CONCORD, Ohio — In the game of golf, you take a swing, waiting for the ball to land. And much like life, good shot or bad, you have to play from where it lies.
Cecil King, 82, knows the game well. He's worked on the driving range at Quail Hollow Country Club in Lake County for the last 12 years. Driving the cart to get the balls is part of his job, but making everyone smile and laugh, no matter where they came from, is just who he is.
"I just see people," Cecil said. "I think that that's a gift, you know?"
His manager, Glenn Travers, says Cecil is his right-hand man.
"Cecil, at 82 years old, does the range like he's 30," Glenn told us. "I don't have to worry about the range when he's on."
King's work ethic was developed early in his roots in Trenton, Tennessee. He grew up in an era that saw things like polio, deprivation, and segregation. So, at just 9, he says he went to work in a cotton field to help his family.
"I realized at that time that my parents weren't making an awful lot of money," he remembered. "We didn't have indoor plumbing or any of those things. That's why I said, 'Wow, I've really got to help.'
"When I look back in retrospect to all of that, it strengthened my belief in God, because you were exposed to those conditions for years."
Conditions that prepared him for adversity and breaking through barriers when he was hired at chemical company Diamond Shamrock.
"They had been in business 74 years," King said, "but not hiring too many minorities at all."
He got hired, thanks in large part to his dear friend and mentor, Don Stallard. Cecil stayed with the company for 38 years.
"'If we don't hire that young man, shame on us,'" King says Stallard said of him. "That's right. That's what he did."
Cecil's a proud businessman, but an even prouder father. His children are incredibly successful: Degrees from Howard University, Northwestern University, the University of Cincinnati, and Case Western Reserve University, obtained by daughters Cyndi and Cecilia and son Christopher.
The family was raised in Cleveland Heights, and the kids adjusted to those duffs that landed in tough territory.
"We were like the only two Blacks in our school, and so dad would meet people and organized block parties," Christopher recalled. "So here you have this Black family moving into town, and we would do all these things as a community. All of that stuff is the result, in large part, because of my dad."
Christopher also paid tribute to his late mother, Betty.
"I have a certain legacy of both my parents to carry forward," he explained. "You know, I can't show mom anymore. She's left us, but I still got a dad, you know?"
"As you can imagine, Dad is favored and loved," daughter Cecilia gushed. "Cyndi and I are strong women from his influence, and I know we both believe his guidance supported this."
Today, as our country feels in a divided place, Cecil longs for common ground.
"It's hard to have an organization where everything is always going to be perfect, but you have to be willing to work to change what needs to be changed," he said. "If you try to separate this group from that group, it's wrong."
Cecil says he's happy where he is with his longtime girlfriend Pam, his children, and six grandchildren. And, of course, his golf family at Quail Hollow.
"This job fits me very well in my life," he said. "It's not too physically straining, and yet I know that people enjoy what I do and I get the feedback, how much they appreciate what it is that I do."
Then, overcome with gratitude, Cecil shared this:
"I cry a lot sometimes when I think about how my life has been, how people have helped me. I've given back and it all worked."
So, he'll always head back to the green with an open heart, forever playing where the ball lies.
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