By Todd Milles
Ken Still's dream was to be a professional baseball player.
In the spring of 1950, Still - then a 15-year-old - was up early to go field ground balls. Later that day, he was ready to play in a youth baseball championship game in University Place.
As was set to take off on his bicycle, his uncle Gene Morissette made a suggestion that changed his life forever:
Ride your bicycle to Fircrest Golf Club and see if you can get a caddie loop.
"I made $1.50," Still said. "Two days later, I quit baseball. With golf, there was something about it. It got in my blood quickly."
Now 80, Still is revered as one of the finest professional golfers to ever come out of the Northwest. He is certainly the pride and joy of Fircrest, where he has maintained his residency after a long career on the PGA Tour.
Still won three PGA Tour tournaments - the 1969 Florida Citrus Open Invitational, the 1969 Greater Milwaukee Open and the 1970 Kaiser International Open Invitational. He placed in the top 10 at major championships, too - fifth at the 1970 U.S. Open, and tying for sixth at the 1971 Masters.
And Still was a member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team in 1969 at Royal Birkdale Golf Club in England that ended up in a 16-16 tie.
As a tribute to his storied career, his well-chronicled reputation as a gallery favorite, and his long-lasting adoration for the area in which he grew up, Still is receiving the Tacoma Athletic Commission's Doug McArthur Lifetime Achievement Award.
But to this day, Still can recall not only the first time he ever swung a golf club, he remembers what club it was - a Byron Nelson 5-iron.
"I whiffed on about 100 shots that first day," Still said.
Admittedly a shy teenager, Still said caddying at Fircrest Golf Club allowed him to find his voice - and his contagious personality.
"My life changed," Still said. "I came out of my shell. The members treated me like gold - and I was never treated like that. I became a people's person."
Still learned golf on his own. Five months after he graduated from Clover Park High School in 1953, he turned professional.
Over the next decade, not only wasn't Still winning tournaments, he often considered quitting the PGA Tour.
Still credits Oscar "Ockie" Eliason, the longtime head professional at Allenmore Golf Course, and two-time Northwest Open Invitational winner, as the man who turned his career around.
In 1964, Still was practicing at the Lakewood Driving Range. Eliason approached him and gave him a tip that turned his fortunes around.
"He said, 'One more inch on your hip turn,'" Still said. "The light came on."
A few weeks later, Still traveled to Vancouver (B.C.) Golf Club to play in the British Columbia Open. He clipped Al Feldman by one stroke to win his first professional tournament.
And the rest, you could say, was a fairway stroll.