The families of four men who golfed together for 40 years decided they wanted to honor the legacy of the men’s friendship, and they decided the best way to do so was with a commemorative park bench.
Granted, when one brainstorms ways to preserve the memories of people they love, the first thing to come to mind might not be a green metal park bench. But these families wanted to honor the golfers by memorializing them where they spent so much time over the years—at their favorite golf course.
The four men, Tom Biggs, Gary Smith, Sam McReynolds and Buck Thorogood, met just after college, bonded over a mutual love of golf and ended up spending time with each other at the Cleveland Country Club’s golf course as many weekends out of the year as they could.
“They had been a foursome for nearly 40 years,” said Holli Collins, the late Tom Biggs’ daughter. “They had been out of college and formed this friendship, and they spent weekends together for 40 years.”
The four men were intentional about spending time with each other each week, and that is likely what led to the friendship lasting for so many years, Collins said. She has memories of her dad only straying from the friends’ weekend golf schedule for holidays, her and her siblings’ athletic events and bad weather.
The men’s friendship was an example to their families, Collins said, the kind of example that lets others know it is possible for people to hold on to good relationships even through age and significant life changes.
“You don’t see a lot of friendships that last that long,” Collins said. “It’s really rare to have a group of men who stay close friends that many years.”
While the children of the four men grew up knowing each other, they did not form friendships as close as their fathers’ because of some major age differences among them, she said. However, watching their fathers interact over the years taught them the value of fostering good, long-lasting friendships, a legacy Collins said she hopes will continue to live beyond the lives of the men themselves.
Memories of many golf rounds played together still live on for McReynolds and Thorogood. The two men have carried on their tradition of golfing at the country club every weekend even though Biggs died two years ago and Smith died a few months ago.
“They still play together but definitely miss the other two,” Collins said.
With the passing of her father and Smith, Collins realized she wanted to honor their memory somehow but didn’t immediately know what to do. She remembered how important her father’s friends had been to him and did not want their memories to be lost. She eventually decided to honor the men at the place where they had spent so much time—at the golf course where they had played for 40 years.
About a year ago, Collins contacted the children of Smith, McReynolds and Thorogood and shared her idea of purchasing and dedicating a park bench to the men. They liked the idea. While their mothers also honored the legacy of their husbands’ friendship, the children decided to pursue the bench project themselves.
“They knew about it,” Collins said, “But it was a gift from us kids.”
It was decided the bench would sit outside the country club and would bear a plaque inscribed with the men’s names. After working with the country club to finalize the bench’s design and exact location, it now sits as a memorial to the foursome’s friendship a year later.
Collins said she hopes that everyone who sees the bench on the country club’s property will remember having seen the foursome golfing together at some point over the past 40 years.
“They knew them and saw them as this fun group of guys,” Collins said of the men’s fellow country club members. “It was a special kind of friendship.”