The Tacoma-area native was a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, had two top 10 finishes in majors and was a member of the 1969 U.S. Ryder Cup team. He died Sunday in a Tacoma nursing facility.
Ken Still, one of the biggest personalities in Northwest golf history, has died of kidney failure at age 82.
The Tacoma-area native was a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, had two top-10 finishes in majors and was a member of the 1969 U.S. Ryder Cup team. He died Sunday in a Tacoma nursing facility.
He was known as much for his gregarious, outgoing personality as his golf accomplishments.
“As impressive as his legacy was as a golfer, he was an even better person,” said Jeff Ellison, chief executive officer of the Northwest section of the PGA of America, the organization for club and public-course pros. “He was a friend to everybody.”
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Still said last fall that he had refused to explore getting a kidney transplant.
“I’m 81,” he said. “What if someone 25 years old or younger needs a kidney? I’m not going to take it from them. That’s not my style.”
Still had decided nine days before his death to go off kidney dialysis because he had become very frail and was declining.
Still’s friendship with Jack Nicklaus led Nicklaus to design the back nine at the American Lake Veterans Golf Course pro bono. The course is designed so it can be used by disabled veterans.
Still called Nicklaus during a course board meeting and said, “Jack, I need you involved.”
Nicklaus paused 10 seconds, then answered, “Ken, count me in.”
When the new nine opened last year, Still was chosen to hit the first tee shot.
Nicklaus was with Still on the 1969 Ryder Cup team when Nicklaus famously chose to concede a missable 3-foot putt facing Tony Jacklin so the match could be assured of ending in a tie.
Nicklaus had called Still during his final days, and so had fellow golfers Raymond Floyd and Chi Chi Rodriguez and baseball legend Sandy Koufax.
Still’s introduction to golf was as a caddie at Fircrest Golf Club in 1950. His handicap index went from 16 to scratch in one year.
He turned pro after graduating from Clover Park High School and about five years later was on the PGA Tour.
Still was known for his friendliness.
Dave Senko, a former University of Washington sports-information director who joined the staff of the Senior Tour (now PGA Tour Champions) in 1995, recalled: “Ken was a guy you don’t forget. He was always quick with a quip and one of the most outgoing guys I’ve worked with on this Tour. He and I would always talk Huskies and whenever he’d call me he’d always say, ‘Dave, Don James here.’ ”
In 1968, Still was scheduled to be on a Braniff flight from Houston to Dallas if he missed the cut in the Houston Open. That appeared likely after a first-round 78. But he shot 69 the second day and made the cut. The plane was struck by lightning and all 85 people aboard died.
“I didn’t sleep well that night,” Still said. He credited his “don’t quit” mentality for keeping him playing hard in the second round and saving his life.
“Fortunately, I am not a quitter and that paid off,” he said.
Still’s friendship circle ranged from neighbors to Nicklaus and Koufax, who was one of two best men in Still’s wedding. A never-married bachelor at age 49, Still met his wife, Linda Evans, when he was making arrangements for his mother’s funeral.
In an interview last fall, Still said, “In five minutes, I knew I was going to marry that woman.”
Still is survived by his wife, Linda, son Mark Evans (wife Sabrina) and brother, Fred, of Tucson, Ariz.
A funeral mass is set for March 31 at 11 a.m. at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Tacoma with a reception to follow at Fircrest Golf Club, which Still joined in 1953.
Still, who lived in the town of Fircrest, was the speaker at the Hudson’s Cup banquet at the club last October and received a standing ovation before and after his speech.
“There’s nothing like a story told by Ken Still,” Ellison said.
In lieu of flowers, donations to St. Charles Borromeo Church’s school or the American Lake Veterans Golf Course are suggested.