Jackson golf owes huge debt to Vic Cuiss
Written By: Gary Kalahar
When I first heard "Cuiss" hollered on the golf course, I had no idea what it meant. One of my high school golfing buddies blurted it out as his ball sailed into the trees, explaining that it was supposed to make your ball carom off a branch and back into the fairway. He didn't know where the word came from.
I sure am glad that I found out, grateful that I met Vic Cuiss and honored that I was able to work with him for many years on golf-related matters. Cuiss' death leaves a giant hole in the Jackson golf community, but at the same time his influence will be felt long into the future.
Cuiss played a large part in developing Jackson's reputation as a good golf town, particularly at the competitive level. He was one of the city's finest players for decades and still ranks as one of the all-time greats here. But his many accomplishments on the course pale in comparison to the legacy he leaves for what he did for golf and golfers in Jackson.
Al Cotton, the former Citizen Patriot sports editor, knew what he was doing when he asked Cuiss to take over running the City Championship. For nearly 40 years, Cuiss served as a more-or-less one-man Jackson Golf Committee, administering the City Championship and the Jackson Masters. The players might have been amateurs, but those tournaments were conducted in a professional manner.
It wasn't just the competitive players who benefitted from Cuiss' devotion, as he was influential in the direction of the Sharp Park and Cascades courses as a member of the city and county recreation boards.
It was Cuiss' vision that led to the creation of the Jackson Golf Hall of Fame, which he nurtured for nearly 30 years.
Cuiss' influence extended statewide. He served the Golf Association of Michigan in many capacities, including as its president. He was instrumental in the GAM ending a long engagement with Charlevoix as host of the Michigan Amateur and initiating a statewide rotation that began in Jackson.
The thing that struck me was not only how much he did for golf, but how he did it and why he did it.
How he did it? With class and grace. He was a gentleman in every way, on and off the course. He was so kind in ways great and small. When the final match of the City Championship was over or the final group of the Jackson Masters was finished, he was the first one onto the green to shake the hand of the winner -- and the loser. And he cared just as much about the guys at the bottom of the scoreboard as the ones at the top. Many are the stories of golfers, especially youngsters, encouraged by Vic to keep at it, to keep working on their games.
He was such a positive person, who always seemed to see the good side of things. It was a running joke at the Citizen Patriot that each year when the field for the Jackson Masters or City Championship was announced, it was in Vic's words "the best field we've ever had." Every year.
Why he did it? Often we see people in leadership positions with big egos, in it so others will notice them, eager to impose their power. The Vic Cuiss that I knew did not have a shred of such thoughts. He did it for one reason: He loved golf, and he wanted others to do the same. We had our disagreements. I was critical of some of the things he did. But not for a minute did I doubt his motives.
I don't know how often the "Cuiss" cry is heard on Jackson golf courses these days. I just hope that Jackson golfers -- now and for generations to come -- know who Vic Cuiss was, understand what he meant to the game and try to emulate the man he was.