MCCALLISTER SAYS ‘SIGN ME UP’
By Benita Zahn
Why would a golf standout spend time, year-after-year, raising funds for charities in a community hundreds of miles from home? That’s what I wanted to know about Texas-native Blaine McCallister.
The 58-year old had five wins on the PGA Tour. He’s also played on the Nationwide (now Web.com) Tour and Champions Tour.
It’s at least five years since I first met Blaine McCallister. It was my first time as emcee for the Jonesy Open held at Capital Hills @ Albany.
McAllister was on the 18th tee, hitting a drive with each foursome and cracking wise. It was a steady stream of good-natured joking with every player. We chatted a few minutes and off I went figuring I’d have to reintroduce myself that evening as we shared the mic. After all, he was the star attraction.
A CAPITAL AREA FIGURE
McCallister is down to earth and if you’re on his team he doesn’t forget your name. In fact, he treats you like an old friend. His Texas roots are obvious. He’s of the school that when you look someone in the eye and shake their hand your word is your bond. And his bond with the Capital Area is strong and vibrant.
It’s more than 20-years since he accepted an invitation to donate his time and fundraising talents in the 518. It was for the Center for Independence. That led to the Skins Game and then his introduction and commitment to the Double H Ranch which provides a camp experience for seriously ill children. Then he was asked to help with the Ronald McDonald – NFL golf tourney. The last ask: to help with the Jonesy open.
It’s a fundraiser for Michael Jones from Albany. He suffered a broken spine playing rugby years ago. His ‘rugby family’ supports him emotionally and by raising money to help cover costs insurance doesn’t. It’s not easy or inexpensive for a quadriplegic to live – especially with a wife and young daughter. It was Paul Bulmer, a dear friend of Jonesy’s who asked Blaine to help. Blaine asked to meet him and
“as soon as I met him I said, ‘sign me up’. His smile sold me. That smile, it’s intoxicating.”
Blaine understands overcoming adversity and greeting every day with a smile. He’s learned that from his wife: “Every day she wakes up smiling and that’s hard to do.”
That’s because the love of his life, Claudia, lost her vision to a rare genetic disease back in the 1991. That’s the year they married. That’s the last year she drove a car. But it didn’t stop her. The couple has two children and three grandkids.
Humility and understanding that with good fortune comes responsibility, takes time. His folks gave him a good foundation, Blaine tells me, but when his ego started matching the power of his game Claudia set things straight: “My wife. My wife made me realize there’s more to life than golf. There’s life, my family.”
And his commitment to others and giving back.
“When I put my heart and soul into something I believe in; and I’ve been very fortunate in my life to be very successful in the game of golf,” he said. “And I want to give back. That’s what it’s about.”
Given his centered view of life I ask about advice he’d give to young golfers and how they can find balance in their lives.
“Number one, education. Get an education. You show me a young person who plays the game of golf who has an education, I’m going to show you someone who’s going to be successful in life. Because golf and education, in the world of today that we live in, you’re going to have the ability to survive. You’re going to be able to communicate, to carry yourself. And you’re going to have a lot of people around you.”
That’s advice you can take to the bank. After all, he’s a graduate of the University of Houston where he played on the golf team. By the way, his college roommates: Fred Couples and CBS Sports host Jim Nantz.
And his devotion to helping isn’t limited to the Capital Area. He also supports a number of charities back home in Houston, TX.
Did I mention? He’s a heck of a good live auctioneer!
PS: His best round – 62 at the John Deere Classic.
PPS: The round he still wants to play: “I wish my dad had played golf. That would have been the round I would want to play.”