Lessons from Jim: Huber's wisdom lives on
Jim Huber's unexpected death earlier this year was a huge blow to us at PGA.com. As we cover the PGA Championship, we remember Jim's style, grace and wisdom about all things golf
By John Kim, PGA.com Coordinating Producer
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- In 2011, PGA.com set golf-related web traffic records with our coverage of the PGA Championship. The action from the Atlanta Athletic Club was presented in a way that was informative, entertaining, captivating and creative. The site won numerous awards and accolades for its coverage, culminating in an Emmy for its efforts. In 2012, PGA.com's plans for coverage of the PGA Championship will once again set the bar to unprecedented levels. We will be bigger, more innovative and bring you closer to the action between the ropes than ever before. And yet, we know that in at least one way, we'll never get back to the levels we acheived in 2011.
Why not? Two words: Jim Huber.
Jim passed away, unexpectedly, this past January. Both professionally and personally, it was a huge blow to all of us at PGA.com. His grace, class and style were not only a tremendous asset in our presentation to you, it was a style we all tried to emulate in some way or another. As we start our coverage here from the season's final major, we will all try to remember and emulate the class, style and grace that Jim defined so well for us for so many years.
Lesson 1: Be kind to all
It's the summer of 1991 and some snot-nosed college kid, interning at CNN Sports, approaches CNN sports anchor and essayist Jim Huber about a book idea. Huber, typing away on a script that is due later that afternoon, could -- and maybe should -- have dismissed the idea with a nod of the head or a quick word of encouragement. Instead, he turns away from his computer, looks at the kid that he barely knows, and asks about the merits of the idea, why it works, why it doesn't and offers suggestions on how to improve it. The book idea always remained just that, an idea, but the talk provided a real insight into what type of man Jim was. The entire discussion might have lasted less than 10 minutes -- but it was a valuable 10 minutes for him, and invaluable 10 minutes for me.
Lesson 2: Love what you do and you're never working
Jim loved all sports, obviously, but his special passion was golf. It wasn't just a sport, or a job, or a choice for him. It was him. From how he dressed to how talked to how he conducted himself around others, it was as if he was always a guest at one of the finest courses in America and he felt privileged to be there. Tour players loved him, and he loved to talk with them, but he would be just as attentive when hearing from one of the production assistants as they excitedly recounted their weekend round.
For eight straight years, he would serve as the host of the PGA of America Awards banquet and emcee various events during the PGA Merchandise Show. It was during those long weeks, often with 14-hour days walking the floors of the Orange County Convention Center, when we could all look to Jim for some much-needed pep and enthusiasm. And he'd always deliver.
"You've got to check out this putter two aisles over," he'd beam as he'd pass on the convention floor. Or, "If you get me one of those Rickie Fowler hats, maybe I'll wear it during the banquet tonight."
Yes, it was the mid-60s throwback sports journalist who saw and appreciated the 'new-ness' that golf could bring. Your proverbial 'kid in a candy store' had nothing on Jim at the PGA Golf Show.
We all love golf -- some more than others. But Jim's love of the game, and his ability to share that love through his stories and demeanor, made him the ideal spokesperson for the PGA of America programs and editorial talent for PGA.com.
Lesson 3: You can disagree without being disagreeable
In early 2010, Jim and I sat down over a cup of coffee in the office break room and discussed his desire to do more than 'event coverage' on PGA.com. He loved talking about (and to) Tiger and Phil, but there was more to golf than what the guys on television were doing and he wanted to be a part of that story too.
Even more, a weekly column wasn't enough he said. That was too easy, his voice would be one of thousands on the web. He wanted it to be more, something special and different.
And thus, "A Sense of Huber" was born. A weekly essay into something special about golf -- whether it was a morning round with a family member or the desire to grow the game in non-traditional markets, Jim would share his experiences and thoughts with the golf world. But true to his word, it was never a monologue but rather, a dialogue.
An important feature of "A Sense of Huber" was the important engagement that was derived from it, Jim often interacting with readers who submitted comments or queries on the page, on Facebook or via Twitter. He read every comment and responded to as many as he could. Even the ones that disagreed with him. Actually, especially the ones that disagreed with him. Like when joining a group on the first tee that you've never met, Jim believed that in golf, there were no such thing as strangers - just golf partners you haven't played with yet.
Lesson 4: Be proud of your work
Jim first became a nationally renowned figure in 1996 with his Emmy-winning coverage of the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta. Along the way, he picked up a couple of Cable Ace Awards, an Edward R. Murrow Award and a slew of other honors including induction into the Atlanta Athletic Club Hall of Fame. It's an outstanding array of accomplishments from a career that saw him cover practically every sporting event under the sun (and moon!). His presence at Augusta National for Masters Live coverage was a staple of their online presence and earned him a new and excited audience.
But in a very biased but sincere manner, his work prior to and during our PGA Championship last year was the best work he's done in a career that spanned well over four decades. Why? Because it was more than our big golf event of the year -- it was HIS big golf event.
A longtime and very proud member of the Atlanta Athletic Club, Jim went above and beyond, time and time again to show off a sport he loved, a championship he cherished and a club he treasured. The 2011 PGA Championship was a potpourri of everything Jim most cared about and his tireless dedication to making this event stand out -- to his hometown, his fellow club members, his work peers, the PGA of America and all those who love golf.
The results obviously speak for themselves.
Lesson 5: Be grateful
In late August of 2011, in stifling three-digit temperatures of Las Vegas, Jim and I walked around the PGA Fall Expo show floor at The Venetian Hotel. A number of golf pros, vendors and industry folks would make a point to come over and say hello to him, often offering him samplings of their wares. No matter how eccentric or non-relevant the product, Jim always took time to inquire about their business, their goals and offered sincere appreciation for their time.
Later that night at dinner, a group of us had one of those dinners that everyone hopes for a few times a year - a few hours of great food, great laughs and great friendship. With friends from the PGA of America, you can imagine all the hilarious, inspiring and ridiculous golf stories that were told. And we did.
As we started to leave, I made the offhand remark wondering if people who work in golf, cover golf, play golf - really think about how lucky and blessed we are to be immersed in something that is so important and exciting for a large segment of the population.
Jim was the first -- and last -- to answer as we got up from the table.
"I think about it all the time. And so should you."
So as we cover this exciting tournament here at beautiful Kiawah Island, we are full of energy, excitement, pride and anticipation. But all of us here at PGA.com and the PGA of America also have a heavy heart. We will miss the insight, the talent and the dedication of Jim Huber. But even more, we miss our friend. There's no way we're as good this year as we were last year, but we'll be fine and bring you the best coverage you've ever seen on the web. We learned quite a bit from our pal.