- Golfer Benefits
Jim Horvath has experienced golf from just about every side of the game. A former junior golf standout, Horvath played four years of high school golf in Connecticut and then played for the John Carroll University men’s golf team. Horvath moved to Cape Cod in 1973 and won the Cape Amateur in 1978. The year after he went to Florida and began a successful 3-year stint as a caddie for two-time PGA Tour winner Mike Reid. After his caddy days ended, Horvath still competed in amateur golf, winning a Cape Cod Senior Amateur and a Seagulls Four-Ball Championship.
In 1997, Horvath joined what was then the Massachusetts Golf Association Executive Committee, and in his quarter-century of service with the association has been a Mass Golf Volunteer at countless championships and qualifiers. On top of his on-course service, Horvath has been a writer and historian who serves on the Mass Golf Hall of Fame Committee. Within the last few years, he has gotten involved in Course Rating for Mass Golf.
In addition to his vast knowledge of golf, Horvath is one of the friendliest faces associated with Mass Golf, and his dedication and enthusiasm toward giving back to the game is rivaled by few.
The following interview was lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
MASS GOLF: How did you get your start as a Mass Golf Volunteer?
JIM HORVATH: In 1997, I was honored to be invited to join the Executive Committee as the representative from Cape Cod. I served on the Executive Committee for nine years. Within that span I was part of the Championship Committee, which was really a lot of fun. I also had the opportunity to work closely with Joe McCabe, who was the Junior Golf Director for Mass Golf at the time, and he oversaw the First Tee Massachusetts. We did annual junior clinics as part of First Tee, and that was before Hyannis Golf Course became a First Tee location. But as part of the Executive Committee, you were expected to officiate tournaments, and back in those days, it wasn’t regional. You went around the state. My first tournament was the Mass Four-Ball Championship at Stowe Acres. I’d get up at 3:45 a.m. and left at 4:30 a.m. to get there. Back then, play began at 7 a.m., so the officials meeting was 6:15. But it was worth it because I got to know people from around the state, and it was very gratifying.
MG: What is a memorable event for you as a Rules Official?
JH: I’ve been fortunate enough to be an Official-In-Charge at many qualifiers and championships. My favorite event would be the 2016 U.S. Senior Open Qualifier at Dennis Pines, my home course. That was a big deal because the players who qualify go straight to the Championship Proper. We had a full field with three Champions Tour players. We had galleries out there, and I was the Official-In-Charge. It was just a tribute for Dennis Pines to host that. We had two guys qualify with a 71 which was 1-under, and then we had an 11-man playoff for the alternates. People still talk about it in Dennis.
In my first year, they had me as a co-Official-In-Charge at the Amateur Public Links Championship at Olde Barnstable Fairgrounds, and that was that was a lot of fun. We had some slow play issues, mostly with the veteran players. I remember these seasoned officials pointed me to deal with a situation during that event. There were more veteran people than myself, but they nabbed me to go out there and put me on the spot. Afterwards we’re having a beer in the clubhouse and those guys are laughing. I asked them about earlier and they said, “We just wanted to see what you were made of.”
MG: How did you get the opportunity to caddie on the PGA Tour?
JH: I was in a situation where I had a very good job and a college degree. I had money in the bank, no bills, and no girlfriend, and it was like the perfect storm. I wanted to travel so with nothing holding me back. I gave the company I worked for a month’s notice and then went down to Florida. I knew nobody except I had names of people who were friends of friends. I had no steady bag those first two weeks. I just worked qualifiers and they missed the cut both times. The third week out there I met Mike Reed at Doral, and we started working together. The PGA Tour was a lot different back then. There wasn’t a lot of money, but it was so much fun. In 1980, Mike played 27 tournaments and had 13 top-10s, and he finished ninth on the money list. Only Tom Watson had more top-10 finishes that year so that was cool.
We became friends, and I started working with him on a week-to-week basis and after a month, he said, “Well, what do you want to do?” And I said, “Let’s stay together.” I planned originally to work out there one year, which was to satisfy my travel desires. After the first year, I hadn’t seen California or Arizona, so I decided I’m going to do it one more year. That was 1980. And that was such a good year. I said I can’t stop now and did it in 1981, and then I realized it was time to get back to reality. I went back to work for the same company, and they welcomed me back, and picked up where I left off.
MG: What is your most memorable golf shot?
JH: In 1978, I won the Cape Cod Amateur at Hyannisport Club. In the semifinals, I was 1-down on the 18th hole. My opponent parred the hole, and I had to make a 30-footer for birdie to go on to extra holes. The pin was back-center, and I was right-center, and I made the putt. I won the match on the 19th hole, and then I won the final that afternoon. I can still feel that emotion of making the putt. I was very fortunate.
MG: What is your favorite golf course played in Massachusetts?
JH: Hyannisport Club. It’s such a great golf course. I’ve won the Cape Cod Amateur, the Cape Cod Senior Amateur, and I won Seagulls with Carter Fasick all at Hyannisport Club so there’s some great memories there. Plus, my son David caddied there for eight years. It’s near and dear to our hearts.
MG: Which clubhouse in Massachusetts serves the best food & beverage?
JH: Cape Cod National. The food is always good there, and they do a great job.
MG: Who would be in your dream foursome?
JH: My late father, Jim Sr; my son, David; and Arnold Palmer.
MG: What do you do to encourage someone to volunteer for Mass Golf events?
Back in the day, I would recruit friends to volunteer as Rules Officials. I recruited a bunch of Cape guys: Shayne Grier, George Medeiros, Bob Quirk, Bruce Cook, and Jim MacNeill. When I try to encourage people to come on board now, I will say, “You love the game of golf. Mass Golf Staff and Volunteers are such good people. The camaraderie is wonderful, and you will enjoy it.” And they do.
MG: What keeps you coming back as a Mass Golf volunteer?
JH: I love giving back to the game because I love the game. It’s all about giving back. I’m now on the Course Rating Committee. As a Rules Official and a Course Rater, we are just surrounded by people who care about the game of golf and want to make it better. One of the things that I was so happy about was when we did those junior clinics at Dennis Pines and Dennis Highlands. Both clubs were cooperative and generous and welcoming to give up their range for almost a full day. We would have Volunteers, pros and amateurs come and help all for free. But we introduced a whole lot of kids to the game, and I’m proud that we were able to do that every year I worked with Joe McCabe. We made a positive difference.
My wife, Sue, is also very understanding and she encourages me to do as much golf as I can because she knows how much it means to me. She encouraged me to accept the invitation to serve on the Executive Committee. She’s never questions it. Never.