By Joe Watts
Jeff Waters, also known as “Golf Guy,” is retiring, but he isn’t. He wants to make it clear that he isn’t retiring, but he is. Clarification is in order, which is normal when talking with Jeff. He’s a complex guy.
He is retiring from being an active PGA professional and instead will be devoting full time to his radio show, blog, and podcast. He also plans on undertaking the major project of writing the history of Utah golf.
“I’ve been on the inside of Utah golf for half a century, and its history needs to be written. I hope to put together a Ken Burns-style documentary of Utah golf,” he said.
For the past few years, Jeff has worked at Mick Riley Golf Course, and that job has been getting in the way of what he really wants to do, so he’s moving on.
Waters is an off-the-wall, unconventional golf personality. He has a distinct voice, meaning that you know it’s him when you hear it. There’s no mistaking it. Also, the only thing certain about what he may say is that it is uncertain. He is unpredictable. In other words, you can’t count on what he is going to say, but you can count on it surprising you.
A good description of him would be to compare him to a racquetball court. In racquetball, the ball is going to bounce off one of four walls, or the ceiling, and that’s generally manageable. When talking with Jeff, it’s more like playing on a court shaped like an eight-sided cube. Try playing that game! It’s hard to know where the next shot is coming from.
Probably the most common description of him is, “He’s a beaut!” When you hear his name, the first impulse is to chuckle. In the midst of all his sarcasm is a big, happy heart. When faced with criticism, he is always slow to take offense. It goes right over his head.
Microphones are an extension of his vocal chords. They go with him everywhere he goes. His favorite job in golf, other than teaching kids how to play the game, is announcing players to the first tee, “And now on the tee”….and who knows what comes next?
Jeff became a certified PGA Master Professional in 1993, a rank and title that few pros obtain. It’s the PhD of golf. He has over 40 years in the golf business, including ten years as a head professional and three years as director of player development for Salt Lake County.
For the past 20 years, he has also managed his own Rocky Mountain Golf Enterprises, which includes his various radio shows, his Rocky Mountain Golf Academy that has taught the game to hundreds of new players, and he has organized and hosted golf trips and tournaments throughout the United States.
He is probably best known for his “Talking Golf” show on the Rocky Mountain Network where he earned his name as “Golf Guy.”
He has attended, broadcast, and written about many major professional golf tournaments around the world, including the Masters, U.S. Open, PGA Championship, Ryder Cup, and others on a regular basis. He has conducted in-depth interviews with many of golf’s greats and most of Utah’s key golfing figures.
Waters was born in Taunton, Massachusetts, in 1945 where his father was stationed at the end of World War II. Shortly after that, the family moved to Sugarhouse where he grew up and enjoyed just being a kid. He worked many odd jobs, including at Albertsons and Cottonwood Mall, but the jobs he loved were picking up balls and doing other odd jobs for Jerry Henderson at Forest Dale and Alex McCafferty at Nibley Park.
“Those guys were bigger than life,” Waters recalls. “They were like Gods to me!”
It was during those years, the era before motorized golf carts, that he learned the game from some of Utah’s great players, including Jon Mauss, Don Dorton, Doc Docstader, Ralph Emery, and the Peacock brothers, Jimmy, Dick and Arlen, and others.
And then there was work at Mountain Dell with Tommy Sorenson, Skip Child, Craig McKay, Mike Brimley, Rex Underwood, and others, and golf became his love. He and a friend, Andy Pierce, played golf every day while “other kids our age were out getting in trouble.”
He graduated from South High in 1963 and played football at Utah State in 1963-64. You could guess it by his build, he was an offensive lineman.
Facing the draft, he decided to join the 19th Special Forces Airborne and spent time in Korea where he was exposed to Agent Orange from which his hearing was damaged. He has lived with hearing aids ever since.
Jeff graduated from the University of Utah in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, economics, and accounting. Working towards his master’s degree, he studied community recreation under Dean O.N. Hunter and completed a research study on the relationships between golf professionals and municipalities. He went to work full time before completing the degree. He later earned his MBA in 1993.
He worked at Wasatch Mountain under Lanny Nielsen and Bruce Summerhays during one of the major turning points in Utah golf history. That was when a major law suit made its way through the court and determined that professionals could not be individual concessionaires at the golf courses but must be employees of the government entity that owned the course. This fundamentally changed the business of golf in Utah and how golf professionals were employed by municipalities.
Other professionals he worked with were Doug Vilven, Nolan Wathen, Jim Healey, Todd Meyer, Alan James, Mike Bicker, Mike Borich, Brian Schramm, Mark Owen, Steve Young, Ron Branca, Mike Richards, and Troy Watkins.
He became a Class A pro in 1979 and was the head pro at Nibley Park from 1982-1992.
He maintains an interest in politics and is currently the chairman of the Canyon Rim Community Council and has been the chairman of the Association of Community Councils. He also serves on the Millcreek Township Council and sits on the advisory board of Salt Lake County’s Municipal Services Board.
Jeff has been married to Shirley Catmull Waters for over forty years, and they have two daughters who have followed him into the business world, Sarah Elisabeth Waters and Alexis Jane Waters.
Jeff has a blog and website at: www.jeffgolfguy.com