A Charleston native helps to keep the PGA Tour honest.
Those of us who love the game of golf know the game is so much more than figuring out how to put a white ball in a small hole from over 400 yards away in the fewest strokes possible. The game is about family, integrity, and character. It is a microcosm of life. Spend four hours on a golf course with someone and you will learn how they deal with stress, how they treat others, whether they are patient, and whether they are honest. It is the ultimate job interview.
But while we can afford to rely on our own sense of fair play, the PGA Tour cannot just hope players will do the right thing. That’s where people like West Virginia native Ken Tackett come in.
Tackett spends about 30 weeks a year on the road officiating PGA Tour events in the U.S. and around the world. Every once in a while, when you are watching a broadcast of a tournament, you will see Tackett making a ruling for a player or up in the broadcast tower explaining a rules incident to the television audience—always doing so with a sense of fairness and a deep respect for the traditions of the game that he learned from summer rounds with his father and grandfather.
“I was introduced to the game by my dad when I was 7 or 8 years old at Coonskin Golf Course in Charleston. We played with my grandfather a lot at different courses around Charleston, and I fell in love with the game,” says Tackett. “My grandfather actually passed away playing golf with my dad and me at Sandy Brae Golf Course. He was smiling, happy, and having fun playing golf right up until the end of his life. It is bittersweet, but I still hold onto those memories.”
Tackett also had another passion that dominated a lot of his time: music. He became an accomplished drummer, and that led him and his wife, Tammy, on a journey to Las Vegas, where he was part of the house band at the Bellagio Resort and Casino. If you watch closely, you can see Tackett and the band in a couple scenes from the 2001 remake of Oceans 11.
Then, the world changed. “9/11 shook our world. My wife and I had just found out we were having our daughter, and we were considering buying a house in Vegas, and all those decisions changed inside a month. We moved back to Charleston to a place more conducive to raising children and to be close to our family,” says Tackett.
After moving back, Tackett sold cars for a while. Then a friend approached him about joining the West Virginia Golf Association as a tournament director, a newly formed position with the organization. “I quickly developed a great appreciation for the rules of the game. It is what separates the game of golf from all other sports,” says Tackett. “It parallels life in so many ways. In golf, you often get bad breaks that may not seem fair, but you still have to follow the rules of the game. It’s how you deal with those bad breaks that determine your success on the course. And, I would say, in life as well.”
Tackett soon rose to direct the golf association and became known throughout the state. “In 2009, the announcement about the Greenbrier Classic happened and Robert Harris, the director of golf at the resort, reached out to the West Virginia Golf Association to help support the event,” says Tackett. “We supported Tim McNeely and the Greenbrier Classic staff and got to know Slugger White, VP of Rules and Competitions with the PGA Tour.”
These relationships set up the next chapter of Tackett’s life. First, he was invited to serve as a guest official at various PGA Tour events. In 2013, the tour offered him a full-time as a tournament official.
The job keeps him on the road a lot but, when he’s traveling for tournaments, Tackett still makes his home in the hills. “My wife, who is not from West Virginia, and I talked about moving to Florida, but we love being in West Virginia, and the beauty about what I do is, I can live wherever I choose,” says Tackett. “Our kids are involved in school and doing great, and it made sense to stay.”
written by Buddy Butler
photos courtesy of Ken Tackett