It doesn’t take much to get Jim Ducibella talking about golf. He’s a fan, and a chronicler of the sport. Ducibella, affectionately called “Duce” by colleagues and friends, covered golf for the Virginian-Pilot for years as a sports writer before joining the William & Mary University Relations’ staff in 2009. He was honored March 3 by the Middle-Atlantic Professional Golfers’ Association (MAPGA) with its Earle Hellen Sports Media Award. The Hellen award recognizes an outstanding individual in the field of journalism for exemplary contributions to MAPGA with regard to the promotion of golf, promotion of the association and PGA Professionals and recognition as an outstanding journalist by his/her peers.
Over his 27 year career with the Pilot, Duce covered golf from city amateurs and state opens to regular PGA tour events and championships along with with his regular duties as Redskins “beat” writer.
It’s the breadth and quality of this work for which he was recognized this weekend. The award was presented during the MAPGA’s Hall of Fame and Award Banquet Saturday at Richmond’s Jefferson Hotel. Ducibella is the 23rd recipient of the award established in 1990.
“It’s incredibly gratifying to know that, at least in the opinion of some people, you did your job and you did it so well that they feel the need or the desire to give you an award and say ‘thank you’ for what you have done. I would be lying if I didn’t say I was very pleased to have someone cite me for my body of work,” Ducibella said.
The accolade isn’t his first. Ducibella was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in April 2010 and was voted the Virginia Sports Writer of the Year Award seven times by his peers over the course of his sports writing career.
His body of work includes coverage of most of the sport world’s major competitions and championships.
“The first twenty years were absolutely phenomenal. I did World Series, I did Super Bowls, I did Final Fours in college basketball, I did the Masters, US Opens, and I did the British Open. I could not think of another life I’d have rather lived. I thought all of it was just the greatest thing in the world. There was never a dull moment, never a bad moment. I thought, ‘Man, I picked the right career for me,’” Ducibella said.
It may be more accurate to say that the career picked him, however. From childhood, Ducibella had a love for sports.
“I was the kid who would do anything to listen to a ballgame; I’d listen to KMOX on a transistor radio under my pillow at night,” he said.
The D.C. native said in his early, early childhood he dreamed of playing professional sports though he admitted it wasn’t too long before he thought about writing.
“I love games, and I love athletics, and I enjoy seeing people who can play at a high level, and I enjoyed writing about them. So once I put my mind in that direction, I’d say I always wanted to be a sports writer.”
Though Ducibella hasn’t covered golf on a regular basis since leaving the Pilot in February 2008, he can’t get far from the game. Potomac Books, Inc. has just released his second golf book, King of Clubs: The Great Golf Marathon of 1938 - a story about a Depression-era, winner-take-all golf challenge between two Chicago stockbrokers. The bet was whether one of the stockbrokers - J. Smith Ferebee - could play 600 holes of golf in eight cities, from Los Angeles to New York, over four consecutive days. The marathon erupted into a national news story. Ducibella is also the author of Par Excellence: A Celebration of Virginia Golf which was published in 2000.
As much as he says he has enjoyed his career, Ducibella hints the childhood dream still tugs at him.
“I’d rather play than write,” he admitted.