NCGA Golf

Summer 2018

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as often as he can. Golf's grip on him is as strong as ever. "It's my passion," he said. "It's the beauty of the terrain, the people who play and the stories, all woven into the fabric of the game. It's not like a bowling alley or a baseball diamond." He pointed to the striking contrast between Mauna Lani, in the middle of Hawaii's black lava flow … and Martis Camp, in the middle of the Sierra Nevada Mountains … and any number of seaside links, sitting majestically along the coastline. "Golf courses are so unique and differ- ent," Fitzpatrick said. "I just fell in love with the game and the people. There's the old saying, 'A picture is worth a thousand words.' What if you don't know the words? Then what's the picture worth?" Fitzpatrick was born in north Holly- wood, but his family settled in Sacramento by the time he was in sixth grade. He excelled in several sports at Del Campo High School, including football (in which he played quarterback) and gymnastics, and found most of them came easily. Well, except for golf. His dad, known as Fitz, had introduced young Jim to the game, and he savored the challenge, playing for one year at Sacra- mento State and later at College of Marin. He also competed in the California Amateur Championship, though he knew there were better ways to make a living— and stay connected to the game—than trying to put the ball in the hole. Fitzpatrick dabbled in golf course design at a firm in Los Gatos and ran a pro shop at a course in Ashland, Ore. His love of painting steered him down that road in the early 1980s, especially when he com- pleted his first painting of Cypress Point, capturing the 13th hole during the Crosby, peering down the fairway toward the ocean. Scott Bolen, the head pro at Lahontan Golf Club in Truckee, has known Fitzpatrick for nearly 15 years. Fitzpatrick made pencil drawings of six different holes and the clubhouse (subsequently turned into notecards and pictures), and he also created prizes and trophies for various Lahontan events. "Everything he's done, it's obvious a lot of thought and effort has gone into it," Bolen said. "He just doesn't do anything halfway. He's very detailed." Fitzpatrick's career led to friendships with many of the game's greatest players. He once did a painting of Palmer during the U.S. Senior Open at Edgewood in South Lake Tahoe, and Palmer later hung the paint- ing over a couch at Bay Hill Club & Lodge, his Orlando winter retreat, near photos of himself with several U.S. Presidents. Fitzpatrick also completed several paintings and drawings of Nicklaus, who occasionally wandered over to the ropes to greet him and ask about his latest project. Once, when Fitzpatrick did a collage depicting Nicklaus' victories on the Senior Tour, Jack's wife Barbara bought her husband the painting as a gift. "You ask Jack a question, and he tells you the truth and what he really feels," Fitzpatrick said. "He was always honest, very nice." One of Fitzpatrick's proudest achieve- ments is an 80-page book on Augusta National titled "Artist's Sketchbook – Augusta," featuring a mix of artwork and anecdotes about the course and players. Ever partial to Northern California, he still called No. 16 at Cypress his favorite painting. More than anything, Fitzgerald loves the game. He tried to play 70 holes to commemorate his 70th birthday, and ultimately settled for 60. He still tinkers with his swing, when he's not consumed by his latest painting or drawing. "Jim is such a golf historian and golf nut," Bolen said. "It's amazing he still has such passion and joy for the game." Ron Kroichick covers golf for the San Francisco Chronicle. 42 SUMMER 2018 | NCGA.ORG F itzpatrick, with wife Kerry, has made many friendships, including with the late Billy Casper (center), through his connection to the game. Fitzpatrick (far right) and friends on the Swilcan Burn Bridge at The Old Course at St. Andrews during the 600th anniversary of the University of St. Andrews.

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