Jerry Finley took up golf at 21, then helped Pikes Peak Amateur

July 19, 2013 Updated: July 19, 2013 at 6:10 pm

An important figure in the history of the Pikes Peak Amateur took up golf as a way to quiet some friends.

Jerry Finley, 84, and his late wife, Betty, had friends in his native Pueblo who were pestering him to take up the sport.

He did. The then 21-year-old asked how to hold the club on hole No. 1 and was told he could grip it like a bat. The longtime baseball player sent his first tee shot 259 yards and he has been driving the ball ever since.

"He may not hit the ball as far as he did when he was 50 but he still hits the ball really well," said Wayne Marshall, a fellow regular in the Tuesday night seniors league at Patty Jewett Golf Course, the site of the tournament. "He just loves playing and doing the best he can."

His best is pretty good. The oldest player in the tournament advanced to the championship of the Paul Ransom flight by defeating Daryl Gruenwald 1-up after 18 holes Friday. He faces Mike Biondini, a 3-2 winner over Guy Tessier in the other semifinal, on Saturday morning.

He has chance to win a flight in the tournament because he played a part in keeping "the best week of golf in the city," as Marshall calls it, going.

In 1971, the tournament was struggling and the course's membership was down to less than 100. Sponsor Carlin Dodge was concerned. Ransom, the new pro at the course, met with Jim Carlin.

"I knew there would be some things said in the meeting that would make me say things that would hurt us," Finley said. "I stayed out of it."

They came out and told Finley he was running the tournament he had been playing in since 1950. He switched from stroke play to its current match-play format, which allowed youth golfers to garner points toward statewide amateur Governors' Cup standings.

He and his wife ran the Amateur for 17 years, turning it into a strong tournament that draws about a third of its golfers from out of state and raising the course association membership to about 300, where it stands today.

"The wife and I thoroughly enjoyed being part of this tournament but we wanted to travel a bit and doing this took a lot of time," the former Bell Systems employee said. "I did all the thinking and working regarding the tournament and the golf and she did all the thinking and working to make people want to return. I could not have run the tournament without her."

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