Around the holidays is the perfect time for family get-togethers and recollection, and many in the Vegas golf community are remembering longtime PGA of America instructor Jimmie Bullard, who died Dec. 15. He was 75 and had lived in Las Vegas since 1978.
An immense outpouring of affection was immediate upon the news of his death. That’s because Bullard was a unique person who lived life on his terms, first as a high-level player at Arkansas City High School, then at powerhouse Oklahoma State, before playing on the PGA Tour.
Bullard’s career at Oklahoma State included the school’s first NCAA title in 1963. Labron Harris, his coach, is the “Godfather of Oklahoma State golf.”
It was around that time that eventual PGA Tour player and PGA Tour Champions player of the year Jim Colbert — a Kansas State golfer — got to know “Bull.”
“I first met Jimmie in college and I remember he had dark hair, was good looking and could hit it a country mile,” said Colbert, who in the 1980s operated the Las Vegas Municipal golf course where Bullard taught. “He was quick to smile and laugh, and he always had a great time playing.”
PGA Tour records reveal Bullard played in at least 22 tournaments, making the cut 11 times with two top 10s. He finished fourth at the 1969 Magnolia Classic, where he led by a stroke entering the final round. He also finished fourth at the 1977 Oklahoma City Open, five shots behind winner Tom Storey, a fellow Las Vegas Golf Hall of Fame inductee.
Off the course, Bullard was a singer and appeared at various Las Vegas Strip hotels, including the Landmark in “Singin’ and Swingin’ with Jimmie Bullard.” He seemed to know everyone and held court with celebrities and tour players, including good friend Doug Sanders, who was known for his outgoing personality, a trait he and Bullard shared. Bullard was also a vintage golf club collector and amassed a large collection.
Bullard was truly at home on the practice range, where he taught many top players.
“He loved to teach juniors and watch them develop,” golf writer Jack Sheehan said. “It seems like any golfer who grew up in Las Vegas and went on to a notable competitive career got instruction from Jimmie.”
One of those was former UNLV All-American and PGA Tour player Edward Fryatt.
“There are too many words when it comes to my thoughts about Jimmie,” said Fryatt, 48, who started taking lessons from Bullard when he was 12 at the Sahara, which is now Las Vegas National. “Kindness, knowledgeable and competitive are the first three that come to mind.”
Brady Exber, an eight-time Southern Nevada Golf Association player of the year, knew Bullard for decades.
“He really loved golf and had quite a journey in the game, from playing to teaching, and he was excellent at both,” Exber said. “In the end, he wanted to help people enjoy the game that brought them joy.”
A celebration of life planned by family and friends Branan Allison and Rick Martin is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 8 at Las Vegas National, home of the Las Vegas Golf Hall of Fame.
The golf notebook appears Wednesdays. Freelance writer Brian Hurlburt is a two-time author who has covered golf in Las Vegas for more than two decades. He can be reached at email@example.com or @LVGolfInsider.
Friday, Saturday: Recruit Look Tour Championship, Reflection Bay
Jan. 13: SNGA Social Series, Las Vegas Country Club
Jan. 25, 26: Recruit Look Boulder Creek Classic, Boulder Creek
Jan. 29-31: Golf Channel Tour Duel in the Desert, Paiute
Feb. 3: SNGA tournament of Champions, DragonRidge
Feb. 24-26: Vegas World Amateur, Revere and Chimera