Friends say Ron Jensen possessed all the traits a good golfer and teacher should have.
And, all the characteristics of a quality person.
Powerful work ethic. A knack for passing knowledge down and the ability to make everyone around him feel important.
Simply put, he was special. One of the good ones.
“If I had to pick an all-time foursome to golf with, I’d pick Ron Jensen, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan and myself,” said Vassar Golf Course PGA Professional Rhett Myers, who golfed with Jensen. “He was one of the best guys in the world to play 18 with.”
After years battling several illnesses, Jensen, the first and longtime PGA professional and pro shop owner at McCann Memorial Golf Course in the Town of Poughkeepsie died Wednesday at 74. Jensen left a lasting impact on the golf community in the mid-Hudson Valley, teaching those around him more than just the sport of golf.
Jensen, a Queens native and Hyde Park resident, was handpicked by Jack Gartland, local attorney and president of the McCann Foundation, to run the golf operations at McCann Memorial Golf Course when it opened in 1972 and remained the pro at McCann for 38 years before retiring. He and his wife, Carolyn, who died in 2010, ran McCann together for many years. The Jensen Cup and Carolyn Cup, held annually at Vassar Golf Course are named after them.
A Poughkeepsie Journal feature on Jensen in 2011 encapsulated Jensen's work ethic. He worked 80-90 hours per week, seven days a week.
"He is here at sun-up and leaves at sundown, and he has been doing that for years," then-McCann Director of Golf Gary Stauderman said in 2011.
Jensen joked about his service at McCann in the 2011 interview.
"We could have a sitcom about this place," he said then. "Over 38 years, there were just so many great things and great people."
During that time, golf shops were not competing against retail stores like Dick’s Sporting Goods or Modell’s. Thus, Jensen developed a penchant for selling golf equipment to anyone and everyone who came into McCann.
The business aspect of the sport was part of the knowledge he passed down.
“He taught me about merchandising and educated me on how to interact with customers who came in to buy shoes, balls and clubs,” said four-time Dutchess County Amateur champion Steve Nosonowitz of Pleasant Valley, who worked as an assistant pro for Jensen in 1974. “I would say one of his greatest strengths as a golf pro was his ability to interact with people in a positive way.”
Added Myers: “The customer was always number one to him. If he was having lunch and someone came in, he’d put his sandwich down and the customer was first.”
Jensen was also always willing to share his knowledge about intangibles, McCann's current PGA pro Tony DeStefano said.
DeStefano, who succeeded Jensen as McCann's pro in 2011, learned respect from him. Respect in the form of remembering the names of those he encountered.
“He always said to me ‘remember peoples’ names.’ It kind of goes by the wayside, but he greeted everyone the way they wanted to be greeted,” DeStefano said. “He remembered first names and treated everyone with respect.”
About a month ago, Jensen stopped by McCann for a visit on a weekend. Nosonowitz recalled Jensen laughing and enjoying himself among friends.
It will be an endearing lasting image he will have of the local golf icon.
“That memory of Ron is how I really want to remember him,” Nosonowitz said. “Him laughing and talking about golf.”
Jensen is survived by three children — Ronald of Poughquag, Greg of Nanuet, and Christine Borrelli of Feeding Hills, Massachusetts, as well as their spouses. He is also survived by six grandchildren. Calling hours for Jensen will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the William G. Miller & Son Funeral Home in Poughkeepsie. A service will be held at noon, following visitation. The burial will be private.
A.J. Martelli: email@example.com, 845-437-4836, Twitter: @AJM_PoJoSports