Vernon “Tank” Wilson was one of the kindest individuals I have ever met in my 38 years on this Earth. A gentleman in every sense of the word, he was giving, genuine, and treated everyone with dignity and respect. His life was filled with friends, family, and a career working in Education. Tank was a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather. Whether he knew it or not, he made a major impact in my life as well. When my family first moved to Meade County, I got my first taste of golf at Hillcrest CC. “Mr. Wilson” was one of the first adults that I remember encouraging youngsters to get out and play or practice. In a roundabout way, he may have had as big of an impact on me as a junior golfer as anyone else in my life.
After retiring from Meade County Schools, Tank was one of the primary staff members that ran the “golf shop” at HCC. I think he did it out of joy and his love for golf more anything else. His family had been longtime members at HCC, and this gave him time to work on another hobby of his….tinkering with golf equipment. During the summer after my 3rd grade year in school I started periodically hitting range balls with some friends and their junior clubs. Mr. Wilson always let us hit balls……Even if we didn’t have any money. My parents weren’t about to shell out big bucks on new clubs that I would quickly outgrow, but lucky for me I would soon learn that “Mr. Wilson” had acquired or built more golf clubs than some small golf shops. Ironically, my first set of clubs was Wilson brand and came from Mr. Wilson. His price for the whole set was $15. (If he knew I would fall in love with the game of golf like I did, I have no doubt he would have given them to me for free.) Once I knew that Mr. Wilson liked messing with clubs he was always the first person that I would show a new driver, or ask about a new putter. He always let me hit his clubs as I got older, and I’ll always remember him saying “Get out there and hit that rascal!” Tank was a big believer in legendary golf instructor Harvey Pennick and always had a pointer he would throw our way that he had picked up over the years. When I teach kids today, I still teach posture the way Mr. Wilson taught me, and I teach better players that “If you want to hit a draw, then the toe of the club has to win the race vs. the heel. If you want to hit a fade, then just get good and nervous!”
Years after that little building shut its doors you could still count on Tank to have a hand written note on the peg board at the restaurant with 4 or 5 things for sale:) My Dad may have been his best customer, and I can say without a doubt that in an era without the internet and google, Mr. Wilson was my wealth of knowledge when it came to golf equipment and technology. He loved to talk about clubs with people, and I think deep down he sold equipment to have an excuse to continue those conversations. 20 years after I first met Mr. Wilson, I took the job as the director of the Meade Activity Center and River Trace GC. Once we became a First Tee location, no one donated more equipment to help support junior golf than Tank. In the 7 years that we have offered golf camps and First Tee programming Mr. Wilson donated over 100 clubs to be utilized by young boys and girls learning a game that he loved.
We lost Tank on Friday, May 1st. He will be missed by many, and will always hold a spot in my heart as “Mr. Wilson”: a man who let hit a young boy hit range balls with him while sliding in subtle pointers and advice. It’s amazing what sticks with you for 30 years when it comes from a caring individual who took the time to listen and teach. I can only imagine the impact that Tank Wilson had on the thousands of people that had the pleasure to know him.
I will miss you.
– Aaron Greenwell