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The Treasure and the Golf Bag

Jack Leonard & Jesse Owens

By Dan Leonard
Assistant Golf Professional
Winnetka Golf Club

The stories my grandfather told had no bounds. In college, he and a priest took a group of orphans to Yankee Stadium. Babe Ruth was a scratch from the lineup. The orphans were disappointed that “The Babe” wouldn’t be playing that day. Undaunted, my grandpa “Spoose,” as we affectionately referred to him – pleaded with a team official that the “Sultan of Swat” must hear of the group’s presence. Ten minutes before the first pitch, the manual scoreboard operator flipped Ruth’s number 3 into the Yankees’ batting order. He was lieutenant commander of a submarine in World War II, had lunch with John F. Kennedy and played golf with Arnold Palmer at North Shore Country Club in Glenview. He would always conclude every account with the emphatic statement “Now that’s gospel truth.”

My grandfather Jack Leonard passed away on May 17, 2011. He was 94-years-old and the sweetest man I have ever known. As Winnetka Golf Club celebrates its 94th season, it’s with great pride that I use his words “only catchers and welders get to wear it that way” every time I notice a junior golfer with their hat on backwards.

His closest golfing friend was Jesse Owens, American hero of the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. They worked together at Champion Sales in Phoenix and thoroughly enjoyed one anothers company. Jesse died in 1980 and so did Spoose’s desire to play golf. Ruth Owens gave my grandpa her husband’s old clubs. He held onto them for almost three decades until gifting them to me. It’s a leather blue bag with Haig Ultra blades and some persimmon woods. I wasn’t completely convinced they were Jesse’s clubs when he handed them over – I needed proof. Not too long ago, I dug around the pockets of the bag for a scorecard with Jesse’s name, anything that would prove they were his. Then I found it. There was the golf ball with the name “Jesse Owens” monogrammed on it – the number 3 is under his name.

My treasure wasn’t Jesse Owens’ golf clubs; it was having Jack Leonard as my grandfather. Somewhere in the heavens, I know that he and Jesse are playing golf together again. Now that’s gospel truth.

Winnetka Golf Club is a facility of the Winnetka Park District. For more information about the Winnetka Golf Club visit www.winnetkagolfclub.org or call 847-501-2050 ext. 0. Find Winnetka Golf Club on Facebook, www.facebook.com/winnetkagolfclub or on Twitter @winnetkagc.

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