R.I.P. Cal Decker, we’re gonna miss ya

Cal Decker died last week, and this place we live in isn’t going to be the same.

Cal Decker made you laugh, he made you think.

He was a good man, Cal Decker.

Cal was 85 in his early 80s, and working out at the gym used to be part of his daily routine. He was still playing golf six months ago, but his heart finally gave out. He had a bad fall recently and never got back on the course.

Cal was part of a trivia team in a contest hosted years ago at the Cloverleaf when I first met him. My team didn’t stand a chance against Cal. Nobody has as much sports knowledge as Cal Decker.

He was a walking history book with a great mind. Ask him questions about baseball, horse racing, boxing, golf — especially golf — and odds are he’d have the answer.  (Music, too). I’ve never met anyone who knew as much about Northwest golf or cared as much about it as Cal, who graduated from the University of Washington. I cherished the day I rode over to Seattle to watch the Pac-10 golf championships one day with him at the Seattle Golf Club. Jim Stevenson put the trip together.

“Cal was always up for anything,” said Stevenson, who used to golf twice a week with Cal at Rolling Hills. “Cal was a cool guy.”

He was a man for all seasons. The guy was smart. Street smart, business savvy and just a helluva lot of fun to be around.

He was a charmer, a wonderful story teller. He used to own bars and restaurants on first street in Seattle, so you can imagine some of the stories he had to tell. He owned horses at Longacres, and he worked in the King County Assessor’s office for a time. Harley Hoppe, who ran for governor, was his boss and friend.

Everybody, it seemed, was Cal’s friend.

A lot of people knew him as a golfer. Cal used to be first one out on most weekday mornings on the Olympic Course. Hell, I think he might have had a key to the place. He played around the greenkeepers, who were out in the morning, mowing and placing pins and doing what greenkeepers do while the rest of us are sleeping.

After his round (usually nine holes in recent years), Cal made the rounds at Jimmy D’s in Gorst, Romeo’s and Kelly’s 19th Hole, where owner Bob Kelly was another of his good buds.

I was sifting through some stuff recently and came across a letter Cal wrote me. He wanted to know what I thought about his idea of re-naming the Olympic and Cascade Courses at Gold Mountain. He wanted to call one the Fred Couples Course, and the other the JoAnne Carner course — honoring arguably the two biggest names in Northwest golf. He thought it might help Gold Mountain gain some more notoriety and could possibly lead to some major exhibitions, featuring Couples, Carner and other top pros.

The idea never gained traction, but somehow, someway, I’ve got a feeling that somebody’s going to put together something to honor Cal Decker. Maybe it’s a golf tournament with money raised going toward a golf scholarship? I think Cal would like that.

Here’s Cal’s obit, which published in the Thursday, June 14, print edition of The Sun.

Here’s a story I wrote about Cal when Gold Mountain hosted the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championships in 2006.



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