DALLAS—The University of Texas honored Sports Illustrated alumnus Dan Jenkins Friday night, awarding the first Dan Jenkins Medal for Excellence in Sportswriting. Wright Thompson was the inaugural recipient for his 2016 ESPN The Magazine piece “The Secret History of Tiger Woods.” A jury of 16 journalists, including SI contributors Alexander Wolff and Steve Rushin, selected Thompson from among 13 finalists.
Frank Deford was posthumously awarded the Dan Jenkins Medal for Career Achievement in Sportswriting, and his family accepted on his behalf.
In a brief speech, Thompson talked about being a tremendous fan of Jenkins and of his disbelief when Jenkins called him by name at the British Open several years after Thompson began covering golf. “This [award] means an incredible amount, mostly because it’s called the Jenkins medal,” said Thompson.
Another SI alum, Roy Blount Jr., emceed the evening, which was a celebration of both Deford and Jenkins.
The several hundred in attendance screened a new documentary short, By Dan Jenkins, from Widespread Creative’s Kelly Lipscomb and Matt Tisdale. Jenkins’ signature wit shone through in the 20-minute film that featured interviews with friends, family members and fellow golf writers, and detailed how the native of Fort Worth, Texas, landed his gig at Sports Illustrated.
Jenkins, who is 87, played golf for the TCU Horned Frogs from 1950–52. He worked at newspapers in his hometown and Dallas before getting a job offer from SI managing editor Andre Laguerre in 1962. Said Jenkins to Laguerre, “Well, let me think about it for five seconds. Yes.”
Fifty-five years later, Jenkins is one of the most celebrated writers in America. He has published 23 books and is still covering the PGA Tour’s major championships. One of three sportswriters to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, Jenkins is also in the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
His daughter, Sally, co-chair of the Jenkins medal jury and a columnist and feature writer for The Washington Post, presented Jenkins with his own medal, and he regaled the crowd with stories about Hall of Fame quarterback (and Texan) Bobby Layne, announcer Howard Cosell and legendary Texas football coach Darrell Royal.
Said Jenkins, “The idea that a Horned Frog could be honored by the Longhorns—the only thing I have to say about that is to quote a line from a character from one of my novels, which was: 'Life’s a funny old dog, ain’t she?”'