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No One Who Met Him Will Forget Jim Langley

Sometimes, a man and the place where he works fit together perfectly. Like Jim Langley, who died July 20 at age 75, and his longtime employer, the Cypress Point Club. Cypress has a way of enveloping a person lucky enough to play it with placidity and pleasure. The course design is brilliant, to be sure. So is the setting, and a round there plays out like a deftly written drama – from an enticing start with a tee shot over 17-Mile Drive to a finish that crescendos with crashing waves, barking sea lions and a terrific triad of golf holes, Nos. 15, 16 and 17. But what really sets Cypress Point apart is the ethos it exudes as a pilgrimage site and place of worship for golfers. It is called the game’s Sistine Chapel for a reason. Langley presided over that sporting sanctum as its head golf professional for three decades, and his calm and caring manner touched those who played Cypress as deeply as the club and course did. He was a soulful man at a spiritual place, and his death saddens all of golf. Langley came to work at Cypress Point in 1971, only the fourth head professional in the history of a club established in 1928. And he quickly became known as a man of grace and generosity. He never charged club members for lessons and quietly provided emotional and financial support for caddies struggling with addictions and unable to afford proper clothes. He dealt easily and amicably with a membership that included celebrities, business moguls and political heavyweights. But he also welcomed guests so warmly they quickly got over the nervousness that understandably came with a visit to such a hallowed spot. Langley’s stature rose even higher after a 1987 car accident that almost took his life, largely due to the way he dealt with that calamity. He had to endure more than a dozen operations on his legs, both of which were broken, and his right arm, which was rendered all but useless. It kept him out of work for nearly a year, and while the man who shared the Cypress course record of 63 with Ben Hogan could still play golf, he could only do so one-handed. Yet he never complained. Instead, Langley talked about how the accident made him appreciate each day and allowed him to make a positive example in life and show how a person can overcome things. Already a pious person who regularly attended church, Langley’s devotion only deepened in the wake of his near-death experience. And you could not help but feel his serenity. CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz once told me that being around Langley was like being in the presence of a saint. “He has an aura that affects anyone who comes into contact with him as well as a unique appreciation for humanity,” Nantz explained. Longtime Cypress Point member Sam Reeves felt much the same thing. “Jim always had joy in life and hope in the unforeseen,” he says. “He was a man of faith and courage, and he valued the people with whom he came in contact in ways that made them feel very special.” The youngest of four children, Langley grew up in the agricultural town of Salinas, about 30 miles northeast of Pebble Beach. He was 13 when he first played golf and soon got good enough to shoot in the 70s. He also excelled in basketball and was part of the University of California team that won the national championship in 1959. Langley served in the Marines after college and then took a job as a sales representative for International Paper. He started playing golf so well that he decided to try to compete on the PGA Tour. After entering a handful of amateur events, he headed to Q-School. It was his first professional tournament, and remarkably, he earned his card. Life as a touring pro did not work out, however, as Langley needed steadier work to better tend to his growing family, which included his wife Lou, whom he had met when she was a cheerleader at Cal, and four young boys. He taught golf for six months in Southern California and then moved back to Salinas, where he loaded lettuce and cauliflower on train cars to make ends meet.


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