Last Saturday marked what would have been my grandfather’s 92nd birthday. And this November will mark 20 years since his passing.
A strapping man whose grandkids called him “Bop,” Jack Cullity Sr. was one of my foremost golf influences. Bop was a plumber who fought in World War II and put six kids through college, and he was a single-digit player for most of his life and a longtime regular at Manchester Country Club, a Donald Ross layout in suburban Manchester, N.H.
As I got started in golf as a young teenager, I could always count on Bop to be out supporting me at junior tournaments. And on Wednesday afternoons during my high school summers, he’d often invite me to his club for nine holes with him and his high-handicap buddy, Herbie Smaha, who took pleasure in pointing out the “upspin” on his low-flying shots. On the way home, I’d have to remind Bop to turn off his blinker, since he was a little hard of hearing.
Bop wasn’t long off the tee when I knew him, but he rarely missed a fairway. And he was a demon around the greens. He didn’t live long enough to shoot his age, but I remember being at Manchester one morning when he shot 70 at age 68.
Bop putted with a Ping B60, and when at 15 I finished second in the junior club championship at Manchester’s municipal course I used my pro shop credit to buy a B60 just like his. Though I’ve occasionally switched through the years, I’ve always gone back to it.
Though there was no mistaking his masculinity, Bop didn’t hesitate to wear pink golf shirts semi-regularly. In fact, his rugged build and taste for pastels imbued him with an Arnold Palmer quality.
After he died, I became a golf journalist in Florida and on visits home would mention the tournaments I’d attended to my grandmother Mary, Bop’s wife of nearly 50 years. Without fail, and no doubt thinking of Bop, she’d respond: “Did you see Arnold Palmer?”
Bop is buried just a few miles from his beloved Manchester Country Club. But he lives on in my memory as an admired role model in my coming of age in golf.