Buddy McEwen finished his final round at 67, which is five under par at his beloved Davy Crockett. There are a lot of us who wish his score could have been much higher.
McEwen died at 67 last week, after a four-year battle with throat cancer. He was a beautiful man, full of humor, spirit, and sass. I first met him in the early 1990s, when I began playing at Davy Crockett. He was the genial pro, more of a host, really. He'd greet you, chat you up about your life, the Tigers, your golf game, and sell you some used balls.
He loved Davy Crockett, a city course in deepest Frayser. He always said — rightly in my opinion — that it was the most beautiful layout in town, with its precipitous hills and thick forests and swampy lowlands. It just needed money and attention. Mostly money.
Buddy was a community activist. He organized golf programs for the impoverished kids who lived in the area. He held benefit tournaments for the Memphis Police Department. And when the city proposed to shut down Davy Crockett a few years back, he fought fiercely — and successfully — to save it.
Two years ago, some friends organized a tournament to raise funds for Buddy's medical expenses. Nearly 200 people showed up, so many that Buddy couldn't get everyone in the picture he wanted to take. His voice was cracked, and he was thin, but his laugh is what I remember most, as he kept backing up farther and farther. All of us — black, white, working stiffs, white-collar execs, cops — kept squeezing together, trying to fit in Buddy's picture.
If you live a big life, you need a wide lens.
In recent weeks, some of us began receiving e-mails from Buddy's brother Tommy in Nashville, with whom Buddy lived during the last months of his life. The subject line of last Friday's e-mail read: "Buddy is playing golf in heaven."
The next day, my friend John Ryan and I went out to Davy Crocket to play. It was unseasonably warm. The leaves hung gold and red along the fairways under a bright December sky. The clubhouse seemed very empty.
A thought occurred: Davy Crockett couldn't play golf worth a damn. They ought to change the name of this place. "The Links at Buddy McEwen" has a nice ring to it.