Most of my editors ask one simple question after I’ve submitted a story: Do you REALLY think I can publish this? It’s their sharp-edged way of asking “do you think anyone wants to read this?” The only perquisite of running BuffaloGolfer.Com is that I am my own editor and I can answer my own question with “You bet your ass I’ll publish it and YES, I think someone will want to read this.”
I pissed off the staff at Golfweek back in 2009. I don’t actually remember why, but I’m sure I made a remark in the comment space of an article that didn’t sit well with Jeff Babineau, for a number of years the editor of the magazine. All would have been fine, as the internet allows for distance and anonymity to a degree. However, I found myself seated in the Walker Cup press tent a few months later, at Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania, surrounded by Golfweek writers. Most imposing among them was Babineau himself. By the grace of a humored but forgiving God, I avoided revealing my identity and any subsequent confrontations.
This was a good thing, as I had made the acquaintance of a Golfweek writer that summer. Ron Balicki had long been the college correspondent for the magazine. As a a result, he had a penchant for covering not just the in-season events, but also the summer amateur tour ones. He found time to reach Niagara Falls each July and report directly and live from the Niagara Falls country club and its Porter Cup. That summer, I found him seated in a golf cart, prepared to traverse the course and find the story. I introduced myself and picked his brain for a little while. He was gracious and forthcoming, even though I didn’t have the “young pup” thing going for me. I was well into my 40s, albeit a newbie in terms of the golf writing thing.
I communicated with him a bit over the email, as they say. During the last years, our correspondence fell away, sadly. When I learned of his battle with cancer a half year ago, then today of his passing, my senses were dulled. This is a guy, I thought, who connected with the famous and the common. Sure, there are famously common and commonly famous, but both are rare. They tend to not co-exist. Ron Balicki brought them together. I missed his presence at the Walker Cup in 2013. I’ll miss his presence at Porter Cup 2014. We all will. Godspeed, Other Ron.