(Editor’s Note: When Northwest sports icon Doug McArthur passed away on December 6, 2023, the stories of his generosity, humanity, and enthusiasm for life came pouring out. Here is one of them.)
by John Tipping
I first met Doug McArthur in 1996.
I had just quit my job at the Seattle Weekly and had a plan. It was during the beginning of the Tiger Woods golf boom, and I was going to start a new regional golf publication. We (my wife Marilyn and I) launched the original Golf Washington (now a part of Pacific Northwest Golfer magazine).
Prior to our first issue, which was due to come out in June of that year, I was told by a local golf insider that I should call Doug.
At the time, I was oblivious to who Doug was and what he meant to Tacoma, to Pierce County, and to the region’s sports in general. I didn’t know anything about Doug.
I didn’t know he was the original golf coach at the University of Puget Sound, a school for which he would eventually become athletic director.
I didn’t know he was even from Tacoma, or that he might be the biggest reason the Tacoma Dome was even built.
I didn’t know he was synonymous with the LPGA Tour’s Safeco Classic, serving as the tournament director for the event held annually at Meridian Valley Country Club in Kent from 1982-1999.
I didn’t know that he led a group of Tacoma’s “who’s who” in sports to purchase and then save the Highlands Golf Course.
I didn’t know about his media company (MAC Northwest), or his working closely with Golf Resources, Inc (GRI), a local golf development and management company owned by two other giants in our region’s golf community.
I didn’t know about his time as a sports announcer, his time in the military, that he would be inducted into the University of Puget Sound Athletic Hall of Fame or Tacoma-Pierce County Sports Hall of Fame.
There was so much I didn’t know. And so much behind the generous and confident man that was Doug McArthur.
What I would soon find out is that he would become one of the most important people in my professional life.
Doug passed away in early December at 94, not only leaving behind a wonderful life partner in Arlene (“Big Ar” to those who know and love her), but a legacy that for most of us is too big to fully comprehend.
As I read the initial post on Facebook about his passing, it brought back an avalanche of memories, of conversations, images of people, business opportunities and ideas we discussed, and so much more. In an era where people seem to be losing the idea of “community,” that is what Doug was all about.
“Doug was an amazing guy,” said Ron Hagen, former University of Washington golf coach, Pacific Northwest Section PGA Hall of Famer and business partner with PNWPGA Executive Director Ron Coleman for GRI.
“He wasn’t just helpful, he touched peoples’ lives,” Ron said. “Of course, he was a great father, husband, grandfather, but he was a true gentleman of our sport.”
I phoned Ron right after I heard the news. He and I reminisced and told Doug stories for about an hour, both knowing there could easily be hours more.
As time went on and our little magazine grew, Doug would write a monthly column called “The General Idea” – a riff on the three Canadian artists of the late 20th century who banded together to address social issues. It was a chance for him to talk about the industry, highlight some of the people and places he saw as special, or the problems he saw in the game. I loved it – always great insight. It wasn’t one of those “Get off my lawn” rants; rather, Doug always tried to be constructive – not just knocking something down, rather offering thoughts on rebuilding. He brought instant credibility to us as a publication.
And he did that same thing for me right from the start. In an age where people are afraid to get involved, he was a reminder that sometimes it’s not just okay, it can make all the difference. He was a true mentor.
Back to that first phone call. As I introduced myself and my concept for the magazine, I told Doug I had just played one of the courses GRI managed and had written a feature for the next issue. He said, “Well, I guess I better buy an ad then.”
It may have been charity. It may have been totally self-serving since it helped promote a business he had a connection with. It might have been all of those things. But that single ad buy, that understanding that we’re all in this together, that we need to support each other, that single acknowledgement that we had something of value, has led to – with all its ups and downs – a 30-year career in the golf industry for me.
And better, a 30-year friendship and admiration for Doug McArthur.
Founder of Golf Washington and Golf Northwest magazines, John Tipping is the former owner of the Seattle Golf Show, and currently manages the Las Vegas World Amateur. Although still living in Seattle, during the golf season he serves as the general manager at Painted Woods Golf Course in Washburn, North Dakota.