On Dec. 31 Sherwin Cox will shut the door to his office — a door rarely closed during business hours — and walk through two double doors to get outside.
He will take a right for about 20 steps, then another right.
As he walks the next 50 yards to his parked car he will pass a putting green on right.
The 67-year-old easy-going, quick-to-smile Cox has taken this walk thousands upon thousands of times.
But Dec. 31 will be the last walk 37 years to the day since “Mr. Golf in Amarillo” started as the head professional golf pro at Ross Rogers Golf Complex.
“I’ve thought about that last walk,” Cox said when asked about his last day on the job since talking that first walk back on Jan. 1, 1981. “Somebody else maybe could have done a better job than I did. But when I walk out the door I can say I did the best I could do.”
Many say Cox’s best will be hard to ever top.
One never knows what life has in store, but Cox could have never dreamed while playing a game of pick-up football in his front yard one day in Pampa at age 10, his life became rooted in golf.
A friend named Johnny Carter was driving by with his parents and they car stopped. Carter asked Cox if he’d like to go caddie.
“Caddie”, Cox replied. “What’s that?”
By days end Cox had made his first 18-hole loop around the Pampa Country and one dollar and 25 cents in his pocket.
“I thought I was rich and I knew I was hooked on golf,” Cox remembers from that day.
Hooked meant spending his lifetime improving the game of golf for golfers in Amarillo in so many different facets.
In his 37 years, Cox (with much help) orchestrated a slew of changes at Ross Rogers.
He started with improving the irrigation so weeds no longer grew in the fairways. Because Cox knew from his days working as an assistant pro at Pampa CC, Tascosa CC and then those 11 months at Canyon Country Club as a pro prior to taking the Ross Rogers, the course mattered.
“When I took the job her at Ross, I wanted to get the golf course in better shape,” Cox said. “I knew from where I had worked the condition of your golf course determines how many players or how any members you are going to have. In other words, the course conditions determines your income. People want to play it, rather than have to play it.”
Cox’s vision paid immediate dividends for Amarillo. In his first 10 years rounds played at Ross Rogers went from 57,542 in 1980-81 to rounds to 100,140 rounds played in 1989-90.
Other key changes Cox saw was a new clubhouse in 1984, overseeing course renovations on the two 18-hole courses - WildHorse and Mustang - and earning statewide recognition.
Cox also helped raise millions for charities, was known for running high quality amateur tournaments, had a passion for helping build a strong junior golf program, and made good on his one of first goals he set making a day of golf about “the players” not about him.
Casey Weiss is one of those golfers.
Weiss is in the conversation as one the greatest amateur golfers in Amarillo history and currently is the defending champion at the Tournament of Champions.
“Oh, I think Sherwin has far accomplished his goal of making golf in Amarillo about the players,” Weiss said. “It’s really hard to put into words what Sherwin has meant to golf in Amarillo for 37 years. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of it for half of that. What he did before I came around and what he’s done while I’ve been around is really hard to put into words. He really is Amarillo golf.”
Vance Reed, owner of Reed Beverage in Amarillo and sponsor of many golf events including the prestigious Tournament of Champions, has been involved in golf with Cox all of those 37 years.
About five months into Cox’s tenure at Ross Rogers, Reed approached with the idea of raising money for a charity by holding a golf tournament.
What is now common place for a way to raise money by having a fun day of golf to help a charity, wasn’t in 1981. But it worked and during some years at Ross Rogers, Cox held as many as 140 charity events in a year.
“What can you say about a man like Sherwin?” Reed said. “Not enough can be said about his importance to the community. In my way of thinking he has been the A to Z of golf in Amarillo for four decades. Simply because so many things would not have been accomplished without his leadership. This community just simply wouldn’t be what it is today without his charitable efforts.
“It’s immeasurable how much he will be missed. He and his wife Jenny, we are just blessed to have had them.”
The annual Budweiser Partnership played at Ross in mid-summer is a highlight of the summer for Amarillo amateur golfers.
Dean Morrison is the owner of Amarillo’s Budweiser distributorship and sponsor of many tournaments in the Amarillo-area, including the Partnership.
Morrison said the popular Bud tournament was made even more popular because of Cox’s gift of making every player at every level feel special.
“I’ve known Sherwin since 1989 and Sherwin has the personality that makes it a pleasure to come out and spend time with him and do tournaments with him,” Morrison said. “He absolutely goes to the inth degree to make sure whatever is going on with any tournament at Ross Rogers the golfer is taken care of and that’s why it’s been such a pleasure to work with him all these years. He will be missed a bunch. We are losing a great one in Sherwin Cox.”
Cox recently sat down for a wide-ranging interview and chatted for more than an hour about his remarkable 37-year run at Ross Rogers.
He paid tribute to his wife, Jenny, who she said in now way could have made it through without her.
He talked about remembering his son Ty, and current PGA Tour player Ryan Palmer, able to participate in a clinic at age 7 designated for for 9-year-olds and up “because they knew the pro.” His has special memories of those two helping Amarillo High to a pair of state runner-ups in high school.
Imagine all the golf he has witnessed at Ross Rogers?
But he can tell you two of his favorite memories in remarkable detail.
“Tom Doughtie knocking in an eagle putt on the 36th hole from the left fringe and the pin was back right,” Cox remembers of the 1985 Bud Partnership. “They were a point down from two Lubbock players. It was Tom and Donnie Loerwald and he knocked in an eagle from just back of the green and he flipped them and won by one point. It was almost dark and they had been out there almost 11 hours. That’s a shot I’ll never forget.”
Then there was the day he teed it up in a round for a casual city league match and his heart was touched.
“I used to give kids a club if they didn’t have one during our junior clinics,” Cox said. “I was playing in a city league match one year playing against a couple of young guys. We were at No. 3 on the old course and I picked up a club and said, ‘Hey, did one of you guys leave a club back there?’ Oh hey, that’s mine and I don’t want to lose it that’s one you gave me.’ Little things like that always made my job so special.”
Statewide and nationally Cox has been recognized over and over by his peers owning 10 PGA West Texas Chapter awards, and two PGA of America nationals awards (Merchandiser of the year in 1986, Youth Player Development award in 1996).
He served in all offices of the West Texas chapter, was on the Northern Texas PGA’s Board of Directors for 19 years, and was president of the section in 1986-87.
“Sherwin’s name is just known statewide,” said Tascosa director of golf for 26 years Alan Coe, “it’s known nationally. He’s had that kind of impact.”
Cox said he has so many people to thank along the way for his scuccess. At age 67 he came to the conclusion it’s time for a change.
“The recent changes (by the city) took the wind out of my sails,” Cox said. “But did wake up one night and it was either me, or God or bad pizza, but my thought was are you just going to sit at your desk until you die? Are you not going to experience some of the great things out there? I realized at that time with my health not all there it was time.
“But think about my time here. My parents didn’t have the money to send me to college so I had to get a job. To have the opportunities I’ve had, you have to thank God. He’s the only one who could have made it happen.”
The time for Sherwin Cox’s final walk away as golf pro at Ross Rogers will arrive some hour of the day on Dec. 31.
That last walk, no doubt, will include memories, laughs and yes a tear or two from Mr. Golf of Amarillo for nearly the past four decades.