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Tucker’s Life Eulogized by Friend Glen Tuckett
For those who were unable to attend the memorial service of Karl Tucker we have obtained a copy of the speech given at the service by his long time friend, former BYU athletic director Glen Tuckett.
Tucker was inducted into the Utah Golf Hall of Fame and was presented with the UGA Gold Club. Tuckett's speech beautifully captures Tucker's life.
(Speech by Glen Tuckett at memorial service for Karl Tucker.)
I have a dilemma. How can I condense into 10 minutes the memories and reflections of over six decades. So many thoughts. So many memories. So many special times. So many things I would like to say. My association with Karl was not merely a friendship. It was fraternal—it was brotherly.
I first want to thank Joanne and the children, Jackie, Shellie, Larry, and Phillip—for the signal honor of participating in this memorial service— this celebration of life—for Karl Tucker. Karl was really one of a kind. We shall never see another like him.
1- Regarding this 30 plus years at BYU—He was the most popular and well liked coach in the athletic department. 2- He was the most popular teacher in the College of Physical Education. 3- He was unquestionably the most versatile teacher of sports skills on the faculty. Karl was a master teacher! Karl loved BYU and BYU loved Karl.
When it came to Karl’s personal skills and ability— he wouldn’t do it unless he could perform at the highest level. He never settled for mediocrity when excellence was within his grasp. With Karl, pride always mattered.
Karl came by his athletic skills naturally. Trav and Della Spillsbury Tucker created a ‘gene pool’ second to none. They enhanced the heredity factor of their eight children by 1- Teaching them how to work. 2- Teaching them how to be loyal and to love each other. 3- And teaching them how to have fun. They all had a remarkable sense of humor. All of the children were light-hearted and gregarious. I have often lamented that I felt badly that the Tucker family had not been blessed with just a little more self confidence.
I have never known a person with the ability to be so good at so many things—it is really not fair!
It’s one thing to be able to hit a golf ball straight down the middle—but to also 1- Win the high school state championship in tennis and be outstanding in baseball, basketball, and football, and also be the student body president. 2- Be the captain of the BYU baseball team. 3- Sing and play a number of musical instruments— piano, guitar, trumpet, trombone, etc. 4- Officiate college football and basketball. 5- Be an excellent horseman. 6- Be a great skier, and an even greater ski instructor. 7- Be a Hall of Fame coach.
He made it look so easy, but as Hall of Fame quarterback Don Meredith said, ‘It ain’t easy being easy.”
Karl as an athlete was both effective and elegant. He was poetry in motion. He was graceful. He was the Baryshnikov of the golf course, and ski slopes, and the baseball diamond.
As stated in the editorial in Wednesday’s Deseret News, Mark Twain once described golf as “a good walk spoiled.”
It is apparent that Mr. Twain never played a round of golf with Karl. It is even more apparent that he never had the distinct pleasure of playing with Karl and his brothers Tobe, Wayne, and Ray. Twain would have found that the most entertaining and hilarious four hours of his life had been enhanced by a walk with the Tucker brothers.
Karl’s three brothers seldom missed a BYU golf match or tournament. The golf course was their stage. The spotlight was on them. They carried on a day long commentary—their comments were spontaneous and hilarious. They were never hesitant to be talking with one another when an opponent was putting—or in his back swing.
Karl always had a country club appetite. He didn’t want to be a millionaire, he just wanted to live like one.
A few observations: 1- I can’t remember Karl doing anything he didn’t want to do. On one occasion he left his Christmas lights up for two summers in a row. 2- He never paid a green fee—whether it was Kean Ridd’s Provo course, or Pebble Beach, Augusta National, or St. Andrews. 3- He never paid for a ski pass. 4- He never bought shoes, shirts, sweaters, or trousers. He did purchase a suit of clothes once in a while—but only because Ping, Nike, Taylor Made or Footjoy didn’t make them. 5- Karl was an impeccable dresser who always took pride in the way he looked. 6- Karl always assumed that the ropes along the fairways of a golf tournament were for other people. Karl not only walked inside the ropes—he figuratively lived inside the ropes. The fairway was his personal HOV lane. 7- Karl could talk himself into Buckingham Palace. I was going to say the White House—but lots of people can do that nowadays. At the LA Open at Riviera Country Club he tried to park in the player’s parking lot. The attendant wouldn’t let him, but Karl persisted even with a long line of cars waiting behind him. Finally the window of the next car rolled down and Johnny Miller stuck out his head and yelled to the attendant “hey, let those two guys in.” 8- Karl knew that if BYU golf were to succeed he needed a golf course that would be a showcase—a selling point to recruits. It became Karl’s crusade— to have playing privileges for the BYU golf team at the newly constructed RCC. He was obsessed. He cultivated, lobbied, and intimidated both the BYU central administration and the Board of Directors of RCC. And as always, Karl was successful—and the cordial association with Riverside made all the difference. 9- Karl was by far the most popular golf coach in the NCAA. He knew all of the golfers on the opposing teams, and they secretly wished they were playing for Karl Tucker. 10- I have been to many PGA Tour events with Karl and the pros crowd around to talk with him and reminisce about the friendships.
Few people have ever been able to mix blarney, flattery, smoke blowing and genuine affection as well as did Karl Tucker.
7- Karl was the dominant figure in intercollegeiate golf for over 20 years. He helped shape the future of college golf. He not only earned great notoriety for BYU golf, he created a standard of excellence in recruiting and coaching that was admired and emulated by his colleagues and associates in the world of college golf. When Karl Tucker spoke everyone listened. He was the national trend setters. He taught etiquette to his players. He encouraged them to thank people and show appreciation. He dressed his team in neat attractive uniforms. His teams looked great on and off the course..
When Karl Tucker took over the program at BYU the highlight of the year was a 2-day tournament in Salt Lake at the Forest Dale Golf Course. He changed that in a hurry. The team played in tournaments from coast- to-coast, from the Olympic Club in San Francisco to the Doral in Miami. The BYU golfers made international tours as often as the NCAA permitted.
Karl knew how to spell and pronounce the word BUDGET, but he didn’t know the definition. Others in the department complained to me that Karl always got what he wanted. I denied it, but in my quiet moments I knew it was true.
As I look over the congregation I would gauge that we have the making of a Ryder Cup team in attendance.
BYU golf team achievements: A- 1981 National Championship, and Karl was Coach of the Year. B- Two second place finishes. C- Three third place finishes.’ D- 14 top five finishes.
1981 season could have been a disaster: A- Joanne had a kidney transplant. B- John Bodenhammer got Hodgkinson’s Disease. C- Bobby Clampett, two-time Haskins Award winner as the NCAA Player of the Year had just completed his eligibility…but someone forgot to tell Zokol, Clearwater, Fehr, Willardson, DeSantis, Myer, Kluba, and Finch.
All they did was win seven tournaments without a medalist. (for those of you from Murray that means the lowest individual score for the tournament.) yet, Karl coached them to the NCAA championship at the Stanford University golf course.
With all of his light heartedness and humor—Karl was a warrior. Competitiveness lurked and boiled beneath the surface.
Gold medals and blue ribbons were his goal. Karl and his teams reacted to victory and defeat in the same manner—with class and dignity.
When it came to being a leader, Karl made the Pied Piper sound like he was playing out of tune. I have never known a coach who was able to elicit more loyalty and support from his players than did Karl. He had a magical way of making his players feel good about themselves—and meld them into a team concept in a sport that has never been known as a team sport. When people were around Karl Tucker they ‘walked taller’. He inspired his players to perform far above their ability,. He preached optimism on stilts. He fed his golfers large portions of ‘ego food.’ He polished their halos. He always held the mirror at the most flattering angle. Karl made leadership an art form. His leadership style calls to mind two lines from one of my favorite songs Stout Hearted Men — ‘hearts can inspire other hearts with their fire, and the strong obey when a strong man shows them the way.” BYU golf was a graphic example of a strong man showing the way.
Karl was a devoted husband. Joanne was the stabilizing factor in his life. She ‘reigned him in’ when he let his ego get a little bit out of hand—and more importantly, she lifted him up when he needed some tender loving care. Joanne was his Polaris, his North Star, his oasis in a world of missed putts and sprayed tee shots.
Karl was a loving father, a doting grandfather and great grandfather, and the favorite uncle of all of his nieces and nephews.
We will miss you Karl Tucker. We will miss your positive attitude. We will miss your humor, but most of all we will miss your friendship—but it will be but for a season.