Jerry Fehr is one of those rare golfers. Like the Energizer Bunny, the 76-year-old just keeps going and going and going . . . The longtime amateur doesn’t compete in big tournaments anymore, but he certainly keeps playing.
The Sand Point Country Club (in Seattle) member has adroitly been spanking that little white ball around for 65 years. He started in the game as a caddie at age 11 at the long-defunct Olympic View Golf Club in the Ballard section of Seattle. The course was put to rest in 1953 when the Olympic Manor residential area was developed on top of it.
Jerry grew up with quite a cadre of players, the most famous of whom is Don Bies, a regular on both the PGA and Senior (now Champions) Tours. His other cohorts comprise a virtual “Who’s Who” of Seattle golfers from the middle part of the 20th century.
“I played with Paul Johanson, Don Russell and Bob Lorentzen, who played for the UW,” Fehr said. “Glenn Sheriff was the PNGA champ in 1948 (Sheriff beat the famed Jack Westland in the final match). My brother-in-law Dale Lingenbrink played for Seattle U. All of these guys were very good players, but few still play much except for Don Bies and Bob Lorentzen.”
Fehr was a pretty fair (pardon the pun) player in his own right. In 1950 he won the Seattle City High School title and, in 1949 and ’50, the Washington State Junior Championship. Because of his outstanding play at the scholastic level, he earned a scholarship to Yale. As an Eli, he became the captain of the golf team and won the Eastern Intercollegiate Championship as a sophomore and again as a senior in 1955.
After graduation in 1955, Fehr served two years of active duty as a U.S. Naval officer on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific Fleet. In 1957 he left the service and went to work for Family Life Insurance in Seattle, where he eventually became the company’s CFO before retiring in 1988.
While Jerry grew a family with his wife Sally that would include sons Randall and Rick and daughter Heidi, the senior Fehr found time to excel in tournaments. He won the 1961 Washington State Open in an 18-hole playoff against future touring pro and West Seattle resident, Kermit Zarley, at Sand Point.
In 1961 Fehr earned a spot as a member of the Hudson Cup Amateur Team; 29 years later, he did the same on the 1990 Senior Hudson Cup team. In 1989, he was a runner-up in the WSGA Senior Amateur, a title he won the following year. In 1991 he finished second in the PNGA Senior Amateur and, in ’95, was the Seniors’ Northwest Golf Association champion. Over the years he’s qualified for five USGA national championships.
Jerry and Sally joined Sand Point in 1962, a year after his Open victory over Zarley. Since then, Jerry has won an incredible 19 club championships. His last victory came in 1995, when he beat Tom Phillips, an outstanding amateur in his own right who was the 2005 Oregon Senior Amateur champion, 2008 PNGA Senior Men’s champion, a Hudson Cup Senior team member in 2003-05 and ’08, and a six-time Sand Point club champion as well.
Over the years Fehr served on Sand Point’s Board of Directors twice, and was club president in 1986.
In 1982, Jerry joined the Board of Directors of the Washington Junior Golf Association and became a member of the USGA Junior Championship Committee. In 1993, he took over as the WJGA executive director after Joan Teats retired; he still holds that position.
After some initial funding challenges, the WJGA has become strong in recent years. “The future appears to be bright,” Fehr said. “Many parents tell us how great it is, and at a cost much lower than being in other sports such as baseball, basketball, etc. Many college scholarships are available to the better players, particularly for the girls. Li Wang, who plays at Sahalee, is only 15, and could be a great player. It is really hard to tell who will emerge. Players who have come out of our program include (future touring pros) Fred Couples, Rick Fehr, Kirk Triplett, Michael Putnam, Kyle Stanley, Brock and Paige Mackenzie, Alex Prugh and Ryan Moore.”
The name right after Couples’ should be familiar to many – he is Jerry and Sally’s son. Confirming the adage that the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, Rick was a true phenom as a teenager and in his adult years as well.
At the age of 16 in 1979, Rick Fehr won the WJGA and PGA National Junior tournaments. After entering BYU, he became a two-time All-American and won numerous amateur tournaments, including the 1981 PNGA Men’s Amateur and the 1982 Western Amateur. Rick was a member of the victorious Walker Cup team in 1983. The following year before turning pro, he was the Low Amateur at both the Masters and the U.S. Open.
In 1985, Rick, with a degree in Finance from BYU, joined the PGA Tour. He won two Tour events during an injury-interrupted career: the 1986 B.C. Open and 1994 Walt Disney World/Oldsmobile Classic. He finished runner-up in nine Tour events and had 41 top-10 finishes. His best finish in a major championship was a T-9 in the 1985 U.S. Open.
Jerry and Sally’s other two children don’t play golf. “Randall restores classic sports cars here in Seattle,” Jerry says of his eldest son, whose work is world-renowned. “Daughter Heidi played some in high school, but not now.” (Heidi actually won the Seattle Metro Championship while at Garfield as a senior in the early ‘80s.)
Still going strong well into his seventh decade, Jerry Fehr, in late February 2010, posted two straight rounds of 5-under 66 at Sand Point’s short but tricky course. Last year he carded four rounds of 67. “I have no idea as to how many times I have shot my age,” he says modestly. “The first time was in 1998 when I shot 65 at Sand Point. In the most recent three or four years I have shot my age most rounds.”
Jerry reveals he has no intentions of playing more tournament golf, other than intra-club events. “I have no plans to play in tournaments at this point,” he says. “My fun golf with my friends at SPCC and my job at WJGA take up my time, and I really enjoy both.
“I feel very strongly that it is important that we work to preserve the traditions and benefits of the game for future generations.”
Maybe, just maybe, one of those future generations will be able to play golf as well as Jerry Fehr.
Jeff Shelley is the editorial director for cybergolf.com and golfconstructionnews.com. He also authored three editions of the book, Golf Courses of the Pacific Northwest.