Jack Van Ess says his father told him he would prefer he not play golf on Sundays in keeping with the family’s religious beliefs, and he agreed without hesitation.
“Sure there were times where I thought if I played on Sunday I could win the City Championship or the (Western Michigan District) or something, and there was one time at (the North and South Amateur) at Pinehurst due to a rainout that I didn’t have to play on a Sunday because one guy didn’t show up for a playoff,” he says. “I don’t have anything bad to say about people who do play on Sundays. It’s just something I told my father I wouldn’t do, and that’s it.”
Mr. “Never on Sunday” of Grand Rapids built a Hall of Fame career with six-day weeks starting when an uncle gave him a 3-wood when he was 14. He played every shot with it in a first-time 52 for nine holes. He was soon breaking par,though most of the time he was busy running the family furniture factory supplies business and raising three children with his wife Mary.
Van Ess, 84, collected many of his trophies after retirement. He won the Michigan Senior Open and Senior Amateur, the only player to achieve that double. He won the Dale Morey Society of Seniors event, and World Super Seniors 80-and-over title, and has competed inthe U.S. Amateur, the North and South Amateur, the Western Amateur, the U.S.Senior Amateur and U.S. Senior Open.
A popular quick-witted character with a smooth putting stroke, he has won the club championship 10 times spanning four decades at what is now Egypt Valley. He learned of his election to Michigan’s Golf Hall of Fame the same day he played Augusta National Golf Club for the first time. His friend John O’Donovan gave him the news.
“I can’t describe what that day meant,” he says.
Part of the Hall of Fame tradition is inductees donating an item of significance, and Van Ess is presenting his firs Totey Crisman hickory-shafted putter. It holds special significance in that he gave it to his daughter when she took up golf. Sue passed away last year after a courageous battle with Cancer. Jack and Mary have also lost a son, Tim, to Cancer. Their son Bill, like his father and grandfather before him, runs W.P. WilliamsCo.
“I love to play and compete, and golf is the only sport I know where you really get to know a person in competition,” he says. “You play 18 holes with somebody and you can tell what kind of person they are, and it’s not like that in other games. The game brings the character out in people, and I always loved that about it.”
Written by Greg Johnson