In Memory Of Bob Cupp

by Dave Sansom

In the early hours of August 20th, my friend Bob Cupp passed peacefully into the next world.  Bob Cupp was many things to many people.  He was an important golf course designer, having designed something in the neighborhood of 250 highly-respected golf courses worldwide during his career.  His courses hosted more than 50 national and international championships, including seven major championships. In 1992, he was Golf World's first ever Golf Architect of the Year, and he was a member of the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame. But Bob was much more than that.  He was a unique individual with an array of talents beyond his vocation.  He was an excellent furniture maker, and had one of the finest personal wood shops I’ve ever set foot in.  He was a singer who recorded jingles professionally as a young man living in Miami.  He was an author who penned “The Edict”, a novel concerning the birth of the game of golf.  He played guitar and cello, enjoyed blacksmithing, and was absolutely great company. And he was the brother I never had.

I had the pleasure of first meeting Bob only a few years ago.  I had photographed two of his courses… a recent renovation of Horseshoe Bend, in Roswell, Georgia and the iconic Liberty National Golf Club, in New Jersey (see below).  As I often do after shooting a particularly wonderful golf course, I wrote him a note to compliment his designs and to offer him any images from those two photo shoots he might wish to have.  In response, he sent me an extremely kind and complimentary note.  He wrote that his older brother, David, an award-winning master photographer, had photographed many of his courses over the years, and he “knew great photography”.  Ironically, David had passed away while Bob was working on Horseshoe Bend, one of the courses I had just photographed.  He then continued to pile on the compliments.  This was who Bob Cupp was.  He didn’t know me.  Had never seen my work before.  And my offer was nothing earth-shattering.  But he included his cell number in the note and invited me to lunch at his club.  Naturally, I jumped all over that invitation.

As we talked over lunch, we found more and more common threads in our lives.  I felt as if I’d known him forever.  Since that outing, we had lunch whenever our busy schedules allowed, or when I’d call to tell him I needed some Bob Cupp time in my life.  I’d pick him up and we’d spend a couple of hours talking about current projects, mutual friends, family… whatever.  And ironically, given Bob’s reference to his big brother, David in his first note, Bob became the big brother I never had.  We always ended our get-togethers telling each other how much we enjoyed each other’s friendship.  Perhaps that was common behavior for Bob.  I don’t know.  But it was not common behavior for me.

When Bob first told me of his cancer diagnosis, he was still in a bit of shock, but it was clear that if he had any concerns, they were for his wonderful wife, Pam, and for his family.  Not for himself.  He told me, “I always knew I’d die.  I just didn’t think it would be this soon!”  By the next time we spoke, he had found complete peace with this process over which he had no control.  “Dave,” he said,  “I don’t have a bucket list.  I’ve done everything I ever wanted to do, and have done a lot of things I never thought I’d have the chance to do.”  Along with being heartbroken that Bob is gone, I’m jealous.  No bucket list?  We should all get there before we go!

Bob’s final project had been on his plate, and on his mind, for years.  Georgia Golf House and the resurrection (my word, not his) of the Bobby Jones Golf Course into a reversible, 9 hole course is a project Bob thought of as a legacy project... one he wanted to give to Atlanta.  The foundation formed to lead this important effort worked diligently to make it happen, but it took years to come to fruition.  Strangely, it came together at about the same time Bob was diagnosed with stage four cancer.  I shot the pictures of Bob and Bobby in this note during Bob's last time out of the house, a ride-around at Bobby Jones with engineers from Long Engineering.  Bob will not be here for groundbreaking, but he was able to complete his drawings and his son and partner, Bobby, will complete the project.  Bob and I talked about this project almost every time we got together, and he had total confidence in Bobby.  In fact, knowing that Bobby will  complete the job gave him great comfort. You can read a detailed look at this important project HERE.

I want to extend my deepest sympathies to Bob’s wonderful family, his friends and all those of you whose lives have intersected with Bob thru the years.  Bob was a remarkable man.  He loved his work.  He loved his family more than life, itself.  And that love was returned by all of us who had the privilege of having him in our lives.  I’m not sad for Bob.  He’s doing just fine.  And the good news is, he’s left this world a better place for having freely shared with us his creativity and his generous spirit.

Bob.  You are loved.  You are missed.  And you will never be forgotten.  I’ll see you on the other side.