Sometime around 1979 or 1980 Jackie Seawell bought a green passenger van. SUVs and vans had not taken over the highways back then, but it looked like a good investment for the Seawell family.
It wasn’t just a family vehicle for Jackie and Claire along with the kids Jay, David, Daniel and Julie. The van got a lot of use hauling young golfers around the upstate.
“Jackie would load that van up with us junior golfers and we would travel all over,” recalled Matt Harbin. “I still remember when he would take a bunch of us to Myrtle Beach to play in a Carolinas Golf Association Tournament at Myrtlewood. He used his vacation time to give us kids a great experience, that was his vacation,” he said.
Harbin went from 13 to 30 around Seawell. He started as a junior golfer, became a cart boy and worked his way up to bigger jobs before playing college golf at USC Aiken and rejoining Seawell after he moved to golf clubs in Aiken. He saw first hand the impact he had on golf and especially junior golfers.
“Jackie was so far ahead of the times in the way he worked with young golfers. The kind of things the First Tee teaches these days were things that Jackie taught us right along with how to play the game. Respect, responsibility and accountability were lessons just as important to him as driving the ball,” noted Harbin.
After more than 50 years as a golf professional, helping untold numbers of golfers learn and enjoy the game, Seawell passed away on Monday. He was 79 years old.
Seawell grew up in Anderson and was a high school football star on a state championship team. He also was an outstanding golfer and that led him to South Carolina.
In Columbia, Seawell lettered for four years. He captained the Gamecock golf team that won the 1964 ACC Championship the same year he won the individual title at the South Carolina Intercollegiate.
After finishing school and serving in the army Seawell began his career helping golfers enjoy the game.
He was the golf pro at Ramsgate (now Legacy Pines) then on to be the first PGA Professional at Cobbs Glen.
After helping establish Cobb’s Glen he left Anderson to become the head professional at Woodside Plantation. He moved across town in Aiken to be the Director of Golf at Sage Valley and finally owned Houndslake Country Club.
Seawell’s passing has saddened his contemporaries, but also gave them an opportunity to reflect on their association with the long time golf pro.
“He always called me Happy,” recalled Hap Lathrop the retired Executive Director of the South Carolina Golf Association. “I remember Jackie being out washing range balls at 5:30 in the morning back in 1978 when we played the state am at Cobb’s Glen. As long as I have known him he always wanted to do something extra so golfers could enjoy playing the game,” he said.
Bobby Foster got to know Seawell as a junior golfer who occasionally played with the South Carolina golf team when they practiced at Forest Lake in Columbia.
When Foster was the Gamecock golf coach he coached Seawell’s oldest son Jay.
“Jackie always had a special charisma that everyone could see,” said Foster. “He had a big smile and was always optimistic. It transferred into his teaching. He was always positive and encouraging to his students,” he said.
Seawell’s three sons all followed him to play at South Carolina and then went into the golf business.
Oldest son Jay has coached the Alabama men’s team to a pair of national championships. David played Tour golf for a time. Daniel has been a club pro and and is considered one of the top instructors for juniors and aspiring young professionals in the state.
Seawell was inducted into the South Carolina Golf Association Hall of Fame in 1998. Until Seawell’s induction the Hall of Fame made its selections based primarily on playing resumes.
“Jackie had a very good playing record, but he was elected to the Hall of Fame because of his work with juniors and all the contributions he made to the game. What he did for junior golf was amazing,” said Lathrop.
In Anderson, Harbin and Cobb Oxford have put together a special junior golf tournament that will be played at Cobbs Glen in October.
The two began planning the event over a year ago and wanted to give it a unique name.
“We looked around the state and saw that several junior tournaments were named for men who made an impact on juniors,” said Harbin.
Florence Country Club hosts the Grant Bennett Junior, Spartanburg conducts the Bobby Chapman Junior and Boscobel honors the legacy of Harvey Brock with the Orange Jacket Junior.
“We know the impact Jackie had on juniors in Anderson and thought it would be the perfect name for the tournament to honor his career,” said Harbin.
Through his son Daniel, Harbin found out that Jackie knew about the upcoming event and it was fine to name it in his honor.
The tournament is scheduled for October 9 and 10th and is designed for juniors under 16.
“We want to encourage younger golfers just like Jackie did all his life. I have never seen anyone who invested as much time with juniors as he did and with this tournament we want to honor his life and his contribution to the game,” concluded Harbin.
Services to honor Seawell’s life will be held on Friday. The full obituary can be seen by following the link below.