A truly remarkable person passed away on February 10th, 2006. Dick Harmon, 58, was the son of golf pro and Masters champion Claude Harmon, husband to Nancy and father to Heidi, Richard, Chris, and Mary. Those closest to him say he was far more than a golf professional.” It was never about him,” said brother Butch Harmon. “It was always about someone else. He is a person that all of us are going to miss and we’re going to miss him in ways that have nothing to do with golf.”
Dick Harmon was one of those unique individuals who elevates the lives of those around him because of his extraordinarily giving heart. I wish I had known him personally. Shell Houston Open director Steve Timms said, “He’s one of our icons in Houston. He’s done so much for so many people. It’s such a huge, huge loss. He’s had such a big impact on golf at all levels. It’s just devastating.”
Dick Harmon taught for 24 years at River Oaks Country Club and was director of golf at Redstone Golf Club near Houston. He had a unique and diverse clientele. Among his students were Lanny Wadkins, Fred Couples, Steve Elkington, Jay Haas, and Lucas Glover. In addition to the many touring professionals that he taught were young people that Harmon both taught and welcomed into his world. He realized that he could make a more lasting impact in the life of a young person than he could an adult.
Those closest to Dick knew that he put people above programs. “If you knew Dick, you’re going to miss him,” 1956 Masters and PGA Championship winner Jack Burke said. “It isn’t just his teaching. He never got too involved in these systems. He taught people instead of some stupid system.” It was this general approach to life that endeared so many people to him and is a lesson to all of us about what is truly important in life.
One of the people most affected by Dick Harmon was his older brother Butch. Butch Harmon had this to say about his brother in a PGATour.com interview:
“For me he was much more than a brother to me. He was a teacher, he was my best friend in life, he was the one when I really had my bad time when I was drinking too much in the early 80’s, gambling too much, and got divorced, and my life was in shambles. He took me into his house in Houston and found me a job and nurtured me back. I wouldn’t be the man I am today if it wasn’t for my brother.”
There are a lot of great stories in golf each year. The latest winners of golf’s biggest tournaments always take center stage in our imaginations but nothing grabs the heart quite as much as someone like Dick Harmon. While Dick never won any tournaments or put no major championship trophies on his mantle, what he accomplished is far more significant. Butch went on to say:
“He was a giver, not a taker. His whole life all he did was do for other people. He never asked for anything. He was a person who loved to help young people especially. He’ll be missed by more than the players out here on the practice tee at this event but by hundreds of young people all over the country that he helped. He had a great heart and he was very similar to our dad. He loved to help people, he loved people. I said to Billy at the services, ‘You know Bill. I can understand someone not liking you or I. We’ve rubbed some people the wrong way in our life. I reality if you didn’t like Dick Harmon there was something wrong with you.”
Among the nation’s top teachers according Golf Digest, Dick Harmon inherited a unique golf pedigree from his father, a teaching professional. The last golf pro to win the Masters, Claude Harmon had four sons: Billy, Dick, Craig, and Butch. All four became teaching professionals. Butch is well known for his work with PGA and LPGA touring pros, Craig is the head professional at the Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York, and Bill is the head professional at Bighorn country Club in Palm Desert, California. They all inherited and shared their father’s love and knack for golf and Dick was no different.
While perhaps not the most famous or flashiest of our nations teachers Dick Harmon’s impact is just as significant. He’ll be remembered for the way he treated the people around him, for his humor, and for the legacy that he left in his family and friends. While I never knew Dick Harmon personally, I feel enriched to have heard his story and seen a glimpse of his life from his friends and family.
Photo Credit: Redstone Golf Club.