June 1, 2021
After decades of exploration and training, John had gone from a first-time golfer at the age of 7 to an accomplished golf professional and a very qualified golf course superintendent. After renting the golf driving range in 1983, and being turned down for family financing, an excellent opportunitypresented itself. Jim Shea recommended that he come to see him for an interview at the Bob Toski Golf Company in Newark, Ohio. Jim was looking for the top club-fitter in the Capitol District of New York State. Hence, even though there was no “official” announcement in the press, the idea of having a computerized, indoor golf club testing and practice range and selling custom-made top of the line golf clubs was exciting to John. Finally, John was able to sell Bob Toski Golf Clubs and, in addition, to make custom clubs.
In the coming months and years, John would develop his own brand of golf clubs, that he named Dr. Divot Golf Clubs. There were 2 different models. Both models were of improved designs of current models that were manufactured by major manufacturers, but were significantly different so as not to violate the patents and trade dress of those national companies.
John’s local competitors began a negative dialogue with local golfers, saying that John was using substandard materials and then John’s competitors said that his clubs’ components were of inferior quality. In fact, Dr. Divot Golf Clubs were developed and manufactured using top grade “gram-weighted head” components and assembled personally by John with very strict assembly procedures.
Disappointed and angry, John left for Tuscon, Arizona on June 14, 1994, with his 2 children (his 10-year old son and his 3-year old daughter) and his wife, who supported his efforts and was able to handle his successes as well as his temporary setbacks. They arrived in Tucson 5 days later, on Fathers Day, June 19, 1994, after the air conditioner died in their new van in Amarillo, Texas and the local dealer didn’t have the compressor to fix it. To complicate things, Tucson was under a desert heat wave. In the next 99 days, the daytime temperature was 100 degrees and above. On the 100th day, the temperature rose to a cool 99 degrees. You could actually fry an egg on the sidewalk.
John got into a local scratch (no handicap) golf league to prepare to qualify for the PGA’s Tucson Open later that year. How did you qualify to play in the scratch golf league? There were 3 scratch league officers and you had to play a practice round of golf with them, that they would use to determine if you were a skilled player. The test round was played from the Championship tees at the Randolph Municipal Golf Course, a public golf course that was the former site of the Tucson Open on the PGA Tour. On that day, John, playing that golf course for the first time shot a 5-under par round of 67. He was immediately accepted into the scratch golf league.
At the same time, John opened up a custom club golf shop. However, Tucson had a “swap meet” where one vendor knew how to assemble golf clubs (not custom clubs) and he was very well-established. After 6 months, John closed his shop. Why should he waste his time making quality custom clubs when he was following his dream to qualify for the Tucson Open, which was was about to happen.
The qualifier for the Tucson Open was held at the Arthur Pack Municipal Golf Course on the west side of Tucson. On the Friday before the qualifier, John play his allotted practice round at the Arthur Pack Golf Course. At the end of that 18-hole round, John had shot a 10-under par score. He walked off of the course triumphantly with heightened anticipation of the qualifier that next Monday.
The Tucson Open had moved away from the Randolph Municipal Golf Course a few years before John’s arrival in Tucson, when tour member Chip Beck shot a sizzling round of 61 strokes (11 shots under par). The Open Committee moved the venue for the first 2 rounds from Randolph Municipal to a new desert course in the west side of Tucson named Starpass. The final 2 rounds were played, as usual, at Tucson National Golf Club. When John toured Tucson National on the final day of the tournament, the 4th round, it was as a spectator. On that Friday night, after his course-record tying practice round for the qualifier, John found it difficult to breathe and went to the emergency room of a local Tucson Hospital. He was diagnosed with Double Pneumonia and told NOT to play in the qualifier.
As John walked up and down the 18th hole, he was looking for a friendly face. The player’s name was Jim Thorpe, a black touring professional whom John had met in 1980 at the Western Turnpike Golf Club in Guilderland, New York, where John was the head professional. Jim Thorpe was playing his way onto the PGA Tour by playing the “Black Tour” (as it was called at that time). The two golf professionals, Jim and John became instant but temporary friends.
On the 18th hole of Jim Thorpe’s final round at the Tucson Open that year, John saw Jim hit his tee ball into the short rough on the left side, just left of the fairway. Jim hit a 4-iron to just left of the pin just left of the hole. He then proceeded to hole that putt, making a birdie on the hole and earning a nice check for his efforts that week. Then, as Jim and the other players in his group walked in between the bleachers where the fans were, he walked directly past John after looking John right in the eye. As Jim walked past him, John spoke out in a shocked voice and said, “It must be something when you forget your friends when you’re on top. Do you remember when I walked out on the driving range in the hot sun to pick up and give you a bucket of golf balls because we had run out of them at the Western Turnpike Golf Club’s 1980 Black Golf Tour event? Jim’s face dropped towards his chest. He had no response and both Jim and John walked away, going their separate ways, never to speak again.
During John’s career, after he became a golf course superintendent, he helped quite a few golf courses in upstate New York that were having issues with their maintenance. Most of them had no extra money because they had neglected maintenance issues at their golf courses by squandering profits on other club projects instead of re-investing a portion of the profits into the golf course. John’s reward for his efforts at these golf courses never included money. It was done “pro bono” (free of charge).
As John sat in his mobile home, looking out his kitchen window during that 33-inch snow fall in December of 2020, tears had begun to run down his cheeks. It was several hours before his mind return from its state of reverie. He had reviewed his life in the Business of Golf, with its ups and downs. His final recollections were of the 2 years, 1999 and 2000, when he played the North Atlantic Tour in the 7 New England States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York after assuming the care of his elderly mother (from 1997 until her passing on October 11, 2002). John had divorced his wife under the pressures of the daily care of his mother, his children’s care, and the North Atlantic Tour. The pressure was too great and it ended in his divorce from his kids’ mother.
Then, after John was disqualified from the tour championship after the first round by missing his tee time for the second round, he discovered a lump on the left side of his groin, while taking a shower after the first round of the event. The lump grew bigger and moved around under his skin. On December 4, 2000, John underwent biopsy surgery on the lump. On December 11, 2020, John finally received his long-awaited biopsy results. He was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. On May 16, 2021, John began his 21st year of remission from Cancer.
In the second weekend of August of 2003, John played in that year’s edition of the Tupper Lake Open, his favorite event of each year since 1975, which was played at the Tupper Lake Country Club in the small Village of Tupper Lake, New York. This golf course, a Donald Ross design had a unique membership. When the players reached the final hole each year, they could look up at the back of the green and notice what seemed like every golf who lived within 50 miles of the course. As each player came through to the final green, the spectators applauded their efforts on the short but difficult last hole. In addition, those members, who were NOT playing in the tournament, were helping run the tournament by volunteering their time. At all times, you could see their genuine pride and support of their semi-private golf course.
It was John’s final thought that hurt the most. He had given back far more than what golf had given to him. After all of his successes in helping others repair and recover their golf courses to profitability. He had one question that ran through his mind. He thought, “WHAT WOULD HAPPEN WHEN THE DAY CAME WHEN NO ONE LISTENED”? Funny, isn’t it? John is afraid that, when he returns to the Fernandina Beach Municipal Golf Club on June 3rd, would that be the day that “WHEN NO ONE WOULD LISTEN”?
Several months ago, after writing one of my first articles for the Fernandina Observer, I was asked by one of the readers to discuss my qualifications to legitimize and justify my writings. So as not to seem that I was bragging, I have written these articles in the third person. In fact, my father’s name was Stanley, not Ken and my son’s name is also Stanley. My daughter’s name is Sarah.
If you guessed it, my name is not John. It is Alan Prescott. I am the adopted son of Stanley Prescott, a successful shoe designer and shoe merchant, who was in business on 7th Avenue for 45 years. I have written these articles as an accurate autobiography to describe my qualifications as well as my desire to help in the improvement and re-development of the Fernandina Beach Municipal Golf Course to restore its profitability and to give back more than I have received from the Game and the Business of Golf.
With Respectful Sincerity, I am Alan Prescott and I am here for you. I will seen you by June 3rd and can be reached at your convenience at [email protected]
Editor’s Note: Alan Prescott reached out to us after reading a recent article on the Fernandina Beach Golf Course. His articles are being well received by golfers and non-golfers. We thank Alan for his contribution to the Fernandina Observer.