Rude: Evans loses a rock in Moore

Evans Scholars Foundation senior vice president of foundation advancement Jim Moore, second from left, with Jack Nicklaus and Evans scholars George (left) and Geoff Solich.
Evans Scholars Foundation senior vice president of foundation advancement Jim Moore, second from left, with Jack Nicklaus and Evans scholars George (left) and Geoff Solich. ( Evans Scholars Foundation )

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday.

Every now and then a death hits you as if you were struck in the head by a George Foreman punch or grill. That happened a few hours ago. We finally found out what could wipe that everpresent big smile off the face of Jim Moore. Pancreatic cancer and death. Dammit.

Golf legend Chick Evans may have been the founder and namesake of the Evans Scholars Foundation, which has sent more than 10,000 deserving caddies to college with tuition and housing fully paid since 1930. But Jim Moore was the face of the program.

I’ve said multiple times over the years that Moore is the nicest person I’ve ever met in golf – and I’ve been around the game almost a half century. But considering what Jeff Harrison, his successor as Evans educational director, said Wednesday, that’s probably not giving Moore enough credit.

“He could be nicest man you’ll meet anywhere in life,” Harrison said of his former boss. “He was the kindest, most thoughtful man. He truly cared about everybody.”

Moore worked at the Illinois-based Western Golf Association, which administers the Evans program, for 47 of his 73 years until Tuesday night. No one has come close to working there that long. After at least 20 years apiece as educational director and assistant director, Moore served as chief fundraiser since 2008. They were all perfect jobs for him, the latter because it was hard to say no to someone so pleasant.

His warmth touched so many people, so many college students, that surely countless concur with the nice notion. I tested the thesis by asking a couple of his other longtime co-workers if they considered Moore the nicest guy in golf.

Answer No. 1: “Absolutely,” said Gary Holoway, who has handled WGA public relations for 24 years. “That’s the consensus of everyone here. I never saw him angry. He had a nice gentle way about him. He was able to get things accomplished in a way to make friends.”

Answer No. 2: “There’s no question,” said John Kaczkowski, the WGA's president and chief executive officer. “He was the titan of the Evans Scholars, a wonderful man who made a positive impression on everyone he came in touch with. I mean, have you met anyone more positive in life?”

No is the answer to that question. Then Kaczkowski asked another. “Have you ever seen anyone smile more?”

Negative. In fact, your correspondent will bet a year’s tuition that no one in the history of mankind has smiled more. He seemingly was never seen without one. The hunch here is he smiled in his sleep. You’d have thought some dentist just froze it onto his face. He made Jim Carrey seem straight-faced. Just the thought of Moore wants to make you smile more.

With apolgies to Jerry Lucas and Harry Lorayne, Jim Moore also might have led the world in memory. That idea is supported by one of the more interesting stories of my life.

In 1971, as a high school senior, I applied for the Evans Scholarship and interviewed with Moore. The next time I saw him, I was walking through a large crowd at the 1980 Western Open at Butler National.

Moore picked me out of the masses, stopped and said, “Hi, Jeff, how are you?”

After almost fainting, I wondered if he stayed up nights memorizing the composite collection of head shots from all 14 Evans houses around the country.

“That’s Jim Moore,” Harrison said. “It’s a true gift. The reason he remembered so much is because he cared so much.”

This is also Jim Moore: I was in the midst of greeting visitors at my mother’s wake two years ago when I looked up and saw Moore walk in the door. I had no idea he knew. But he was there. He always seemed to be there for somebody.

"It's never about him,” Denver oilman George Solich, an Evans alumnus and general chairman of next month’s BMW Championship, said recently. “He's always talking about you or somebody else.”

During Moore’s tenure, the Evans program grew from 600 students in college and 1,000 alumni to 870 in school and almost 10,000 alums. It also improved its academic standards, increased diversity, introduced co-ed living and required that all chapters have an annual charity project.

“Without question, the greatest reward is (that) I have been the first person from the WGA to talk to these young people in a one-on-one interview about the scholarship,” Moore recently recalled. “When I see them as frightened, nervous youngsters coming in for that preliminary interview and then, years later, to know them as successful men and women in their careers, there’s a great deal of satisfaction in seeing that transformation and hopefully to being a part of it, to have assisted in a small way.”

You didn’t even need to know him to know he cared. All you had to do was drive by his house in Green Oaks, Ill., a north suburb of Chicago.

On the front porch sits a brown wooden bench. It is engraved with large green letters, each one capitalized.

EVANS SCHOLARS, it reads appropriately.