising her where not to hit it. On the greens, the two often agree on the proper lines.
After two first-round exits and a missed cut in three U.S. Girls’ Juniors, Shon has produced her best result in four USGA competitions. She gives Grainger a lot of credit for that success.
“I’m sure Mr. Grainger has something to do with it,” said Shon. “There’s a lot of teamwork involved.”
Jim’s grandfather probably would be impressed. Jim said one thing that his grandfather instilled in him at an early age was the importance of the Rules of Golf.
During his time on the Executive Committee, Ike Grainger served as chairman of the Rules of Golf Committee and later was vice chairman of the Augusta National Rules Committee. It’s been said that the former president of Chemical Bank was one of the few people who went to sleep every night reading the Rules of Golf.
“He wanted me to read it every night,” said Jim, smiling. “I told him I don’t think I want to do that. He was just a stickler for the rules.”
The younger Grainger claimed one of his seven club championships because of a fellow competitor’s honesty. Grainger’s best friend, Norman Davis, held a one-stroke lead going into the 54th and final hole of the event when he hit his ball to the right of the 18th fairway. At the time, a creek ran adjacent to the hole and after Davis found his ball and reached the green, he realized something was wrong. When he marked his ball, he noticed the ball was not his.
“It was the same [brand] and was the same number, but it was not his ball,” said Grainger. “Nobody would have known it. He called [the penalty] on himself. I was one shot behind. I wound up winning it. But it cost him the championship. He has never won once since. [While] nobody would have known [had he not said anything], he couldn’t have lived with it.”
Ike Grainger, who was born in January of 1895, 24 days after the USGA was founded, would have been proud of Davis.
A native of Wilmington, N.C., Grainger joined the Executive Committee in 1945, but not without a little controversy. Fellow Executive Committee member Charles Littlefield happened to be a member of Grainger’s club (Montclair Golf Club in New Jersey), which at the time was a violation of USGA by-laws. The Executive Committee didn’t allow multiple members of the same club to serve.
Grainger was in Seattle, Wash., at the time and he asked Littlefield to secure him a membership at Pine Valley in New Jersey. While still in the Pacific Northwest, Grainger received a telegram that said, “You are now a member of Pine Valley,” thus resolving the controversy.
Later, Grainger reportedly assisted President Dwight D. Eisenhower with his short game at the White House. Grainger did the same with his grandson while Jim was growing up in Burlington. While president of the USGA, Grainger presented 1954 U.S. Amateur champion Arnold Palmer with the Havemeyer Trophy.
His legacy lives on with the Ike Grainger Award, something every USGA volunteer aspires to receive.
“When I meet someone from the USGA,” said Jim, “I always ask how long they have been volunteering for. When they say 10 years, I tell them they only have 15 more years to go to get the Ike Grainger Award.”
David Shefter is a USGA communications staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.