Kenny Jordan Sr. —
obit by Harry Missildine
Life turns from dull to delightful when you arrive into the company of certain people, as if suddenly a happiness light switches on. One of those was Kenny Jordan, longtime professional at the Moscow Elks Golf Club, who died Monday at 82.
Not everyone who owns a marvelous golf swing can teach it. No problem for Kenny, who
communicated with the unadorned efficiency of his incisive iron shots.
Whoever watched the rhythmic, full turning swings of Ken Jordan Jr., Kathy, Nancy and Sharon, knew without asking that they were children of Kenny and his beloved wife, Margaret.
Ken Junior, family name “Bubs,” used to shag practice shots for his dad.
“I’d take a baseball glove and if I had to take a step to catch one of his 6-iron shots, he’d consider it a mishit,” said he. The junior Jordan is a teacher and golf coach at Moscow High School.
Kathy Christian and Sharon Kimberling live in Moscow, Nancy Graves in Port Angeles.
Jordan wore many hats in his tenure from the fall of 1946 to the spring of 1985. He was manager of the golf club and course superintendent, that latter office requiring him to rise in the dead of night and drag hoses around to water the course.
“It was a family affair,” recalled Kathy. “Mom took care of the books. Nancy and I ran the restaurant and the bar. Bubs mowed the greens and cut the holes, Sharon, while she was growing up, washed range balls and entertained the members, which included playing ‘Go Fish’ with “Orval Snow.” The late Orval was a wheat rancher and former state senator.
Except for part-time help, usually students at the university, the regular non-family member was Bill Bishop. He trimmed the fairways with a faithful old Ford tractor pulling a gang mower and cut the rough with more maneuverable equipment. Bill was an Okie with a well-developed taste for corn squeezins but he mowed in a straight line even when he couldn’t walk one.
What was it about Kenny that made him such a happy guy to be around? He never looked down on anyone with lesser golf skills or lesser anything else. For those in slumps who were blistering their hands on the practice tee, Kenny would supply a corrective tip and advise, “Go play. Have some fun.”
My game had not yet slid toward old age and decrepitude when Kenny was there. When swing ﬂaws erupted, he had antidotes but his best counsel was, “What you’ve got isn’t gonna change after all those years. Just go have a good time.”
He was an outstanding golfer who did nearly all of his playing in the years before we moved to Moscow in 1963.
He assisted Frank James, who designed the Elks course, at the University of Idaho course when he was a student there, joined the navy in World War II.
Before he went to sea as a communications equipment specialist on the escort carrier Suwanee, he was stationed in San Diego. There, “Dad and his admiral would play against Sam Snead and Joe Kirkwood and their admirals,” said Ken Junior.
Soon after mustering out and taking the Elks job, he played an exhibition round and conducted a clinic with Byron Nelson, who shot a ’69 as Jordan scored a 70 or 71.
Jordan’s playing reputation was wider than local. In 1948 he was invited to play in George S. May’s All-American Open in Chicago, at that time by threefold the richest tourney in the world. He didn’t go because Margaret was about to produce Ken Junior.
When the ground froze and before the snows, Jordan and I would play “cross-country” to greens he’d mowed in the fairways, with cups the size of two-pound coffee cans.
The object was to keep warm, keep the chatter going and invent new routes to these temporary greens, never mind intervening trees.
He was an exceptional athlete: city horseshoe champ; winner of tennis tourneys; 192-average bowler when pins were heavy and alleys rough. He won the Idaho State Junior golf tourney at McCall after hooking a ride there and sleeping on the Payette Lake beach.
Kenny partnered with Frank James in the design or modiﬁcation of sundry courses including Colville, Colfax and Sunnyside.
The Moscow Elks property once was a farm owned by his aunt and uncle. Visiting as a child during its conversion, he rode his tricycle on the ninth green just after it was seeded and took a paddling. That may explain why that green’s breaks are so hard to read.
Kenny was more interested in keeping his many friends cheery than in merchandising. He didn’t push equipment. He often gave lessons and advice gratis.
When Helen and I toured the United Kingdom in the early 80s, he noticed my seedy golf bag and mismatched head covers. He produced his own glossy black leather bag and matching head covers. “You can’t be playin’ Troon and Muirfield lookin’ like that.”
Typical of Ken Jordan, this request: “No funeral. No services. Just throw a party.”
It begins Sunday, 1 PM, at the Moscow Elks Golf Club.