Former PSA Executive Director, Dies at 86
PENSACOLA , Fla. (WEAR-TV) — Jerry Stephens, one of the most important figures in Pensacola sports history, died Wednesday, at his home. He had battled ill health for some time.
For over two decades, Stephens was the colorful director of the then-Pensacola Sports Association, and for years, just about any sporting event Pensacola hosted was either run, or staffed, or in some way supported by the PSA.
And Jerry Stephens was at the heart of it all.
He ran the PSA from the mid-'70s until his retirement in 1995 and in those days it was seen, primarily, as a golf organization.
The PGA Tour's Pensacola Open was the PSA's centerpiece event. The tournament, which last played Pensacola in 1988, was the main source of revenue for a myriad of sporting and non-sporting events the PSA supported.
Stephens talked about the PSA's support of community events in 1987, when the future of the Open was in doubt, and which in turn, affected its support for other events.
"One of the major things that we do through the (PSA) Foundation is the Special Olympics," Stephens told Channel 3 Sports for a 1987 story on the importance of the Pensacola Open.
"They no longer have to go out and wash cars and sell cupcakes, they know they can come to us for the total budget for (Escambia) County, which is about $5-thousand a year."
Stephens took special pride in the fact PSA events paid their own way. When he retired, he left the PSA in a healthy financial state and all the while, the sporting culture the PSA fostered helped lay the foundation for much of what followed.
Whether the Pensacola area's Champions Tour golf tournament from 1995-2007, or pro hockey and baseball teams that still thrive in Pensacola, the area's sporting foundation had already been tested, tried and set.
Retirement was no time for Stephens to slow down. An avid golfer, he continued to support teams and organizations around Pensacola.
In 2003, to celebrate his 70th birthday, he ran seven miles and played 70 holes of golf, all in one day, to raise money for the PSA Foundation.
"It's all up here in your kidneys," he joked, pointing to his head.
"Nah, listen, I played basketball with all my buddies at the Y, three days a week, full-court, until I was 62. And if it wasn't for this darn thing (knee brace), I'd be trying out for the NBA."
Jerry Stephens was one of a kind. He was 86.