Johnny Pott, Ben's boy, still shooting his age
Posted on: January 17,2014
John Francis “Johnny” Pott, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame golfer, turned 78 last November.
“Makes it a little easier for me to shoot my age,” said Pott Thursday morning, just before he tried to do just that at his home course in Lake County, Cal., in wine country.
“That’s the one good thing about growing old,” Pott said. “If I play from the right set of tees, I can usually shoot my age.”
Johnny Pott, who grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and won an NCAA Championship at LSU, won five times on the PGA Tour. He was a three-time member of the U.S. Ryder Cup. The man could flat play.
“I never won a major and that’s how golfers are remembered these days,” Pott said in our phone conversation. “That’s OK, I did have a pretty good run.”
Yes, he did.
I will best remember him for chipping in to beat the great Billy Casper and Bruce Devlin in a three-way playoff for the championship of the 1968 Bing Crosby National Pro Am. I told him so. I also told him I remembered him making birdie of the 16th and 17th holes at Pebble Beach to force the playoff.
“You’ve got a great memory,” Pott said. “What most people remember is that I chipped in just before the start of the second Super Bowl. Some people were happy I won, but most were just happy it was over in time for the football game.”
Vince Lombardi’s Packers beat the Raiders 33-14 if you’re keeping score.
Pott never won a major but he did win the next best thing. Long before there was a Tournament Players Championship, there was the American Golf Classic, played at storied Firestone Country Club. All the top players from around the world played. In 1963, Pott won it, beating the second place finisher by four shots. That guy’s name? Arnold Palmer.
In 1960, Pott won twice, including the West Palm Beach Open, in which Slammin’ Sammy Snead finished second, three shots behind. In 1965, Pott lost two sudden death playoffs, one to Casper and another to a young player named Nicklaus.
Pott retired from active play on the tour at the age of 37 in 1972 when he was still had plenty of gas in his tank.
“It was like a woke up one morning and I had four kids living in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and I just didn’t want to be out there every week,” Pott said.
Back then, there wasn’t enough money on tour to pick and choose tournaments the way the leading pros do these days. You had to grind. Pott was tired of the grind. Plus, he had opporunities in golf course architecture and management.
Pott oversaw the design and construction division of Landmark Golf, helping to build more than 50 golf courses worldwide. Among those are the six renowned courses at PGA West in LaQuinta, Calif., where he worked with Pete Dye, Nicklaus and Palmer.
By the time the senior (Champions) tour came along, Pott had no wish to grind again.
“Sure, I would love to have won a major but I’ve got no regrets,” Pott said.
Pott was the son of popular Gulf Coast club pro Ben Pott, the long-time pro at Gulf Hills Dude Ranch and one of the nicest men you’d ever want to meet.
Thursday, I told Johnny Pott his voice reminded me of Ben Pott, who was good friends with my father.
“Thank-you,” Johnny Pott said. “For the longest time I was known as Benny Pott’s son, and there’s lots worse things to be known as. If I can be remembered anywhere near as fondly as Ben Pott, I will have done all right.”
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REMEMBER JOHNNY WELL—ONLY 4 MONTHS OLDER THAN ME—WALKED THE FAIRWAYS WITH HIM—NO ROPES–A GREAT TIME TO GO AND REALLY SEE EM PLAY….
What he didn’t tell you was that Ben was the pro at the Pine Hills Country Club in Gloster, MS, my home town, prior to Gulf Hills.. That’s where Johnny grew up and learned to play. He is a legend in Amite County. Sam Snead actually played a round there- I’ve got the picture. Everybody loved Ben and Johnny is a “favorite son”- even today! Thanks for writing this.
Caddied for Johnny Pott in two Buick Opens. “We” finished T2 to Phil Rodgers in 1966. Johnny made a great “up and down” on 72nd hole to tie Kermit Zarley. He paid me generously, and I used it to help pay for my first year of college. It was clear, even to an impressionable 16 year old, that he was highly respected by his peers on the tour.
Walked the American Golf Classic (at Firestone 2) with Johnny after meeting him in a Union Carbide corporate sponsorship event previously. He taught me the left hand low putting stroke. He hit my four wood once and said “thats max”!! I swear it was never the same. Just a real class guy!!
Play with Johnny and Mary Mills at Great Southern when I was a student at Biloxi High.
Hi Mr. Potts. I’m Kevin Dougherty and I have fond memories of living across the bayou from family in Gulf Hills in Ocean Springs, Ms. I have fond memories of my dad, Ralph, watching you win the Bing Crosby tournament I was watching the pebble beach tournament this past weekend and telling my wife, Trish, how excited I was to watch you chip in to win Bing Crosby Tournament. Every Christmas will hang an first Christmas ornament; the year 1976, for our daughter Kristi, and have fond memories of you and your family.
Hi Johnny, it’s Joe Murray, sorry we kind of lost touch, but I just wanted to say thank you for being so gracious to me over the years, it was an honor to get invited to caddy for you and appreciated very much! You’re such a first class person who treats everyone with the utmost repect and in return respected and loved by all. I hope all is well, please say hello to Mary Rose and the rest of your family!
I remember when mr benny Pitt was the pro at Brookhaven ,ms golf course and Byron Nelson,that’s right he came to a 9 hole course and played 18 holes with johnny,Eddie merrins,meridian,ms and Jim Coleman ,Jackson,ms and my friend tom Brady and I watched the whole thing. There was no one out there but us and mr benny.johnny was a senior and they wanted him at LSU!
I miss the 1970’s group, Ben, Ed, Doc guyton, Don, and others. Thank you for letting me play your course at Carmel Valley Ranch. What a hill. Preston Wells
I Lived in Tamarac Fl on Colony West cc…. I met Johnny over there…He was such a great guy. I was just starting in golf and loved the course where we lived. He gave me some shirts, balls, and a few pairs of golf shoes… I was in heaven!! Does anyone know how I can call him to say hello?