Nearly 50 years ago Mary Tossell took an office manager's job in Houston and was told by her new bosses that if she was going to work for them, she had to learn to play golf.
For her next birthday, one boss gave her a set of golf clubs and the other presented her with two pairs of golf shoes and a gross of golf balls. Then they proceeded to teach her the game.
That Tossell played for many years with a 12 handicap and, now a great-grandmother, still plays to a 22 serves as a testament to the quality of that instruction.
After all, the job was at what eventually became Champions Golf Club, and her bosses were PGA Tour stars Jimmy Demaret and Jack Burke Jr.
Those were heady times. Working from 1954-61 for Demaret, who liked nothing more than to mix golf with celebrity, Tossell played 18 holes with Mickey Mantle, drove a cart for Bob Hope, met Randolph Scott and Bing Crosby and partied with James Garner.
“I adored James Garner and really wanted to meet him,” Tossell recalled. “So he walked into this party one night in a yellow sweater and yellow slacks. I was standing there with Demaret and he introduced us and Jimmy finally nudged me and said, `Well, say something.'
“I still run into Garner at auto races at MIS and Indy and we chat. He's one of the nicest people I've ever met. But Demaret was the nicest. He was the most wonderful, generous man. I could talk for hours about all the kindnesses he did for people, never expecting a thing in return.”
Tossell moved from Houston before Champions opened, but she still owns a warm, Texas accent and still is in the golf business, working as food and beverage manager at Ottawa Park's pro shop.
“I just love it,” said Tossell, who has worked at Ottawa Park for American Golf for about 10 years. “I'm not one to sit home and watch soap operas. I've been here so long I know all the names and what beer they drink. If it wasn't for that job in Houston, working for Demaret and Burke, I'd probably never have gotten into the business and never played golf.”
Tossell still plays regularly with the Ottawa Park-based Toledo Golf Club, the oldest ladies' golf association in northwest Ohio.
HE'S NO. 1: Jim McGurk of Sylvania Country Club is Ohio's top teaching pro, according to the July edition of Golf Digest.
Others on the state list included No. 8 Tom Herzan of Findlay CC, No. 11 David Graf of Inverness Club, No. 12 John Jasinski of Stone Oak CC and No. 15 Jason Carbone, who splits his time between Inverness and the Jim McLean Golf School in Miami.
In addition to its state-by-state listings, the magazine did a national top 50 list of golf instructors. Finishing first was Butch Harmon, who works with Tiger Woods; former Toledo CC assistant pro Rick Smith, now the director of golf at Treetops Resort in Gaylord, Mich., finished fifth.
TOP 20 PLENTY: By virtue of their top 20 finishes in the recent Ohio Amateur, Toledoans B.J. Pitzen and Kevin Kornowa will be exempt from qualifying next year when the event is staged at Sylvania CC.
Pitzen, who tied for eighth at Heritage Club in Mason, said there was a good chance he would play, although he would have graduated from Florida Southern University by then and would be considering turning professional.
“The chances are pretty good that I'll play through next summer as an amateur, then try (PGA Tour) Q-school later in the year and see what happens.”
WEDDING GIFT: Good news for the Toledo Metro Golf Association. Tom Wolf, the Metro's major-events coordinator for the past 16 years, will continue in that role after his Aug. 3 marriage to Karen Winegardner.
“I offered to quit so that we could spend more time together, but she told me it was something I enjoyed and was good at and that I should keep doing it,” Wolf said. “So I'll stick with it a couple more years.”
His first big challenge will be finding a major sponsor for the S.P. Jermain and Toledo Amateur events. Wolf said Metropolitan Distributing is ending its sponsorship after more than a decade.
“It's crucial that we come up with a new sponsor or sponsors,” Wolf said. “We've been able to hold fees steady for the last five years, but without the right sponsorship we'd be facing at least a $10 increase in our tournament entry fees to cover expenses.”
SECOND WIND: Mike McCullough, a member of the Toledo Golf Hall of Fame, played for 20 years on the PGA Tour and six more on the Senior PGA Tour without a victory. But he has scored two wins in 2001, winning the Mexico Senior Classic and, more recently, the Emerald Coast Classic in Pensacola, Fla.
NEW DEADLINE: The postmark deadline for the Toledo Amateur (Aug. 17-19 at Detwiler Park) has been extended to Aug. 11.