JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — An overflowing parking lot and standing room only at the Quinn-Shalz Chapel on Thursday were testaments to how beloved Hyde Park Golf Club co-owner Chris Blocker was to family, friends and long-time players at the historic west side course.
But Blocker’s son, Chad, said his father might have had a club professional’s take on the turnout of more than 200 people to a memorial service for the former PGA Tour player who helped turn Hyde Park into a public golf gem when he and fellow Tour member Billy Maxwell bought the course from the city of Jacksonville in 1971.
“He’d be asking one question: ‘who’s watching the pro shop?’” Chad Blocker said.
Bobby Davis, pastor at the Grace Baptist Church in Deltona and former pastor at the Crystal Springs Baptist Church on the west side, began working for Blocker part-time nine years ago because the income from a church with only 60 parishioners wasn’t quite enough.
Davis said Blocker called him “Preacher Man,” and he and almost everyone else at Hyde Park called him, simply, “pro.”
“I’m very proud to say I had an opportunity to build a relationship with Chris,” Davis said during his eulogy. “I prayed for him and I loved him. This a great loss of a friend.”
Blocker passed away on June 26 at the Mayo Clinic from pulmonary fibrosis at the age of 76. He made 153 cuts in 204 starts on the PGA Tour between 1961-1975, earning $129,528, then joined forces with Maxwell to run the Donald Ross-designed course.
A native of Midland and a rancher’s son, Blocker helped make athletic history at Texas Tech before reaching the PGA Tour at the age of 25.
Blocker learned the game from the humblest of beginnings: the Jal Country Club in Jal, New Mexico, where his family had moved when he was a child. It was a nine-hole course with sand greens and as Chad Blocker put it, “more country than club.”
Despite that, the tall, long-hitting Blocker helped the 1959 Texas Tech golf team win the school’s first Southwest Conference title in any sport. Two years later, he became one of only four Tech golfers to win the individual SWC title.
Blocker was elected to the Texas Tech Hall of Fame in 2013.
“He was as long as anyone on the PGA Tour with a persimmon driver,” said former Tour player and executive Bob Dickson. “They didn’t have the driving distance stats back then but if they had, he would have been near the top every year.”
Blocker’s daughter Tasha said during the service that her father’s outgoing personality charmed Hyde Park customers for more than 45 years.
“He so enjoyed life,” she said. “He had an immeasurable capacity to love others.”