Sea Pines, Heritage fixture Arnie Burdick dead at 92

Former Syracuse sports editor lived on Hilton Head Island since 1984

mmccombs@islandpacket.comJune 7, 2012 

Arnie Burdick, longtime media relations director for the Heritage PGA Tour golf tournament on Hilton Head Island, died Tuesday afternoon at Hilton Head Regional Medical Center after a brief illness.

Burdick, who recently worked his 27th Heritage, was 92.

"It's a great loss," said Steve Wilmot, tournament director of the RBC Heritage. "He is the face of the tournament when it comes to the media. A better man, a better father, a better husband, a better tournament director I have become just by knowing him. He was a very close friend. He was more than a friend."

The former Syracuse (N.Y.) Herald-Journal sports editor and columnist retired to Hilton Head Island with his wife, Mimi, in 1984. He was approached prior to the 1986 Heritage by former tournament director Mike Stevens about taking a temporary job as the tournament's media relations director.

After turning Stevens down several times, Burdick eventually took the job, becoming a fixture with the tournament.

"I've had fun. And the more I think about it, it's been good for me," Burdick said prior to this year's RBC Heritage. "You've got to keep your mind going. You've got to do something. You can't just sit home and watch the tube."

Until his recent illness, Burdick still came to the office every day.

"One of the things he felt to the last day was if he kept his mind active, he would remain sharp," said Stephen Sherry, Burdick's eldest son. "When you spent time with him, he was like a steel trap for names, places, stats and facts."

Sherry and his wife Joyce said Burdick said that he felt continuing to work and reading constantly was his way of staying in touch with the younger generation.

In honor of Burdick, the tournament awards the Arnie Burdick Media Award to a media member who has excelled in their coverage of the tournament over time.

If Burdick was known for anything, it was being a throwback. He came in notoriously early each day, and there was no use asking for an email address. He didn't use it.

"He was old school all the way," Wilmot said. "You'd come in and he'd be replacing a typewriter ribbon, and he'd still use Wite-Out and I'd give him grief for it, but that was Arnie."

Burdick was born June 20, 1919, to Joseph and Bessie Burdick, in Syracuse, N.Y., and was the youngest of six children.

He began his sportswriting career as a student journalist at Nottingham High School in Syracuse. From there, Burdick went to Syracuse University, where he played lacrosse for coach Roy Simmons for the 1940-1942 seasons and was an honorable mention all-American attack in 1942, according to the Syracuse media guide.

He joined the Army full time in 1942 and was a drill instructor at Camp Crowder, Mo., until he was discharged as a first lieutenant at the end of World War II in 1945.

While at Syracuse, Burdick worked for the sports information department, and after his discharge from the Army, he returned to the school in 1947 to become the sports information director, a post he held until 1956.

That year, Burdick became the sports editor at the Syracuse evening paper, the Herald-Journal, and its Sunday edition, the Herald American. Burdick would go on to write more than 300 columns a year until his retirement in 1984. Many of his columns featured a character he created named "The Old Scout."

"His column during football seasons on Mondays was the 'Old Scout,' " said Larry Kimball, the Syracuse sports information director from 1966-1997 and Burdick's friend for 55 years. "(The Old Scout) was a great Syracuse fan, and he and Arnie would be talking about the game. After we won, he was all excited and after we lost, he was all upset and it might be a couple of days before he showed up for this imaginary conversation with Arnie."

During his tenure at the newspapers, Burdick won the ECAC-SIDA Media Award for outstanding coverage of eastern intercollegiate athletics and was president of the Football Writers Association of America from 1965-66.

Burdick married Joyce Will in 1957. They had one son, Richard Arnold Burdick, before Joyce died in 1965 after a long illness.

He then married the former Marion "Mimi" MacWilliams Sherry in 1967, and they spent their honeymoon at the racetrack in Saratoga, N.Y.

Burdick surprised his family and friends with his move to Hilton Head Island after retirement.

"My wife and I were supposed to vacation with another couple on Hilton Head in 1981 and they had to cancel at the last minute," Stephen Sherry said. "So we asked my parents if they wanted to fill in and they said, 'Why not?'

"After three days of perfect weather, Arnie turned to us at the dinner table and said, 'We ought to look at real estate down here.' "

Stephen Sherry said his father bought a house later that week.

"It was kinda funny. Arnie retired on a Friday in June (1984)," Kimball said. "By Monday, he was living in Hilton Head."

Aside from working for the Heritage, Burdick had several other activities that kept him busy during his time in Sea Pines.

Until his wife Mimi's death in 2007, they were members of Sea Pines Country Club and played a lot of tennis. He was also involved in the Sea Pines Forest Preserve and had a garden plot in the Sea Pines Heritage Farm Association.

"He and his wife, I used to see them there," said Carol Bartholomew, the RBC Heritage media volunteer chair and a fellow Sea Pines resident. "He was very active there and had a lot of good things growing. He had a green thumb."

Wilmot said the RBC Heritage media tent won't be the same next year.

"There'll certainly be an emptiness in there, for sure," Wilmot said. "He used to walk over to my office and bring me newspaper clippings every day during tournament week. He even did it this year with his walker. It was a routine. I might not see the newspapers, I was so busy and all. But he always wanted to make sure I saw everything from the day before."

Since Burdick made Hilton Head Island and its most famous golf tournament his home for nearly a third of his life, it might be surprising to learn that he didn't even play golf.

"I used to play a lot of tennis, but my knee gave out and I can't play anymore," Burdick said in April. "I don't play golf. I guess I'm one of the nuts that works for a golf tournament that doesn't even play golf."

Burdick is survived by four sons -- Richard Burdick of Liverpool, N.Y., Stephen Sherry of Hilton Head Island, Peter Sherry of Inglewood, Colo., and Thomas Sherry of Buffalo, N.Y. -- and five grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.

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