Jerry Keller (1940-2023): Golfer, Gambler Extraordinaire

Jerry Keller, a popular, colorful, sometimes controversial 50-year member at Norfolk Golf Club, holds the club record for most inner-club victories with the help of a high handicap, passed March 14 at age 82 leaving family, friends and clubmates with a boatload of stories, many that can't be repeated in a short tribute to his career.

WESTWOOD, Mass – Many years ago when you walked around the two-story Norfolk Golf Club clubhouse, you’d see two names repeatedly engraved on the plagues recognizing winners in major inner-club tournaments at the private, incomparable nine-hole 127-year-old club.

Paul “King” Seddon, as he was known to “Norfy” members won 14 club championships and he holds many course records, including for most rounds shot in the 60s. Seddon was a talented, dynamic golf character and tales of his on-course accomplishments in pressure situations are legendary on the South Shore. He passed in November 2006 at age 57.

Add the inimitable Jerry Keller, who passed away March 14 at age 82, to the Norfolk Golf Club (est. 1896) Hall of Fame. When you think one-of-a-kind, think Jerry Keller. In his 50 years at Norfolk there are thousands of unique and funny stories that center around him. After all golf is about creating memories and good times and bonding so let’s share a few of Jerry’s fun-filled, zany 50-year amateur career.

Longtime friend Mark Kavolius (l), one of the “Fearsome Foursome” with Jerry Keller celebrating at a 60th birthday party.

Let’s start with the premise that Jerry Keller was not an exceptionally skilled player as Westwood neighbor and longtime member Bill McHugh relays.

Jerry was a colorful, popular character,” said McHugh. “He was always clad in scally cap and colored socks. He was a southpaw with an awful grip, horrible hook and he won more than he lost because he’d always get plenty of strokes with some hard bargaining on the first tee box. He was notorious for that.”

David “Mugsy” McGinnis remembered his best friend with “Words of Remembrance” at Keller’s funeral mass at St. Denis Church March 20 with heartfelt loss, appreciation and humor.

Jerry was all about fun on-and-off the golf course,” said McGinnis with a chuckle. “Yes, Jerry loved to golf, gamble and have a few Heinekens along the way. It’s fact that Jerry Keller won more inner-club tournaments than anyone in the history of Norfolk. But, keep in mind those tournaments were handicap events, not gross. He never won a gross event, not good enough.”

“He liked to call himself a ‘grinder’ but we had two nicknames for him “Old Sock” and “Old Goat.” Where ever there was gambling you could find Jerry. He was ‘king of the $5 Nassau’ at Norfolk and we spent many times together at Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun, trips to Las Vegas, Saratoga, the old Raynham Dog Track and Foxboro Raceway. He was an overly generous tipper to black jacker dealers and bartenders whenever he won.”

Norfolk Golf Club is a private, nine-hole golf club founded in 1896, with a reputation of being one of the best conditioned in the Greater Boston area.

Keller coined one of Norfy’s all-time most popular and widely used words. “Sprinkle.” The 19th hole was Jerry Keller’s best hole. If the ‘Golf Gods’ assigned handicaps based on how to play Hole No. 19 Keller would be a plus-4. Card games, betting sports games, Heinekens among friends – who could ask for more?“Sprinkle” means buy a round, something he was fond of doing.

“Jerry was a hopelessly bad golfer and no matter how much he practiced, never got any better,” said Walpole CC member Mark Kavolius, one of the famed ‘Fearsome Foursome’ along with the late Brian Corcoran, McGinnis and Keller. “He was notorious for being seen practicing daily leading up to a big inner-club event, and mysteriously, his handicap would go up. Of course, he’d always finish with a win, place or show and walk out with lots of cash.”

The “Fearsome Foursome” terrorized local golf tournaments in the 90s and 2000s, particularly member-guest events. Rarely, did they not finish atop the leaderboard, winning side bets, cash pools and sometimes rolling up $1000 bar tabs.

There’s a name for golfers who play bad and win a lot. Hint that it’s a ten-letter word begins with “S.” When you hear that golf has some colorful characters think Jerry Keller! His 50-year run at Norfolk GC has ended but the boatload of happy stories from his friends and clubmates will last forever in Norfolk Golf Club lore!

RIP GerryOld GoatKeller! Thanks for the memories!

(Editor Note: The author was a 25-year member at Norfolk Golf Club, while creating many fine memories with Mr. Keller.)


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