Cozby's life in golf merits Father of the Year award

Jerry Cozby

Jerry Cozby

NORMAN, Okla. – Throughout his life in golf, Jerry Cozby has racked up his share of honors, as a college player and in 40-plus years as a PGA club professional.

Cozby played for two junior-college national champions at Odessa (Texas) College in 1960-61 before transferring to Lamar, where he played his last two years.

Father of the Year

2012 Jerry Cozby

2011 Cliff Kresge

2010 Tom Nieporte

2009 Peter Compton

2008 Dave Adamonis

2007 Bob Nye

2006 Percy Hall

2005 Merle Marting Sr.

2004 Ken Morton Sr.

2003 Brian Code

2002 Carson Herron

2001 Earl Woods

2000 Fred Klauk

1999 Jay Loar

1998 King Martin

1997 Joe Jemsek

1996 Billy Casper

1995 Digger Smith

1994 Karsten Solheim

1993 Robert Trent Jones

1992 Robert MacNally

1991 Jesse Haddock

1990 Tony Gamez

1989 L.B. Floyd

1988 Jack Nicklaus

1987 Nick Beucher

1986 Laine Rinker

1985 Lacy McCumber

1984 Bill Hayes

1983 Bucky Walters

During his 41 years as head professional at Hillcrest Country Club in Bartlesville, he earned PGA section and national awards.

Retired since late 2009, Cozby, who turns 71 on June 9, reflects on a lifetime of service through golf with an honor that tugs at his heart: Golfweek’s Father of the Year.

“This award means so much to both me and (wife) Karole,” Cozby said at the recent men’s NCAA Southwest Regional. “It’s about more than just hitting a golf ball, giving a lesson or running a pro shop. It’s about family, and that’s one of the most important things in anyone’s life.”

During Father’s Day weekend at Innisbrook Resort in Tarpon Springs, Fla., Cozby will become the 30th recipient of the Golfweek award. The June 16 luncheon coincides with the annual Golfweek Father & Son Open. Previous honorees include Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones, Karsten Solheim and Billy Casper.

Cozby’s wife of 47 years, their three sons and five grandchildren plan to attend.

The Cozby boys, all accomplished amateur and college players, followed their father into golf careers. Cary, 43, is a PGA professional and director of golf/CEO at Wichita (Kan.) Country Club; Craig, 40, is a sales representative for Ping in Kansas and western Missouri; and Chance, 36, is director of tournament player relations at Ping. All played college golf in the 1990s at Oklahoma.

“I never pushed them in any sports,” Cozby said, crediting Karole for “their dispositions, the way they deal with people.

“But I will say, I’m glad they all chose golf, since that is the sport that is near and dear to me.”

Cozby clearly earned the respect of his peers. Among his numerous honors: National PGA Golf Professional of the Year (1985), National PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame (2005) and National Junior College Hall of Fame (2009).

He focused on delivering a memorable golf experience for his club members.

“I think as a club pro, one of the main things you need to do is make sure you take care of amateur golf,” Cozby said. “You need to make sure the amateurs enjoy playing the game and promote the game at their club, their city, wherever they go.”

Within Cozby’s South Central PGA Section, he is a four-time Bill Strausbaugh Award winner and has been the section’s top merchandiser, top teacher, top professional and Horton Smith Award honoree – winning each of those awards twice.

As son Cary noted, that requires “a tireless worker” with “incredible attention to details.”

“He instilled some great values in all of us,” Cary said.

Said Craig, viewing his father through the prism of his own fatherhood: “Growing up, I didn’t always agree with things he said or did, but now I want to make sure I raise my two children like he and mom raised us.”

Chance credited his father for drawing a blueprint to life that includes time-honored qualities that transfer from the golf course to business and beyond.

“Dad taught us the foundation of who we are today,” Chance said. “He taught us details and how to get along with people. He always said, ‘Don’t take anything for granted, and be grateful for what you have.’ He made sure that when we won, we won with class, and when we lost, we lost with class.”

For more than 10 years at Oklahoma, former Sooners coach Gregg Grost, now chief executive of the Golf Coaches Association of America, had a Cozby on his roster. His connection with the family endures.

“They are a very close-knit family,” Grost said. “When the boys came to OU, they were polished and respectful. Big Coz and Mama Coz – that’s what we called them, and I still do – they did such a great job with those boys.

“The success they’ve had since college is indicative of their upbringing. I can’t imagine anyone, any family, in the world of golf that’s more deserving of this award.”

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