A round well played…
By Terri Wiebold; photos courtesy of Jim Mandeville, The Nicklaus Companies
After living a life of remarkable accomplishments, businessman and philanthropist Jack A. Vickers Jr. passed away on September 24 at the age of 93. A Castle Pines resident for more than three decades, Vickers was the founder of the Castle Pines Golf Club and the International PGA golf tournament, held at the club from 1986 to 2006.
The namesake and oldest son of a prominent Wichita oilman, Vickers was born in Colorado Springs and spent much of his childhood in Kansas. He attended preparatory school in Oklahoma and later Regis College in Denver before being drafted into the Coast Guard in World War II. At the age of 26, Vickers was named president of the company his father had founded in 1918, Vickers Petroleum Company.
In 1959, Vickers returned to Denver with his family (then-wife Doris and their seven children) and eventually sold all interest in the company, trading in his business success for his true passion – golf.
Vickers learned to play golf at the age of 11 on the nine-hole golf course his father built on their property in Wichita. But it wasn’t until nearly a half century later that he would come full circle and build his own golf course. In 1980, Vickers became involved in the development of what is now The Village at Castle Pines and the Castle Pines Golf Club.
He enlisted the help of good friend Jack Nicklaus to design the golf course, which would later be home to the International PGA golf tournament. Jack Nicklaus, upon hearing of the death of his friend said on social media, “We lost a tremendous friend in Jack Vickers Jr.; not only a friend … but a great friend to the game of golf.”
Although it was his dream, and despite his efforts to do so, Vickers was not successful in bringing the International back to Castle Pines following its quietus in 2006. However, Vickers’ contributions to the game of golf were many, and his golf accomplishments were acknowledged with distinguished honors.
Among his recognitions, Vickers was honored with the Bob Kirchner Award from the Colorado Open, named Golf Person of the Year from the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame, and inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame and the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, to name a few. Following the closure of the International in 2006, the Jack A. Vickers Invitational, hosted by John Elway, began. Since that time, the tournament has raised millions for the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Denver. In 2014, the PGA awarded Vickers the 11th ever Lifetime Achievement Award, an honor he took much pride in.
Vickers was quoted as saying: “Golf’s been so great to me, and I hope I have given back to the game, my family, and the community.” Well Mr. Vickers, your love of our community and the game of golf won’t soon be forgotten.
Sandy Rufenacht, a long-standing member of the Castle Pines Golf Club, said Vickers had a great dry wit and he loved spending time with other members. Rufenacht fondly noted that Mr. V (as they called him) made sure the Club was “kid-friendly” and said Jack would light up with a smile when he saw kids at the various family events at the Club. Rufenacht said his son Preston had a special rapport with Mr. V, and when Preston asked if he could get his picture taken with Mr. V, and when Preston thanked him afterward, Vickers responded, “The pleasure was all mine!”
Rufenacht emphasized how deep in golf tradition Vickers was, and when creating the Club, he desired to make Castle Pines the Augusta (home of the Masters Tournament) of the west. “Mr. V was himself a member of Augusta and he loved his green jackets – he wore green very well! When I think of him, I think of class; he was always the best dressed at the club. He definitely created the Augusta of the west … perfection to say the least.”
Those who worked for Vickers at the club said they were more like a family than a staff. “He was like a father figure and mentor to several employees who had worked for the Club for more 35 years, and he considered them family, all sharing the same vision and values,” said Rufenacht. In addition to his club family, Vickers and his beloved (second) wife, Cally, who passed away in 2014, hosted numerous events at their Castle Pines home to make the International sponsors and players feel welcome in Colorado.
Local golf professional and resident Dennis Murray shared this about Vickers: “He was successful, respected, admired and adored by nearly everyone that knew him. He was a gentleman of the highest order, first class all the time, but with a down to earth way about him that made everyone comfortable in his presence.”
Sandra Woods, a Village resident and good friend of Vickers remarked, “Such sadness at hearing of the passing of Jack Vickers. Jack’s life and accomplishments are legendary as a man of honor and vision. He was a wonderful friend and role model.”
Also a passionate philanthropist and entrepreneur, Vickers started the Jack A. Vickers Foundation and served on numerous other boards, including The International Charities, Inc., PGA of America, Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver, among others. He opened the Jack A. Vickers Club in 2013 in the Park Hill neighborhood of Denver to support low-income youth. Vickers also was a key benefactor in the University of Colorado Boulder and a founder of the Flatirons Athletic Club.
“Dad had many lifelong accomplishments and received a number of distinguished awards and honors, for which I know he was eternally grateful, shared Vickers’ oldest son, Jack A. Vickers III, who proudly bears his father’s name. “I feel very honored and blessed to have had the opportunity to work closely with my father throughout my life,” he remarked. “But I think people will remember him even more for his character traits,” he said.
“He was like ‘Jesus in a businessman’s suit’,” opined Jack III. “He was the consummate gentleman. There was just an inherent genuineness, sincerity, and kindness in him. He was respectful and gracious with everyone. He had a gift of always being hospitable. He truly was a visionary and his attention to detail was a consistent filter in everything he did. He loved his family, his friends, and people in general, and was constantly driven to create the perfect event or the perfect experience for others to enjoy,” reminisced Jack III.
The Castle Pines Golf Club and neighboring Sanctuary golf course flew their flags at half-staff for a week to honor Vickers following his passing. Those close to Vickers said he stayed involved with the Club until the end.
“I feel confident when I say that my father would want his legacy in Castle Pines to be for our community and our clubs to always strive to maintain a very high standard of excellence, with an attention to detail, in all we endeavor to do,” said Jack III. “And, further, to always remain respectful and graceful with one another in the process.”
Let’s all raise a glass of J&B Scotch, his favorite drink, to honor a man whose life was well played, on the course and off.