A final phone call

By |  December 17, 2018 0 Comments
Seth Jones headshot (Photo: Golfdom)

Seth Jones

My last phone call to Steve Wright, CGCS — never meant to be a monumental call — goes down as the last time I ever talked with my friend Steve.

Readers of Golfdom will recognize the name Steve Wright, the superintendent at Pine Tree GC, Boynton Beach, Fla., as he was a columnist for our magazine. His column, “I’m Just Saying,” appeared a few times a year since I convinced Steve to give it a try back in 2015. (He tried to end every column with the hashtag #justsayin’ and it drove me crazy.) Those of you active on Twitter know the name Steve Wright and the handle @WrightSteve19. Steve was active on Twitter (and Facebook), usually sharing beautiful golf photos or pics of him and his wife, Sheree, out on the boat, or just overall positive vibes, with the hashtag #sflalife.

Many of you knew Steve personally, either from his time working in South Carolina or Florida, volunteering on a GCSAA committee, attending the Golfdom Summit, etc.

Here is the context — and the sad coincidence — of my last call with Steve. I buzzed him and left him a voicemail, telling him I was working on a story and needed some Florida-specific expertise, and asked if he could assist. That afternoon Steve returned my call and I gave him the lowdown. I was working on last month’s cover story, the “Distance Education” article, and wanted to know who he might suggest as the superintendent people would want to road trip to Florida to learn from.

He suggested his friend Jim Ellison, among a few other names, and told me why.

Mr. Ellison passed away on Oct. 16, age 68. Steve passed away less than a month later on Nov. 5, age 61.

In that phone call, after Steve told me about Jim, I told him thanks for the suggestion… and then I asked him if the person to visit in Florida to learn from might actually be the guy I was talking to — Steve himself. It was an idea he quickly laughed off.

I wanted to include Steve in that November cover story because I believed he was the guy in Florida from whom people would like to learn. But I wanted his blessing to pursue such an idea because, frankly, I was a little intimidated by him.

Yes, I’ll admit I was a little afraid of Steve. I think everyone in the business who knew him was. He was a friend and a jokester, but he also had a serious side. I know I made him mad once. It was following a golf outing we were both in. Following the round, Steve stopped me at the bar and scolded me for driving too close to a green. I thought he was joking.

I quickly figured out he was not joking. I’ll never know what hole he was referring to or how close I really was, but now you know why I instinctively pull back to the cart path whenever I get within, oh, 100 yards of any green.

So, now it seems that I did the distance education story on Steve anyway, for a sad reason. Steve will have to forgive me, like he did for driving too close to the green that day. He was a force in the Florida golf industry and in the industry as a whole, and I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity — again — to pay him tribute.

Along with insights from those who worked alongside Steve, we reprinted an especially poignant column he wrote for us in 2015. His first bit of advice was to spend 15 minutes a day and “call someone important to you.”

You never know when a phone call or a conversation might actually be the last time you talk to that person. I’m thankful that I called someone important to me that day so we could catch up one last time.


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