Jim Hunter's legacy still looming large

May, 5, 2011
05/05/11
5:08
PM ET

FLORENCE, S.C. -- Jim Hunter would have loved a day like this … low humidity, temperature around 72, hardly a cloud in the sky.

And golf.

About 100 of Hunter's friends and colleagues gathered at Florence Country Club on Thursday to play in a charity golf tournament to benefit the McLeod Children's Hospital of Florence, the Jim Hunter Memorial Endowment scholarship at the University of South Carolina and the NASCAR Foundation.

But most of all we came to honor Hunter, NASCAR's longtime director of corporate communication, a fellow journalist and the former president of Darlington Raceway who last October lost a battle with cancer at the way-too-young age of 71.

There were few places Hunter would rather be than the golf course, particularly this one, which served as one of his two home courses. He even wore golf shoes at the racetrack.

In one of the final conversations I had with the man I respected more than any in the sport, he talked about his last round, noting he didn't hit the ball very far. Then he chuckled and reminded me, "I never did anyway."

I never laughed so hard on the golf course than the afternoon I spent with him and Juan Pablo Montoya during Montoya's rookie season. With every "f------ moron" shout by the Colombian driver following a shot that went awry, Hunter and I nearly fell out of our cart.

I've shared this before, but it is worth sharing again. On the ride back to the clubhouse that day Hunter saw an opportunity to do what Ryan Newman did to Montoya and vice versa last weekend at Richmond. He put the pedal to the metal and rammed the back of Montoya's cart in retaliation for the bump Montoya delivered earlier.

Unfortunately, it wasn't Montoya's cart.

"No, he flew right around us and didn't stop," said the startled strangers as they turned to see what happened.

Montoya loved being around Hunter, and he was here to show that respect. Most drivers and media members and … well, anybody who knew Hunter, loved being around him.

That's why we gathered on this picture-perfect day in the South Carolina Sandhills for an event called Racin' to the 19th Hole.

Jim, we still miss you.

We always will.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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