By Tyler Conlin
Chuck Munson is one of a few select golfers to have represented the City of Austin with unwavering dedication and longevity. Growing up alongside Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite, Munson spent his life playing the game with some of his best friends, and spent the vast majority of his career with his golfing buddies at his side. With his unique views on the game, and interesting theories and practices, Munson has become one of the most interesting characters on the golfing scene. Ever since he picked up his first clubs caddying for his father, Munson has represented the city with class, both on and off the course.
List of Accomplishments
- 1966/67: McCallum Golf Team wins back-to-back district meets
- 1967: Captain of McCallum Golf Team
- 1968-1972: Member of the University of Texas Golf Team
- 1970 3rd in Austin Men's City Championship
- 1971/72: Member of the University of Texas Golf Teams that won back-to-back NCAA National Championships
- 1971 Harvey Penick Invitational Champion
- 1982 Runner-Up in Austin Men's City Championship
- 2005 Qualified for and competed in the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship in Dalton, Georgia
Charles (Chuck) Edward Munson, Jr. was born on August 27, 1949 and first began playing golf at age 11. In an interview with Ted Middelberg, Munson attributed his early success in the game on the fact that “there were a lot of good junior golfers and their abilities rubbed off on me.” One of those golfers that Munson is alluding to was his good friend, Tom Kite. The two golfers had been together since they burst onto the scene playing at Lamar Middle School. In 1964, Munson led the first-team Lamar golf team as the low shooter in the Austin Junior High School Invitational Golf Tournament. He shot a 74 on Hancock Course to help his team to a victory in the event. The Lamar Middle School Golf Team was full of talent, and would include the likes of Richard Buratti and Bobby Mann, both of whom would play with Kite and Munson at McCallum High School.
After attending Lamar, Munson and his friends would move on to the next stage of their careers, playing for Coach Gordon Bennett at McCallum High. It would be here that Munson would get his competitive spirit and start forming his lasting views on the game. Munson attributed his improvement and future success to the time he spent at McCallum saying in the Middelberg interview that, “competition is contagious and helped all of us improve our skills. You are exposed to better shots and talent. We helped each other improve. I learned from Tom (mechanics) and from Ben (imagination) and they, in turn, learned from me and others.”
McCallum Golf Team 1966, Front Row – Mike Allen, Tom Kite, Elwain Arnold and Bobby Mann, Second Row – Chuck Munson, Jarrett Bates, Bruce Johnson, Rusty Kirchner, Jimmy Kirschner, Richard Buratti, Baron Sutton, and Coach Gordon Bennett
Improvement wasn’t the only thing that Munson gained during his time at McCallum. He also helped bring home some impressive hardware. He was part of the team that won the District 16AAAA meet in 1966, and was captain of the team when they repeated as district champs in 1967. Munson would earn runners-up honors behind Tom Kite in 1967. Teamed with Richard Buratti and Tom Kite, Munson would help McCallum shoot a 324 in a local match held at Morris Williams Golf Course against defending State Champions, Lee High School (San Antonio), as well as Seguin, and Austin High. McCallum’s triple-threat would win the event, with Seguin coming in 2ndwith a score of 330. Munson would again be the low shooter in a 1967 contest against Reagan with a 37 that would help McCallum defeat their opponents 155-171.
1966-67 McCallum Golf Team at the McCallum Athletic Banquet.
Left to right, Richard Buratti, Elwain Arnold, Tom Higgins, Chuck Munson, Don Beard, Bobby Mann, Tim Kirschner, Roxy Edgar , Jim Gillian, Tom Kite
Junior Golf in Austin
During the years of Munson's junior golf in Austin, one right of passage was a trip to the State Junior Golf Championship held in San Antonio. Shown here in a photo that appeared in Golf Digest, Munson along with Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite and Bob Elliott captured the Stanley Calhan Team Championship in the 1967 State Junior Tournament. The Calhan Team Championship was a competition between cities with four or more participants in the State Junior Championship. Crenshaw won the individual title as the state junior champion.
In 1968, Chuck would leave his illustrious high-school career behind him to play collegiate golf at the University of Texas. He would join the team as a freshman and would play for Coach George Hannon for four years. He was a part of the team when the Horns won back-to-back NCAA titles, and although he wasn’t one of the select five to represent the University in the NCAA Tournament, he tried to make his presence felt as a spiritual leader. Chuck’s ideas on spirituality were expressed in the wonderful Middelton interview, “I see spirituality as getting in touch or connecting with a higher power, internally and in communication with others. I believe there is a little bit of God in all of us. If you find a way – golf or anything else – to draw on your spirit or interest, you bring out the best in you.” Munson would graduate from the University in 1972 with a Bachelor of Business Administration, and would get a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the UT Law School in 1974.
1971 University of Texas Golf Team
Munson’s crowning golf achievement came in 1971 when he won the Harvey Penick Labor Day Tournament. He shot a 2-under first round to start the 54-hole tournament at Austin Country Club and held a two-stroke lead over former Longhorn, Eugene Mitchell who was coming off winning the Champions Golf Club Championship. In the second day of the tournament, Munson struggled with a 5-over par 75 and gave up some ground to Mitchell. With that one-stroke lead going into the final day, Munson put his foot on the gas early and finished strong with a 1-over 71 score. With a 214 final total, Munson held off Mitchell by 3 strokes. Munson said of his final day, “The turning point for me…came at No. 4. I two-putted from about 90 feet, the last one from six feet, and that gave me the confidence I needed.”
While he may have been slightly overshadowed by the greatness of Kite and Ben Crenshaw during his time at UT (as pretty much anyone would have), Munson used this time to formulate some very interesting ideas about the game of golf. He has a very unique way of looking at the impact “spirit” has on golfing ability. Take for example his ideas on his great Longhorn teammates and the effect legendary Horns Coach and mentor, Harvey Penick, had on their spirit. Munson says, “I know in my heart that Ben is a fatalist, a spiritual conduit, whereas Tom is a mechanic and often thinks he can control the outcome. When we were young, Ben was always playing, while Tom was always practicing. Mr. Penick tried to assist the pupil rather than dictating to the person. Consequently, he taught Ben and Tom differently. Mr. Penick’s real genius was developing the pupil’s ability to tap into his spirit. In 1995, only a couple of days after Harvey Penick's death, Ben won his second Masters with Mr. Penick as his "15th club."
Chuck’s views on the game may be one of the driving forces behind the success of his other unique practice, yoga. After his competitive playing days were over and injuries had begun plaguing his game, he chanced upon a yoga teacher at church and was able to be convinced to join her class. He “immediately found the stretching was beneficial” in helping alleviate the pain of his injuries, but he also gained newfound golf benefits. He lists some of these as better focus to help line up putts, breathing to help put him at ease on the course, and the strength and flexibility he’s gained helped his drives.
Life of an Austinite
Chuck Munson is one of the most unique characters in Austin Golf, and is perhaps the embodiment of the very city that he grew up in. By giving so much of his life to Austin, perhaps Austin has given a little life to him as well. When Middelton asked why Munson never turned professional, he responded, “I couldn’t beat Tom and Ben in high school. Why would I think I could as a pro? I have always been an amateur. But golf is important to me and always will be. I feel I have a responsibility to share my story, to put it out there for others to review.” With both humor and spirit, there is little question why Chuck Munson’s story is one many should review.
Munson is still an active member of Austin Country Club, having served on the Board of Directors and other committes within the club. He has won multiple Men's Senior Club Championships, Couples Championships and Partnership Championship at ACC. He still plays Saturday mornings with Richard Buratti, Mike Allen and Tom Kite. They have been playing golf together for almost 50 years.
One last observation about Munson is indicative of the man's character. He said that he still remembers and tries to live by a comment that was made to him by either Tony Burger or Harvey Penick who said…"Chuck, people will remember how you played and acted during the round a lot longer than what your score was today".