Longtime Golfweek Columnist James Achenbach Dies at 78

(This article appears on Written beautifully by Jason Lusk.)

James Achenbach at Augusta National. (courtesy Golfweek)

James Achenbach – a wily, funny and infuriatingly clever golf writer who worked full-time for Golfweek for 24 years – passed away Friday, April 15. He was 78. His daughter, Omalley Ehren Abel, posted about his death on Facebook.

Achenbach’s initial forays into the pages of Golfweek began in the 1970s and grew into a full-time gig in 1991 after various stints at newspapers around the country, and he became a popular senior voice in golf writing. He attended more than 40 consecutive Masters, earning a personal parking spot at Augusta National Golf Club in 2010 along with the club’s Masters Major Achievement Award. He interviewed all the greats of the game, including Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Byron Nelson and many others. His breadth of knowledge was extensive, his enthusiasm catching.

In a career that started with persimmon-headed drivers and concluded after the introduction of hot-faced titanium rocket launchers, Achenbach put an emphasis on the people of golf. He had a particular affinity for amateur golfers and the many PGA of America professionals who promoted the game. He could hobnob with USGA or R&A executives just as easily as he would listen to the preachings of a local club fitter at a small, independently owned retail golf store. He was always happy to talk golf.

Tour pros were a source of amazement for Achenbach when it came to how they could swing a club, but they did not always receive such love when they strayed into controversial topics. For example, he once assailed Arnold Palmer’s support of non-conforming equipment that threatened to bifurcate the game. He feared the wrath of no one, be it Tour official or advertiser.

Family, his and others, was always special. Private about so much of his own life, his outward passion for people was contagious. Former Golfweek editor Jeff Babineau, on hearing of Achenbach’s passing, said they first met in Sarasota, Florida, while covering the old Bent Tree Classic. Achenbach had written a story about Nancy Lopez and her dad, Domingo, that Babineau says to this day is one of the most beautiful pieces he has ever read. Emphasis on ever, from an editor who has read many of the greats.

“There was no one who ever covered this game more passionate about golf and more passionate about relaying his love of the game to readers,” Babineau said. “He took it personally. Writing wasn’t work to James. It was a calling.”

Read the rest of Lusk’s article on, including Achenbach’s retirement article from Aug. 31, 2015.