Jim Wiechers, a former PGA Tour player who was an NCAA All-American at Santa Clara University, died on Monday at Queen of the Valley Medical Center after a four-month illness, his family said Tuesday.
Wiechers, who made his home in Napa, was 74.
Wiechers won the 1962 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at Lochmoor Club in Grosse Point Woods, Michigan. He had a successful amateur career and played the PGA Tour for 13 years, qualifying for the U.S. Open four times.
He is in the Santa Clara Athletic Hall of Fame.
“He was amongst the best,” said Susan Wiechers, Jim’s wife. “He played well enough to stay on the Tour for as many years as he did.
“He was always a kind, friendly person. He was really well liked, just a nice person. He just loved really all sports. He was a sports fan. He definitely loved all aspects of it.”
Jim Wiechers spent several years as the head men’s and women’s golf coach and working as a coach in the P.E. Department at Napa Valley College.
“I was fortunate enough to work with a lot of really, really good people at Napa Valley College. One of the best was Jim Wiechers,” said Kevin Luckey, who retired in 2013 after 6½ years as NVC’s Dean of Physical Education and Athletics and the Storm’s athletic director.
“I know that he has been widely respected in the community for his love of golf and his desire to help people enjoy the game. He was just a genuinely fine human being. Just a good person. He cared very much about his golf teams, of course. He did excellent coaching. What was most special about him is how much he cared about the total program.”
Wiechers took on an active role in NVC’s golf tournament, supporting the event each year.
“He put his heart and soul into those tournaments and was the main reason that they were the classy events that they were,” said Luckey. “Without Jim Wiechers, they would not have been successful. I enjoyed working the years that I was there with him on that golf tournament.”
Wiechers spent 23 years, from 1969-1992, as a resident at Silverado Resort and Spa.
“One of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet,” said Scott McCarron, a Vintage High School graduate who is one of the top players on the PGA Tour Champions. “Jimmy was always there for you, anytime you had a question. A great story teller. Just so much fun to be around.”
Wiechers had an outstanding amateur career, winning the 1962 San Francisco City Junior at Lincoln Park, the Western Junior in 1964 on the Eisenhower Course (Colorado Springs), the 1966 Western Amateur at Pinehurst (North Carolina) No. 2, the Trans Mississippi at Edina in Minnesota in 1966, and the 1966 Northern California Amateur Stroke Play at Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club in Menlo Park.
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He was an NCAA All-American in 1965. He was the No. 1-ranked amateur in 1966 by Golf Digest.
He was the runner-up at the 1965 NCAA Championship at Holston Hills in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Wiechers made it through the PGA Tour qualifying school by finishing third in 1966 and played the Tour through 1978. In those days there weren’t any mini tours.
“He was very talented. He was an amazing player,” said Johnny Miller, who is the tournament host of the Safeway Open, a PGA Tour event that was played at Silverado Resort and Spa Oct. 1-7 on the North Course. It serves as the kickoff event of the 2018-19 season.
Wiechers won the West End Classic, a PGA Tour event, in 1969. He played in four U.S. Open Championships.
“I had played against him in amateur tournaments,” said Miller, a World Golf Hall of Fame member and one of Silverado’s owners. “He was a phenomenal putter, a great putter.”
Wiechers’ best year on Tour was in 1973, when he finished 31st on the money list. He played out of Silverado — along with Johnny Miller, Rod Funseth, Ron Cerrudo and Mark Lye — during his days on the Tour.
He had several second-place finishes on the Tour, and lost in a playoff to Bob Goalby at the Robinson Open in Illinois in 1969.
“Jimmy Wiechers was one of my mentors, growing up as a young man at Silverado,” said McCarron, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour and the winner of eight events on the PGA Tour Champions. “I used to play a lot of golf with him. I used to practice with him. Nothing that I looked more forward to than when he would come off the Tour. He and Ron Cerrudo would be over at my parents’ house on Friday evenings for dinner and tell us stories about the Tour. Jimmy Wiechers was really the guy that got me thinking, that hey, I could someday play on the PGA Tour as well.
“He was very influential in my career as a young guy. We kept in touch over the years. He was great – phenomenal short game player, great putter. He’s truly going to be missed.”
Wiechers gave golf lessons at Chardonnay Golf Club and Eagle Vines Golf Club.
“Napa Valley College is deeply saddened by the passing of Jim,” said Napa Valley College Associate Dean & Athletic Director Jerry Dunlap. “Jim was an accomplished instructor, golf coach and mentor to many throughout his years of service to the college. Jim was beloved within our department. We will miss his upbeat attitude and the professionalism he exuded to his craft.”
Along with his wife, Susan, Wiechers is survived by his daughter, Erica Wiechers; brother, Michael Wiechers; two sisters, Terri Plemons and Judy Wiechers; grandson, Evan Kuykendall; and son-in-law, Jason Kuykendall.