by Ron Bellamy
In 1973, when he was a 17-year-old junior at Clackamas High School, Jerry Minor qualified for the Eddie Hogan Cup, the prestigious annual junior golf tournament at Riverside Golf & Country Club.
Alas, a summer job reduced his practice time to none, and when the tournament was held that August, Minor played miserably, by his standards. He shot 87-91, finishing ahead of only three other golfers.
“I was embarrassed,” Minor said. “I always thought I would remember that.”
Minor created some better memories in golf. He earned third-team All-America status and won 11 collegiate tournaments at Portland State University, which inducted him into its Hall of Fame in 2000. He played on what’s now the Web.com Tour and in the 1983 U.S. Open at Oakmont, missing the cut. He won regional tournaments while he worked as a PGA professional at Eastmoreland Golf Club, Corvallis Country Club and for 15 years at Progress Downs (now RedTail) in Beaverton, ultimately becoming PGA head pro there.
But Minor still figured he owed the Hogan Cup something, and so in 1992, when he and his wife Mary – who have never been members at Riverside – were asked to host some players from Nevada, he found his way to pay it back and, as Mary puts it, “pay it forward.”
For 25 of the tournament’s 48 years, the Minors have been the go-to family for the four-player team from Nevada, giving over the huge basement – with its bedroom, bathroom, big-screen TV and pool table – in their three-story home two miles from Riverside.
“That first group I took named it Happy Town, because it was just like going back to the good old days,” recalled Pat Perry, a Nevada school principal who captained that first team, and many of them over the next 20 years.
“I can’t say enough about how they housed and welcomed the four boys from Nevada every year. As the stories would roll out every year about the Hogan Cup matches, kids would always hear the older ones talk about the great times at the Minors.”
Dating to 1969, and held at Riverside each August, the tournament was created in memory of Eddie Hogan, highly respected head PGA professional at Riverside from 1939 until his drowning death in 1968. The 36-hole tournament features four-person teams of 17-and-under golfers from the western United States and Canada. Hogan Cup alums include Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler, Bryson DeChambeau, Peter Jacobsen, Casey Martin and Jeff Quinney.
Bobbi Breslin, the volunteer for the Oregon Golf Association and Riverside who each year must find host families to house the players from the 10 out-of-state teams, said the Minors’ length of service is unmatched.
Jerry Minor, now 61, has worked for the last 19 years as the estimator for a glass company and doesn’t golf much anymore. When this long relationship with the Hogan Cup started, he was the pro at Progress Downs and he and Mary had three children of their own at home, ages 8, 5 and 3.
“Amazing that I watched their kids grow up over the years,” Perry said.
As the Minors’ kids became teenagers too, the Hogan Cup weekend became a crowded sleepover, with blow-up mattresses, and pillows on the pool table and even mattresses on the patio.
“I grew up with eight brothers and sisters,” Mary Minor says. “Chaos is imbedded in my brain.”
Typically, the young golfers arrive in Portland on a Friday morning and play a practice round that afternoon. Then they play 18 holes of tournament golf on Saturday afternoon, after which the Nevada players, coaches and parents go to the Minors’ home for a barbecue. The tournament concludes with 18 holes Sunday.
A few years ago, Jerry Minor encouraged the Nevada team to come in a day earlier, spending an additional night with the Minors and making better use of practice time; the result has been improved performances.
“They’re the greatest people in the world,” said Steve Rydel, executive director of the Northern Nevada Golf Association, who has served as captain of the Nevada team in recent years. “They have through thick and thin taken in the Nevada team.”
Mary makes dinners and breakfasts (and tries to coax nervous young golfers to eat something the morning of the rounds). Although Jerry professes to have scaled back on coaching tips, Rydel said Minor’s passion for the game and the team often takes over.
“Jerry knows the golf course,” Rydel said. “He’s always trying to teach the kids about how to play the golf course right.”
Friendships have been forged. Zane Thomas, who played collegiately at UNLV, stayed with the Minors for five Hogan Cups, starting when he was 12. His brother, Van, followed his footsteps and now plays at Odessa College in Texas. They check in regularly with the Minors on Facebook.
Every year, the Minors get thank-you notes and Christmas cards and, invariably, high school graduation notices. “Mary always sends them money,” Jerry noted.
Married 35 years, and with five grandchildren, the Minors are selling the house with the basement that has been Nevada’s Hogan Cup headquarters; their next place will be smaller, and 45 minutes from Riverside.
Any debt Jerry felt to the Hogan Cup has long since been paid, but with the 49th Eddie Hogan Cup scheduled Aug. 11-13, the Minors aren’t quite ready to close the ledger book.
“We’re going to try to work this out,” Jerry said. Added Mary: “We’re not ready to say we can’t do this anymore.”
Ron Bellamy is the former sports editor and columnist for the Eugene Register-Guard. For past golf stories, visit ronbwriter.com.