locker room

Opportunity Fore All

A legend on the hardwood, Jim Horne is now changing lives on the green

Jim Horne and Gyan McIntosh.

Buffalo stance: Jim Horne helps Gyan McIntosh perfect his swing. Photo: Douglas Levere

By David J. Hill

“Here I was, a star athlete, and I couldn’t hit the ball for nothing. ”
Jim Horne (EDB '55), founder
Jim Horne Golf Foundation of WNY

It’s mid-morning on a wintry Saturday in Amherst, N.Y. But inside the Wehrle Golf Dome, Monique McIntosh is relaxing in a cushioned chair, book in hand, while her 12-year-old son, Gyan, gleefully swings at some golf balls, the “tink” of impact echoing throughout the dome.

A self-described “mama bear,” McIntosh is comfortable taking her attention off her son for 90 minutes because she knows he’s in the capable hands of Jim Horne (EDB ’55). “He gives the kids the best of him,” she says. “All his heart is put into the foundation.”

She’s referring to the Jim Horne Golf Foundation of Western New York, through which Horne has given hundreds of inner-city kids like Gyan a chance to try a sport they’d otherwise have little opportunity to play— and for free. The foundation supplies the equipment; all the parents have to do is bring their child and relax.

Horne, who is 86, has been doing this work for almost 25 years, mostly out of the public eye. It stands in contrast to his younger self. He was a celebrated basketball player at UB in the 1950s; his name is sprinkled throughout the Bulls record books and his retired No. 13 jersey hangs on display in the Alumni Arena rafters. After UB, he spent seven years with the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters before settling into a career with the New York State Department of Labor.

Malcolm Eiken, Horne’s basketball coach at UB, introduced him to golf while he was a student-athlete. “I was horrible,” Horne recalls of his first outing. “Here I was, a star athlete, and I couldn’t hit the ball for nothing.” But he was hooked and spent years perfecting his swing.

A few years after retiring from the state in 1991, Horne began offering golf lessons to a handful of Buffalo kids. At the time, he had no intention of establishing a foundation. “I was just trying to introduce some inner-city kids to golf,” he says. “But once I got into it, it just became so rewarding. I was providing a service to young people who had never had a chance to get involved with this sport.”

Horne and his volunteer staff provide lessons to kids 7 and older at the Wehrle Golf Dome in the winter and at the Airport Driving Range and in Delaware Park in the summer. In addition, the foundation is designated as a Buffalo District Golf Association club, meaning kids can participate in events held at BDGA golf courses across the region.

Dozens of Horne’s students have received golf scholarships to college. McIntosh hopes Gyan will become one of them. “It balances him because golf is so much about concentration,” she says. For now, she’s just grateful for the positive influence Horne is having on her son, who’s so excited about his new hobby, the first thing he does when someone comes to their house is show off his golf gear.

Maybe in a few years, it’ll be that college scholarship letter he’s showing off.