Remembering Jay FitzGerald: A Golf Legend Who Left an Indelible Mark


Golf is a sport that has been cherished by millions around the world. While new golfers and younger enthusiasts may not be familiar with the late James Walter FitzGerald, his impact on the golfing community is truly immeasurable. Fondly known as “Fitzy” among close friends and “Jay” to a legion of acquaintances in the golfing world, FitzGerald’s recent passing on May 23, at the age of 84, led to an outpouring of grief and remembrance. On June 29, a tribute will be held at the Winged Foot Golf Club, where Jay was not only a respected member but also one of its finest players. Today, we gather to honor his remarkable life and celebrate the memories that make the trees sway with joy.

Introduction to James Walter FitzGerald

James Walter FitzGerald was a prominent figure in the golfing world, serving as the President and CEO of Golf Digest and Golf World from 1982 to 1999. His tenure coincided with an unprecedented boom in golf, with millions of individuals taking up the sport. Known for his sales background and deep understanding of the game and its people, FitzGerald played a vital role in shaping Golf Digest’s success during this golden era.

Fitzy’s Influence on Golf Digest and Golf World

FitzGerald’s impact on Golf Digest and Golf World cannot be overstated. With his knowledge, energy, and leadership, he elevated these magazines and several other print titles to new heights of maturity and prosperity. As the golfing industry experienced exponential growth, FitzGerald’s keen insights and strategic decisions contributed significantly to the expansion of pro tours, course construction, resort travel, equipment manufacturing, apparel, and television coverage.

FitzGerald’s Impact on the Golfing Industry

During FitzGerald’s tenure, the entire golfing industry flourished. His exceptional sales skills and business acumen helped shape Golf Digest’s business strategy and secure its position as a leading authority in the golf world. FitzGerald’s profound influence extended beyond the magazine itself, making a lasting impact on various aspects of the industry, from advertising to golf course development.

The Charismatic and Memorable Fitzy

James Walter FitzGerald was a larger-than-life character in the golfing community. Whether on or off the course, he captivated others with his charisma, storytelling prowess, and infectious sense of humor. Whenever FitzGerald retired to the bar after a round of golf, he would never sit. Instead, he would take the L-shaped corner seat nearest the entrance, attracting friends, colleagues, and fellow golf enthusiasts. With a mug of beer in hand, he entertained them with fascinating, sometimes exaggerated stories that left everyone laughing and wanting more.

FitzGerald’s Personal Stories and Anecdotes

Fitzy had a repertoire of captivating stories, and his friends often shared tales about him as well. One legendary story involved FitzGerald’s exceptional salesmanship when tasked with selling The New York Times’ golf magazine in the United Kingdom. The sale price he achieved was so remarkable that when he reported the number to corporate, they were astounded and asked if it was in dollars or pounds. Fitzy’s response, “It doesn’t matter,” perfectly exemplified his prowess in the business world.

FitzGerald’s Championship Achievements

Aside from his significant contributions to the golf publishing industry, FitzGerald was also an accomplished golfer in his own right. His short, Doug Sanders-like swing showcased remarkable accuracy and unexpected power. Notably, he became even more formidable when he switched to the long putter, sharing his wisdom with others on how to use it effectively. Even after his retirement from Golf Digest in 1999, FitzGerald continued to excel on the course, achieving numerous victories, including the U.S. Senior Amateur and the American Society of Seniors Championship.

Fitzy’s Enduring Legacy

James Walter FitzGerald left an enduring legacy in the world of golf. His contributions as a publishing legend and an exceptional golfer will be remembered for generations to come. The impact he had on Golf Digest, the golfing industry, and the lives of those he touched cannot be overstated. FitzGerald’s unwavering pursuit of excellence and his drive to be the best continue to inspire and shape the sport today.

Reminiscing the Sermon on the Third Floor

One memorable moment that epitomized FitzGerald’s passion and dedication was the “Sermon on the Third Floor.” When Golf Digest faced a challenge from a chief competitor in terms of circulation and profit, FitzGerald gathered the entire team for a meeting. With his commanding presence, he delivered an impassioned speech that rekindled the team’s spirit and determination to be the best. His words resonated deeply, igniting a renewed sense of purpose among the staff, resulting in a period of prosperity for the magazine.

Fitzy’s Life in Retirement

After retiring, FitzGerald and his wife, Karen, enjoyed their time in Florida. Their companionship radiated joy, and Jay’s family expressed gratitude for the love and care he bestowed upon Karen. Sadly, FitzGerald battled cancer in his later years, and Karen stood by his side, providing unwavering support throughout his courageous fight.

A Fond Farewell to a Golf Legend

At the tribute event held at Winged Foot Golf Club, Jay Fitzgerald’s remarkable life and achievements will be celebrated by friends, family, and fellow golf enthusiasts. Across the world, in bars and golf clubs, friends will gather and raise a glass to this unforgettable man. As we bid our final farewell, let us stand together, filled with admiration and respect, and hoist our mugs of beer toward the sky. Cheers, Fitzy, may your legacy forever inspire us on and off the golf course.


What were James Walter FitzGerald’s notable achievements in golf?

James Walter FitzGerald achieved numerous notable accomplishments in golf. He won the stroke-play championship at Olympia Fields Country Club seven years in succession, highlighting his exceptional skills on the course. Additionally, he emerged as the medalist at the U.S. Senior Amateur in 2000 and triumphed in the American Society of Seniors Championship the same year. FitzGerald’s impressive achievements solidified his status as a formidable force in the golfing world.

How did James Walter FitzGerald contribute to Golf Digest and Golf World?

As President and CEO of Golf Digest and Golf World from 1982 to 1999, FitzGerald played a pivotal role in the success and growth of these magazines. His knowledge, energy, and leadership were instrumental in elevating the publications to new heights. FitzGerald’s understanding of the game and its people allowed him to shape Golf Digest’s business strategy and position the magazine as a leading authority in the golfing industry.

What made James Walter FitzGerald a legendary figure in the golfing community?

James Walter FitzGerald’s larger-than-life personality and charismatic presence made him a legendary figure in the golfing community. His captivating storytelling, infectious sense of humor, and remarkable sales skills endeared him to friends, colleagues, and fellow golf enthusiasts. FitzGerald’s unwavering dedication to the game, coupled with his exceptional golfing skills, further solidified his status as a revered and unforgettable figure in golf.

What was the significance of the “Sermon on the Third Floor”?

The “Sermon on the Third Floor” was a pivotal moment in the history of Golf Digest. During a challenging period when the magazine faced competition, James Walter FitzGerald delivered a passionate speech to rally the team. His words reinvigorated their spirit, reminding them of the magazine’s commitment to excellence and its relentless pursuit of being the best. The “Sermon on the Third Floor” became a source of inspiration, fueling a period of renewed success and prosperity for Golf Digest.

How will James Walter FitzGerald be remembered in the golfing community?

James Walter FitzGerald will be remembered as a golfing icon whose impact on the sport was truly remarkable. His contributions to Golf Digest, his championship achievements, and his charismatic personality made him a beloved figure in the golfing community. FitzGerald’s enduring legacy continues to inspire golfers of all ages, and his stories and anecdotes will be cherished for generations to come.



In conclusion, James Walter FitzGerald was more than just a golf legend. His influence extended far beyond the fairways and greens, shaping the golfing industry and touching the lives of countless individuals. As we gather to celebrate his life and pay tribute to his enduring legacy, let us remember FitzGerald as a remarkable man whose passion, dedication, and vibrant spirit left an indelible mark on the game we all love.

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