Willie N. Stephens is how his PGA of America membership plaque reads, but everyone in Austin knew him as "Uncle Will". Family members, friends, church members and former pupils of Uncle Will gathered at Cook Walden Funeral Home in Pflugerville to pay their respects to this much beloved human being.
After the eulogy by the pastor, individuals from those gathered were invited to speak about their relationship with Will Stephens. In the course of the comments from golfers like Wes Skaggs and Billy Clagett it was revealed that Stephens was not only an excellent golf instructor but a true mentor for anyone he happened to meet or have the change to give golf instruction. He treated people with civility and respect and along with golf instruction provided them with a better self concept and a feeling of "I can do this". Negative thoughts or inconsiderate treatment were not in Will Stephens character.
With respect to his golf instruction, Will's philosophy was all about rhythm and balance. Although he was well read and well informed on all the current teaching methods of his day, he reduced the complexity of the swing to staying in balance and swinging in rhythm. Billy Clagett, who had been a professional golfer that regained his amateur status selected Will Stephens to become his instructor. Over the next couple of decades Clagett went on to win numerous golf tournaments at the local and state level. He always credited Stephens with being his teacher and mentor. While other players would become ensnared by the technical aspects of swing analysis, Clagett just kept using rhythm and balance to win trophies.
Wes Skaggs, the head professional at Crystal Falls Golf course spoke about how Uncle Will had been his teacher for 33 years and how much he will miss the man. Not just the golf instructor but the man. Stephens was Skaggs first introduction to the game of golf and Stephens mentoring helped Wes learn the game and the value system inherent in being a good golfer and good human being.
And, on a personal note from myself, I will miss Will Stephens for a variety of reasons. I also took lessons from Will Stephens and benefited from his wisdom and character. He taught me the value of rhythm and balance in the swing by making me hit iron shots and hold my finish until the ball hit the ground. Try it sometime. You can't do it without being in balance.
Another thing I enjoyed was that he was consistent in his respect for players and his approach to teaching. He was devoted to his wife, his church, his friends and his students. He lived with a simple rhythm to his life that consisted of teaching and playing golf, and taking care of his family and supporting his church. He balanced these aspects of his world and kept his perspective. He lived his life in rhythm and balance. He will be missed.