Fr. Jerry was a very special friend to me for nearly 40 years, a man who impacted my life – as well as the life of my family, and the lives of everyone he met – in so many ways. His calm demeanor, which hid a highly competitive nature, always brought peace to me when we were together and, more than anyone, he kept me near to my faith. His passing and the homily I saw given for him touched me, and I wanted to share some of my memories of one of my dearest friends.
Golf was one of Fr. Jerry’s passions, so it’s appropriate that I first met as a student at Notre Dame when we worked together coaching the ND Women’s Golf Team. The team was started during my sophomore year and, because I had planned to be away next Fall with ND’s London Program, we looked for someone who could coach the team when I left. How wonderful it was we found Fr. Jerry! At the time, he was teaching math classes at the junior college and was also the chaplain for the University. He so loved teaching math and tending to the needs of the Notre Dame community.
We really go to know each other when I came back from London – and spent time together teaching golf and taking the team to tournaments. We became close when I was on campus for classes the following Summer. Fr. Jerry went to the pool every morning to do resistance exercises to help improve the mobility in his hip, and I would periodically join him before classes. We often ate lunch together in Corby Hall, and then we would head over almost every day to the Burke Golf Course and play 18 holes of golf. One of my favorite memories of this time was when we were playing and Moose Krause, ND’s Athletic Director, joined us along with one of the College Football Bowl Presidents. Fr. Jerry knew Moose, and he urged me on that day as I shot the best round of golf I’d ever had. Moose invited us to play at his private course, and Fr. Jerry and I later went and played South Bend Country Club and had a great time. Fr. Jerry and I also played racquetball together during the summer – and that’s where his true competitive nature came out. Here was a man 30+ years older than me, and he was killing me every game! I eventually stopped playing that sport with him!
During my senior year, we shared some great memories together on the golf course. At a tournament in Iowa, I sliced a drive on the 18thfairway and heard Fr. Jerry yell “cornball” because my ball was headed for a cornfield. From that day forward, “cornball” was my nickname from him! We also got to play Butler National in Chicago as guests of the club and had a wonderful time there together.
Since my days as a student, we have kept in touch and remained close. On every trip to Notre Dame, we would spend time together and often have a meal. When I began bringing my son to ND, Fr. Jerry took to him and became a special person to my son as he grew up. Fr. Jerry kept up his teaching for a long time, and stayed busy over the years as a member of the Holy Cross Community. He loved his golf, his trips to visit his family in Arizona and friends in other locations, his trips to fish and relax with friends at Land O’Lakes and, over the past few years, he took up woodworking and became a master at making bowls and other amazing items. I will always remember his kind heart, competitiveness on the golf and racquetball court, his friendship and his piety. I am the person I am today, a better person, having known Fr. Jerry, and I know heaven is also a better place with him.
God Bless You My Friend!
To read more about the life of Fr. Jerry Knoll, C.S.C., please use this link to access his obituary.