(Note: This story first appeared in the Feb., 2017 issue of Pacific Northwest Golfer magazine.)
By Jim Street
It took a while for the golf bug that bit 14-year-old Dave Sims nearly 50 years ago to make an impact. But about the only thing the Mariners’ veteran TV broadcaster would relish more these days than shooting 70-something for the first time would be describing the first-ever World Series game played at Safeco Field.
One of the busiest broadcasters in the business for more than a quarter-century – handling the play-by-play duties in three sports during most years – Sims has a special place in his heart for golf.
“I must have been about 14 or 15 years old and my dad took me to a course in West Philly to get lessons from a one-armed teacher,” Sims recalled. “He told me, ‘son, you have to learn how to play this game’.”
Ulysses Sims was a wise man and to this day, his son is grateful for the advice.
His introduction to golf didn’t exactly light an instant fire in Dave, a star athlete in other sports. He recalled that he shot a rather humbling 120 the first 18 round of his life.
“I don’t think I played again until I was out of college,” he chuckled. “My turning point in golf came after I became a sports talk show host in New York City. That was in ’86.
A good friend of mine, Mike Cohen, a legendary P.R. man in college and later in New York City sports, said, ‘Simburg, you have to learn to play golf if you are going to be in this business. If you want to be a sportscaster, or do play-by-play eventually, you have get out and play golf because it is such a social game’.”
The journey Sims has taken since then has had some unforgettable moments with some of the biggest names in the game — none bigger than The King himself, Arnold Palmer.
One of the perks of Sims’ profession is getting to play some of the best golf courses the USA has to offer. And near the top of that list is Latrobe Country Club, the longtime home course for the late, great Palmer.
This past July 25, the day after Mariners icon Ken Griffey Jr., was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., Sims spent an off-day in Pittsburgh with the Mariners.
Thanks to Ken Still, a former PGA star who still lives in Tacoma, had arranged for Sims and other 11 other members of the Mariners’ traveling party to play Arnie’s course.
“After the round we went upstairs at the clubhouse,” Sims said, “and there was Mr. Palmer, off in a corner with his boys having lunch.”
The Sims foursome instantly noticed their good fortune.
“For one thing, it was just awesome to walk on the same land that Mr. Palmer spent so much time on,” Sims said. “And then to actually get to meet him. We went over to where he was and thanked him profusely for letting us play his course. We are all pretty jaded by this time of our lives, but when you see an icon of icons. . . It was like we were looking at royalty. Wow. Awesome. Tremendous.”
The reception they received from The King could not have been any better.”“He was just so great, so kind, so cordial,” Sims added. “Couldn’t have been any nicer. He asked us where we were from and when we told him ‘Seattle’, he asked about his buddy Kenny Still. Mr. Palmer was just a really nice guy.”
Sims, who almost always takes his clubs on road trips, begins his 11th season with the Mariners when spring training begins in Arizona.
An 18-handicapper, the 63-year-old Sims (he’ll be 64 on Valentine’s Day) has had a few ‘8’s during his golfing career, but enough 3’s, 4’s and 5’s to keep coming back for more. His lowest round so far is an 82, carded at a course near New Orleans while on a NCAA college basketball assignment. He said he would much rather shoot 70-something than make an ace, coming “less than three feet” away from a hole-in-one two years ago at Swope Memorial in Kansas City, Mo., a course made famous by African-American athletes and entertainers.
A few years ago he played Jefferson Park and West Seattle — on the same day.
“I went to Jefferson for the first 18 and got put together with three Japanese-American women in their 70s,” he recalled. “I thought ‘Oh my God this is going to be a long day.’ It turned out to be one of the most fun rounds of golf I’ve ever had. We had a riot.
“I remember about the fourth or fifth hole one of them said, ‘you look familiar, you look familiar.’ I told her that I broadcast the Mariners on TV and she said, ‘Ah, so. Tell me about Ichiro. Does he speak English?’ I told her (Ichiro) did speak English but not to the media. She shook her head and said it was disrespectful on his part and ‘shame on him’.
“I played 18 holes at Jefferson and then went to West Seattle for another 18. It was quite an experience to get in 36 on the same day and I have only done that twice.”
Come to think of it, only an avid golfer would do something like that.
“I have played with Junior a few times and boy when he hits a ball, it has a different sound. You know that beautiful swing he had in baseball? His golf swing might be even more beautiful. It is just awesome. He hits it a long way and shape it. He can play. He can really play. And he’s a quality guy. When he hits it, you can’t help but go, ‘Wow.’” — Dave Sims on playing golf with Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr.