CINCINNATI - On several levels, there is no overstatement regarding the Legends of Cincinnati Golf induction scheduled for Monday at Camargo Country Club.
One of the top 100 golf courses in the country, the Seth Raynor-designed jewel, which opened in 1925, hosts a gem of an inductee in Jim Volpenhein.
The other “Jimmy V,” as many of his friends call him, is a seven-time Cincinnati city golf champion. And a bon vivant of the first order. For years, I’ve compared him to the late Tony Lema. Both loved golf and living in equal portions. On the eve of winning the Orange County Invitational in Costa Mesa, Calif. in 1962, Tony joked that he would serve Champagne to the press if he won the next day. And with that Champagne, Tony Lema was christened.
Sadly, the high-living Lema perished in the crash of a private plane in 1966 at just 32 years of age. Volpy, by the age of 32, had won five Greater Cincinnati Metropolitan Amateur golf championships. He won his seventh in 2006. It was while pursuing his first at Cincinnati Country Club in 1981 that I became acquainted with the then 20-year-old Volpenhein phenom.
Cincinnati was blessed with some great players in those days. Tony Blom, Taylor Metcalfe, Lou Moore and Geoff Hensley come to mind. They were the guys to beat and it was easy to see why. These guys could play. But none had the distance off the tee that the impetuous Covington Catholic grad and University of Kentucky golf team member first exhibited that year. And he was far from a one trick pony. He could handle the short game, rough, sand, putting and above all had the nerve of a cat burglar. When I think of Jim, I recall that old gag line about, “If you like golf….you’re gonna love this shot”.
He had more tricks in his bag than Houdini. And his record of success at every level of amateur golf is literally legendary. The fact that the Legends organizing committee named only Volpenhein for induction this year, attests to his standing in the eyes of the golf community. He is entitled to stand alone in the spotlight.
Jim tells me that for all of his gregariousness, he is terrified of speaking in public. I’ve assured him that all he has to do is be himself and everything will be fine. Jim always has and always will rise to the occasion. It will be a delight to witness his ascension to the Legends status he so richly deserves.