For many of its 67 years as a printed magazine, a long run that ended in July, Golf World wasn’t quite a one-man band but there weren’t many instruments. During a couple of the decades that Golf World was the game’s journal of record, when it was published in Southern Pines, N.C., down the frontage road from the LobSteer and across Highway One from the Sheraton, two men fronted the little magazine that could.
To be sure Dick Taylor and Ron Coffman had a small supporting cast — from young associate editors like me who stopped by on the way to somewhere else, to librarian Jane LaMarche, who was as much of an institution as her bosses — but from the 1960s through the 1980s to think of Golf World was to think of Taylor and Coffman.
Taylor was the longtime editor-in-chief, Coffman the managing editor — each involved in producing hundreds, if not more, editions of the weekly that provided loyal readers with the scores and the scoop. Dick died in 1997, around the same time as Ben Hogan. Ron passed away peacefully Monday at age 78, a number that in his prime as a very capable golfer he not necessarily would have been proud of.
Ron was in the mold of other golf writers-editors (Charles Price, Al Barkow and Ken Bowden come to mind) with game. He had a compact backswing that couldn’t have loaned Doug Sanders an inch and a competitive spirit to make the most of his tidy game. Twice, 11 years apart (1966 and 1977), he beat his brethren at the Golf Writers Association of America championship, winning the coveted alligator trophy at The Dunes in Myrtle Beach.
I shared a Golf World office with Coffman for a couple of years at the Access Road location in the 1980s. I remember his strong opinions on things golf and otherwise. I hear his whistling. I smell his cigarettes. And I see him waiting by typesetter Kay Fowler, her fingers a blur of speed, for the last galley so he could paste it up and point another edition toward the press and himself toward a cold beer.
Ron didn’t write as much for the magazine as Dick did, but he wrote well when he got to cover a major championship, with the knowing perspective of a low-handicap player. Mostly, though, he was Mr. Inside, assembling a product week after week, year after year. The remarkable thing is, despite all the tunes that traveled from Ron’s desk to mine, I never learned to whistle.