Wiechers, accomplished amateur champion, TOUR pro and college coach, passes at age 74
October 17, 2018
By Jim McCabe, PGATOUR.COM
- October 17, 2018
- Jim Wiechers had 32 top-10s during his PGA TOUR career. (Courtesy of Susan Wiechers)
If the national amateur golf stage never fazed Jim Wiechers, the reason was simple. Just to fare well locally in the San Francisco area in the 1960s, Wiechers had to compete against the likes of a rising teenage star named Johnny Miller, future PGA TOUR winners such as Ron Cerrudo, Bob Lunn and Dick Lotz, and a legendary veteran named E. Harvie Ward. That accomplished, Wiechers knew he could more than hold his own in the deep end of the pool.
Which he did with distinction.
Wiechers won the 1962 U.S. Junior Amateur, the 1964 Western Junior, the 1966 Western Amateur, and finished second, one shot behind Marty Fleckman, at the 1965 NCAA Div. 1 Championship.
That Wiechers, who died Monday night at the age of 74, failed to carry that winning touch over to a 12-year PGA TOUR career that featured 32 top 10s, none of them victories, surprised Cerrudo, but never seemed to unsettle his friend.
“If it did bother him, he never showed it," said Cerrudo. “He was just a good person. He’s the only person I know who never had a disparaging word spoken against him.”
Susan Wiechers confirmed that her husband died at Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa, California, after a four-month illness.
Born in Atherton, California, on August 7, 1944, Wiechers was a young teenager when he got swept into the rabid amateur golf circle that engulfed the Bay Area. “We got to know each other when were 15,” said Cerrudo, “and we were always together.”
Wiechers, Cerrudo and two other Bay Area players who later became PGA TOUR members – Bob E. Smith and Ross Randall – traveled the country playing the biggest amateur tournaments when they were 20 and 21. “One summer, every passenger in our car won a big tournament,” said Cerrudo.
As had been Bay Area icons such as Ward, Ken Venturi and Tony Lema years earlier, Wiechers, Cerrudo, Smith and Randall were backed by the famed Eddie Lowery. “We were so blessed to have competition like that,” said Cerrudo, now the director of instruction at the Daniel Island Club in Charleston, South Carolina.
“We heard so much about guys in the Northeast, when we finally saw them, we said, ‘Hey, we have 25 guys back in the Bay Area who are better than these guys.”
Wiechers didn’t have to take a back seat to any of them, said Cerrudo. “He was one of the world’s greatest putters inside of 5 feet. We always said if he could put his putting with my driving, he’d have won a bunch.”
As it was, Wiechers’ playoff loss to Bob Goalby in the 1969 Robinson Open Golf Classic was his best PGA TOUR finish in 277 tournaments. Later in ’69, Wiechers did win the West End Classic in the Bahamas, but that was an unofficial event.
He played in the 1976 Masters, four U.S. Opens, three PGA Championships, and three PLAYERS Championships. His best season was 1973 when he earned $74,807 for 33rd place, his highest finish on the money list.
But to Cerrudo, whose own PGA TOUR career included two wins while running virtually concurrently (1967-1978) to his friend’s, Wiechers “was a very steady player who just quietly got the job done.”
Having followed Cerrudo to live at the Silverado Resort & Spa in Napa in the late 1960s, Wiechers loved the area and got into the wine business upon leaving the PGA TOUR. But eventually he returned to golf as an instructor, then as coach of the men’s and women’s teams at Napa Valley College.
“He was very talented . . . an amazing player,” Miller told Marty James of the Napa News.
Another onetime resident of Silverado, PGA TOUR Champions standout Scott McCarron, considered Wiechers a mentor. “I used to practice with him. He and Ron Cerrudo would be over at my parents’ house on Friday evenings for dinner and tell us stories about the TOUR,” he told James.
“Jimmy Wiechers was really the guy that got me thinking, ‘Hey, I could someday play on the PGA TOUR as well.'”
Wiechers, who was a member of the Santa Clara University Hall of Fame, is also survived by a daughter, Erica; son-in-law Jason Kuykendall; grandson Evan Kuykendall; a brother; and two sisters.