So I’m talking classic rock ‘n’ roll with longtime golf course superintendent Ken Mangum, who’s a huge music fan.
Mangum, who was born in Alabama, mentions that one of his favorite bands is Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Southern classic rock group known for its hits “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Free Bird.” But it’s another of the band’s songs that I can see Mangum singing as he drives his car down the highway with the stereo cranked.
That song is “Simple Man,” and its lyrics speak to the keys of living a wise and fulfilling life. The first verse of the 1973 song could be about Mangum, who’s retiring at the end of this month after an astounding 40 years in the business.
The lyrics read:
Mama told me when I was young/
Come sit beside me, my only son/
And listen closely to what I say/
And if you do this/
It will help you some sunny day/
Take your time … Don’t live too fast/
Troubles will come and they will pass/
Go find a woman and you’ll find love/
And don’t forget son, there is someone up above.
While the 62-year-old Mangum, who’s ending a 26-year run as the director of golf courses and grounds of the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Georgia, isn’t an only son, there isn’t much else in the verse that doesn’t apply to him. For starters, Mangum was very close to his mother, Jo, who died in 1992. How she shaped him to live in this crazy world surely had an impact on the way he lives his life.
“My mother had a real good way with people,” Mangum says. “She only had a ninth-grade education, but she had a Ph.D. in people.”
Anybody who knows Mangum knows that he’s as gregarious as they come. He’s the type of guy who treats everyone the same, from the well-to-do club member to the guy who hauls his trash.
As far as taking his time and not living too fast, as the lyrics go, Mangum has always come across as someone not in a hurry, not to mention being grace under pressure. He definitely showed the latter when Atlanta Athletic Club hosted the PGA Championship in 2011. Any superintendent who has hosted a Major tournament knows the stress that comes with it.
Surely, like any person, Mangum has had his troubles, as the lyrics say. He has struggled at times to keep his priorities in order, like we all have. Mangum has suffered defeat and learned from it. But he moved on.
And then there’s the line from the song about finding a woman and finding love. Mangum met his wife Pam in 1974, and he celebrated his 40th wedding anniversary with her this month. But the way he talks about her and his aim to please her, you’d think he met Pam about a month ago.
When Mangum announced plans for his retirement in an email to friends last December, he wrote: “We are truly excited about this life change and the opportunities it brings.” Mangum didn’t write that “he” was excited; it was “we,” as in he and Pam.
And then there’s the last line of the verse: “And don’t forget son, there is someone up above.” Mangum is a Christian, and he allows the Lord to direct his life. Indeed, he hasn’t forgotten about The Man upstairs.
Although he’s retiring, you’ll still see Man-gum involved in various industry ventures, many of which will involve helping others in their careers.
“It’s a human responsibility … to help other people,” he says.
The chorus of “Simple Man” goes:
And be a simple kind of man/
Be something you love and understand/
Baby, be a simple kind of man/
Oh won’t you do this for me son, if you can?
Mangum has done it. But nobody ever said being “simple” couldn’t mean having an impact on others. Just ask the multitude of superintendents Mangum mentored over the years.
The industry will miss this simple man, who leaves a legacy as roaring as a classic-rock guitar jam.