BETTER LATE THAN NEVE
Webster City native Grey Reynolds takes up golf in his 20s, becomes an accomplished amateur nationally
He grew up in Webster City. Starred on the football field, the basketball court and the baseball diamond, all right here in Webster City. And yet his greatest athletic accomplishments didn’t come until years later — after he’d said goodbye to Webster City — in a sport that he never gave a moment’s thought as a kid.
Greg Reynolds chuckles from time to time as he tells his tale, one that has taken him all over the country to compete against the best of the best. Some of it surprises even him, but most of all he’s thankful now that he’s in his early 70s and has the time to be reflective.
It’s been quite a life on the golf course.
A 1965 WCHS graduate, Reynolds won 12 varsity letters for the Lynx. Baseball was his best sport and it took him to Iowa Central Community College where he led all of Iowa JUCOs in the batter’s box as a freshman. He played basketball at ICCC as well, and a few years later even earned a spot as a walk-on with the Iowa State basketball team.
But other than an occasional trip to a driving range, or a few rounds of miniature golf with his future wife, Randa, golf wasn’t on his radar. Not yet anyway.
“In high school, the only golf course we had was the Links, but only people who were members could play there,” Reynolds said. “So I never played golf until between my junior and senior years of college.”
Reynolds took a job with General Motors in Michigan following college and it was in the Great Lakes Region — he still resides in Grand Blanc, Mich. today — where he began to pursue a passion for golf that he never knew existed earlier in life.
“I have always been a competitive person, but I had to learn as an executive for GM how to throttle it back a bit,” Reynolds said. “But you’re competitive and so you want something to do. That first summer I came to Michigan, I played basketball in a summer league.”
Soon enough he ventured to a local golf course and his new passion stepped to the forefront. Looking back now, he says it became something even more.
“I would say it was a little bit close to an obsession,” he said. “Most of the time, you would probably be amazed at how few rounds of golf I played, but I practiced almost every day. You’ve got to be a little driven to be able to compete at a pretty high level.”
The hand-eye coordination, competitive drive and strength needed to thrive on the course were never a problem for Reynolds. He recalls quickly getting tagged with the nickname King Kong because of how far he could hit the ball off the tee — he once took part in a long drive competition and had a ball measure 344 yards — and the rest of his game quickly took off as well.
He was playing catch-up against peers that had been playing their entire lives, but as he thinks back now, perhaps that wasn’t such a bad thing?
“As you’re out of college for 10 years, some of the guys that played and really worked hard and tried to qualify for the tour, a lot of them kind of got burned out,” Reynolds said. “I’m the opposite, I was just getting going then. That may have been an advantage for me.”
Reynolds says he didn’t play in his first tournament until the mid-1970s when he was 30 and experienced only modest success in those early years. His first United States Golf Association event came five years later.
By the early 1980s, he was one of the premier amateur golfers in the state of Michigan. And by 1994, he was the Golf Association of Michigan Player of the Year, an honor he claimed twice.
And once he became eligible to take part in senior tournaments, well, that’s when he took his game national.
Some of Reynolds’ most cherished golfing possessions came from the 2005 US Senior Open. See, this was the final year that Arnold Palmer, the King, was going to take part in the prestigious event. And who was the individual lucky enough to be paired with Palmer during the opening two rounds?
“That was super exciting for me and I can’t say enough good things about playing with him. It was a great experience,” Reynolds said. “On the second day I’ve got 20 family members and friends walking with us and nobody saw a shot until the fifth or sixth hole because the crowds were so deep. Winning a USGA event has got to be the thrill of a lifetime, but playing with him ranked right up there also.”
Reynolds did more than play that week though. He shot rounds of 71 and 72 while playing with Palmer, who was 23 shots back, and eventually placed 31st overall. He set a tournament record score for an amateur, a mark he held for a decade.
Reynolds has got a lot of stories like that one, each one remembered with fondness and in vivid detail.
There was the time he played a practice round with a standout college golfer on the rise that goes by the familiar name of Phil Mickelson. Or the time he was invited to play a round at Augusta National that led to a meeting with Byron Nelson. Or in 2003 when he earned a sponsor’s exemption into the Buick Open and shot an opening-round 68, besting some guy named Tiger.
Reynolds proudly says that he’s played in 41 USGA events over the years — the US Amateur and US Senior Amateur 11 times each; the US Senior Open six times; and even a Senior British Open, among the many others.
The pinnacle of his career came in 2002 at the age of 55. For starters, he felt a little lucky to even get into the USGA Senior Amateur as the first alternate. Without even a single practice round under his belt at Timuquana Country Club in Jacksonville, Fla., Reynolds spent a week throttling the best players in the country at the match play event. He never trailed in his quarterfinal, semifinal or final matches and dusted Mark Bemowski, 4 and 3, to win the prestigious championship. It helped to earn him the Golf Digest Senior Amateur Player of the Year award.
Two years later, in 2004, he reached the finals again.
Reynolds’ golfing resume is littered with Michigan amateur titles, postseason awards and national appearances. He was inducted into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame in 2004 and the National Senior Amateur Hall of Fame in 2008.
Reynolds last played in a tournament in 2015. Retired from GM since 2007, he’s spent the better part of the last five years caring for Randa, also a native of Webster City. But at 73 years of age, he’s decided now’s the time to dust his golf clubs off and get back to the game that has given him so much.
“I started working again this summer and decided I was going to play in some tournaments,” he said. “I’ve really got no good reason that I can’t play.”
As he looks back at his career, the accomplishments bring him pride. But what evokes the emotion is his family, who was right beside him, step for step, for it all.
“My son caddied for me in the Senior Opens and the Buick Open and many of the state tournaments and USGA qualifiers,” he said. “My sister, my brother and their families would all come to Senior Opens and Senior Amateurs and they were like family reunions. I always had some of the best family support.”
Quite a life indeed.