Tennessee Hall-of-Fame Golfer, Joe Taggert, shares his love of the game and how his life-long golfing career has helped encourage and inspire young atheletes throughout Tennessee. Joe’s practice of patience and perseverance in golf and teaching others inspire us to continue striving to better ourselves in whatever career or vocation God is calling us to. Sister John Dominic: I’m once again in Nashville, Tennessee, and I have a very special guest with me, my stepfather, Joe Taggert. Tell our listeners a little background about yourself and how you started in your life-long profession. Joe Taggert: Thank you for having me. Well, I was born in Warren, Ohio and lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for three years in Escanaba when I was little, and then we moved to Kingsport, Tennessee in Upper East Tennessee. I was crazy about baseball. My granddad played the major leagues for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Boston Red Sox, so I grew up with a baseball in my hand. We moved to Kingsport when I was eight. When I was about 10 or 11, we moved out to a new residential area, which was built around a golf course. My dad played golf. I didn’t. This was back in the 50s and a one-car family, so to drive five miles into town was a long way to get to play baseball with friends. I had to get my mother to drive me in there and then pick me up etcetera. One day some friends came by, and they asked if I wanted to go golf and caddy for my dad, but I’ve never played. We walked across my yard to the 12th tee and teed off and played golf, and I almost beat them the first time. I thought, “I’ll practice a little. I can likely beat my dad at this game too because I already hold my own in other sports.” I started playing golf so that I could beat them. Once I started playing, all I wanted to do was go down to that golf course every day and play all day long. My friends would come down and play in the morning. We would tee off at 8 o’clock and play 18 holes. They would go to the pool. I played another 18 holes, and they’d come back. Sometimes we’d play nine more holes in the evening. It was golfing all day. Sister John Dominic: Life hasn’t changed for you. At what point did you decide that this was it? Was it a path you were thinking or just happened? Joe Taggert: Once I started playing. I was 13 when I started. When I was 15, my dad took me to the Masters. Back then you could buy a ticket at the gate. He used to go down every year with a group of men. They would drive down to South Carolina and get a hotel and play golf on Saturday and go to the Masters on Sunday and then come home. Once I started going to the Masters and saw Arnold Palmer and all the other players at that time, I knew that’s all I wanted to do is play golf and be a golf professional. Sister John Dominic: At what point did you go to your first country club? Joe Taggert: We lived on a golf course. It was a country club, and my mom and dad were members there. One of the great things about the way I grew up was that I was down playing with the adults every day. I played my friends in the morning, but I could usually find a game with some adult men in the afternoon. I grew up around adults all the time. There weren’t many junior tournaments back then, and I had a guy that was a good player at the club. He and his wife used to take me to the area Invitational tournaments to play. I’d go to the tournaments, and I was usually the only Junior in the field. I’d go to the parties at night, so I’m hanging out with adults all the time and not much with kids my age. Sister John Dominic: As you know, I love to play basketball. When I play basketball, there’s a referee that’s going to call a foul on me. It’s a little bit different than the game of golf because you don’t have a referee out there blowing the whistle and calling a foul. You and I talked about this at different times. I know you as a person of great integrity and honesty and humility. It’s truly shaped who you are. How do you think golf is different than all the other sports and why is it so important to get what it has to offer? Joe Taggert: There’s no question that growing up around the game of golf and the quality of the people that I played with [had an impact.] Adults played by the rules. Certainly as a kid, I didn’t want to do something wrong playing with adults. Although I would see an adult break a rule, it was rarely intentionally. Being around that, a golfer is expected to play by the rules and follow the rules and be responsible for what you’re doing. I learned that at an early age, and it’s continued to be with me. Sister John Domnic: If you’ve got rules, then you follow. It gives you a self-discipline. We talked about the character formation of young people. I know when we’ve been to the Golf House of Tennessee. You’ve got the golf camp in the rooms where these young people are. You’ve got virtues that are listed there. How is that instilled when they’re learning the skill of golf? Joe Taggert: You’ve got those kids, and everything you do is geared toward those virtues, not only learning the game but learning how to play by the rules in golf and play by the rules in life. You want to teach them those virtues, and it’s not just one thing. It’s everything you do on and off the golf course. Sister John Dominic: If you look back on your life and your career as part of the Professional Golf Association (PGA), what would you say is your greatest contribution or the thing you look back and think that was a great thing I was able to contribute to golf. Joe Taggert: It’s a lot of things. I’ve met a lot of fabulous people through golf. I played with three presidents in my career, but the one thing that stands out is when I was a young professional, and I became the pro at Richland Country Club here in Nashville. The amateur body had their annual meeting at the club every year, and they were always up there fussing about what the pros were doing. I’d go to professional meeting, and they were fussing about what the amateurs were doing. There were some individuals creating problems that neither side needed, and those two organizations needed to work together, and that wasn’t happening. I went to a friend of mine, who is very prominent golfer and an amateur, and I spoke to him about it, and then I went to a very prominent golf professional, and I got those two together, and those two got with some other prominent people, and we began to work out the PGA and the TGA, the Tennessee office working together and promoting golf and sportsmanship and doing the things you’re supposed to do to make golf a better game. I wasn’t the one that did it. I was the one that pushed us to have someone who has the idea, but I like to work behind the scenes. Sister John Dominic: When you go to Tennessee, there’s a special building where all of these offices are all together now. Tell us about that. Joe Taggert: After I got that started with Dana Page and the TGA then the PGA, I was put on the board of the PGA, and we hired an executive director who did an outstanding job and retired recently. His name was Dick Horton. Dick came to work for the PGA, probably 23 years old when he started, and did a great job from the very beginning, and it wasn’t long before the TGA came and asked PGA, “Can we use this guy? Can he do work for us too?” We let him, and all of a sudden you had one person in two organizations that were all going in the same direction doing a fabulous job and around 1990 those two organizations formed the Tennessee Golf Foundation. The foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt corporation that is instrumental in promoting golf in the state of Tennessee, and it’s been a fabulous run since then. The three organizations are all housed at what we call Golf House of Tennessee, and they each have somebody over their organization, but the three organizations work together to promote golf in the state of Tennessee and making golf a better game. Sister John Dominic: I would say that’s huge. I can see why you have that as the top of your list as an achievement bringing everyone together. Now they’re all under the same roof. It is almost a miracle to bring all that together, but that’s a skill in collaboration. I think the other thing I would bring up is the annual golf tournament. There’s got to be a backroom story about that one because you said yourself that you’re always in the background trying to make things happen. How did that start? Joe Taggert: I was working at that time. I had left my career as a golf professional and gone to work for the PGA the TGA and then the foundation started so I was working for all three organizations. Back when I was still a pro, Vince Gill and I played a lot of golf together. Vince said, “If I ever get popular enough to have my own golf tournament, I want you to run it.” He came to me and said, “I’m ready to do my own golf tournament,” so we started The Vinny. I oversaw The Vinny for 20-23 years. Sister John Dominic: It’s been a family affair. Joe Taggert: That’s right. I talked your mom, my wife, into getting out of music. She was getting bored, and she wanted to do something else. I said, “Why don’t you work for The Vinny?” She said, “I don’t know anything about golf.” I said, “Yeah, but you know about organizing things and getting things done. I know golf. You can do everything else.” I got her involved the second year. Sister John Dominic: You’re like a perfect storm Joe Taggert: Eventually, she took it over. She still reported to me, but she ran it and kept it going. Sister John Dominic: What do the proceeds from The Vinny support? Joe Taggert: I’m very proud of the fact that during the 23 years that I ran, any of them made probably a little over five million dollars. I think now it’s up to around 7 or 8 they’ve made, and all that’s gone to Junior Golf and to promote golf in Tennessee. They’ve put a lot of that money aside so that they’ve got money in the future going forward so that if all else fails they’ve still got money to support golf in Tennessee. Sister John Dominic: If you look back, you see that junior golf is when you came in contact with it and fell in love with it. How do you feel about that? There may be another young boy waiting like you to have that same experience. Joe Taggert: It’s been a great experience. When we first started The Vinny, it was strictly a fundraiser. The proceeds went to junior golf, but the tournament was played with adults, and somewhere along the line we decided that we needed to get the Juniors involved. I wasn’t for it in the beginning because we’re already playing five teams. If we add a junior now, we’re playing six teams, and I thought that’s a lot of players to have on that golf course in an event like this. I was a little reluctant, but after about a year, he convinced me that we needed to try it, and we did. I give Vince all the credit for that. We added a junior set, and that took the tournament to another level. All the players enjoy playing together. It was good for the kids. It was good for the adults. It was good for everybody concerned, and everybody wins. Sister John Dominic: At the beginning, you talked about practicing, and every time I’ll call Mom and ask what’s Joe up to or where’s he going? You still go practice. Is there a drive in you that you are always trying to be better? Joe Taggert: When I started, I got up every morning at eight o’clock to go down to the club and play all day long from morning till dark. When I got to college, I made sure I didn’t have any afternoon classes. If I’m going to play the game, I want to play it well. As I’ve gotten older, you don’t have the skills that you once had, but it’s still a challenge to me to go out and work on my game. If I didn’t practice, I wouldn’t think about playing. Sister John Dominic: I think that’s a great life lesson. We must practice everything. We never perfect it. There’s this constant practicing and the patience and perseverance. I think that’s you know that you love something. Is there anything else that you’d like to add or something I didn’t think about? Joe Taggert: It’s a great game. You can play with kids. You can play with older people. I’m 77 years old, and I’m still out there. I’m planning with some grandchildren in the tournament about 10 days from now. I’ll be playing with some Juniors and older adults. If I’m going to play, I want to play well, and so that’s why I go practice. I went out this past Saturday and hit balls for two and a half hours. Sister John Dominic: That’s right. You’re a great teacher, and I’m always grateful when you’re on my team because I may be a natural, but I don’t practice as much as I should. Joe Taggert: It’s such a fabulous game. You wouldn’t believe the people that I could sit here and name I’ve played with. Sister John Dominic: Why don’t you tell us a few? Joe Taggert: I’ve played with three presidents. I’ve played with two Bushes. I’ve played with governors. I’ve played several times with Clint Eastwood. I’ve been around Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. The list goes on and on. The people I’ve met and been around has been a great blessing in my life. Sister John Dominic: Thank you for your dedication and all that you’ve done for golf in the state of Tennessee. I remember being present when you were inducted to the Hall of Fame. I’m proud of you in a very special way. Thank you for all that you’ve done.