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All of the hundreds of thousands of USGA Members past and present owe a debt of gratitude to a former president of the Country Club of Birmingham, Elbert Jemison Jr.
In 1975, while serving as treasurer of the USGA Executive Committee, Jemison conceived of the idea of broadening the association’s revenue stream with an Associates Program: Members would pay an annual subscription, receiving benefits such as Golf Journal, a bag tag and The Rules of Golf. Jemison brought what is now the USGA Foundation and Members Program to fruition with the help of two rather high-profile golfers – in the Oval Office, no less.
“Arnold (Palmer) and I got together to set out a strategy, and we agreed that [President Ford] would be the first Associate in the country,” said Jemison, who died in 2010. “Arnie said he would be the second [member] and I’d be the third because, you know, the president and Arnold have a little more clout than me.”
Jemison, who won two Alabama State Amateur and two Alabama State Senior Amateur titles, received the Ike Grainger Award for his service to the USGA. He is remembered fondly by members of his home club. “I knew Elbert well,” said Barney Lanier. “He was a fine player, a fine gentleman and a mentor to me.” Added Jim Gorrie: “Mr. Jemison was a legend, and one of the nicest men you’d ever meet.”