James W. “Jimmy” Vickers has chased golf balls from his native Kansas to Colorado to Oklahoma, California, New York and the United Kingdom with such éclat that he’s bounced right into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame.
Jim’s Colorado ties are immense and tight. Born in Wichita, Kan., in 1928, he spent summers in Colorado Springs, mostly on The Broadmoor courses where he jump-started a sparkling golf career.
He enrolled at Regis University in 1948 and captured back-to-back Colorado Golf Association Match Play championships in 1949 (defeating Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Bob Clark, 2 & 1, at Denver Country Club) and 1950 (a 3 & 2 victory over Paul Gore at Lakewood Country Club). Shortly after that 1950 win, he upset the heavily favored Frank Stranahan in the first round of match play at the 1950 Western Amateur at Dallas Country Club.
Those triumphs, along with medalist honors in the Kansas Amateur, dotted the eyes of Oklahoma University, which lured him from Regis.
Vickers captained the 1952 Oklahoma team and won the NCAA Championship, defeating Eddie Merrins in the finals at Purdue University. In 1953 he defeated Gene Littler in the semifinals of the prestigious Trans-Mississippi at Kansas CC before losing the final to Joe Conrad.
Business ventures, many with Hall of Fame brother and Castle Pines Golf Club founder Jack Vickers, and raising five great children with wife JoDee may have short-circuited any thoughts of a pro golf career for Jim, but never did it diminish his prowess or thirst for the game.
He’s long held Colorado memberships at The Broadmoor, Cherry Hills, Lakewood and Castle Pines.
Castle Pines deviously stirred his creative juices to concoct the Modified Stableford scoring system that made The International Tournament a breath of fresh air for the PGA Tour for 21 years.
In 1958 Vickers made the semifinals of the Western Am, qualified for the U.S. Open at Southern Hills and qualified again for the 1959 Open at Winged Foot. He won the 1964 Kansas Amateur on his home Wichita course, finished fifth in the 1965 U.S. Amateur, which earned a spot in the 1966 Masters. Paired with Gene Sarazen, he shot 82 in the first round at Augusta, rallied for a 72 in the second round paired with Henry Picard, but missed the cut by one shot.
A raconteur who can command an audience like few others, Jimmy found a true comfort zone in the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach where he might have been a fifth for the Rat Pack if he could sing. He played in the event 40 times, winning the 1977 Pro-Am with Leonard Thompson.
Devoted to the game like he invented it, Jim served as a director on the Trans-Mississippi Golf Association, the Western Golf Association and the Evans Scholarship Foundation before passing away in 2020 at age 91.