Virginia Golfer Sep / Oct 2017 - Page 32

“Right now I’m really focused on my art work,” Phipps said, standing on the green recently with a putter in his hands and three golf balls in his pocket. “I’ll come back to it a little more when I have the time, but I love this. I come out and putt a little bit, chip a little bit. It definitely helps clear your head.” Phipps’ father, Hubert Phipps, died in 1969 when his son was 12. He was a mem- ber of the Phipps family that partnered with industrialist Andrew Carnegie in the steel-making business in Pittsburgh. The younger Phipps and his sister, Me- lissa, grew up in the Virginia horse country at Rockburn Farm in Marshall, and their father raised Thoroughbred racehorses and purebred cattle. The elder Phipps also owned the Fauquier Democrat, a still pop- ular weekly newspaper now known as the Fauquier Times, in the county seat in War- renton, some 15 miles from their farm. After his father’s death, young Hubert went to live with an uncle in Palm Beach, then attended Deerfield Academy in Mas- sachusetts, where he learned to fly. He’d heard that a few years earlier, another student at the prep school had been given permission to take flying lessons in lieu of playing a mandatory sport. So Phipps broached the same idea and was allowed to take off. These days, he has his own helicopter, a Eurocopter EC 120. It’s a two-seater he 30 keeps in Winchester, with a landing area on the farm right next to his art studio on what looks to be the perfect site for yet an- other grass tee. He has 1,200 hours of flight time on the copter, and occasionally flies it down to South Florida (about seven hours, with two stops to refuel) where he often stays with several cousins in the area. In addition to his passion for flying, Phipps had always enjoyed drawing and painting, and briefly enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute before getting involved in another of his adrenaline-in- ducing pursuits—motocross. Then, af- ter attending his first Daytona 500 race, he literally decided to switch gears and get into auto racing, enrolling in driving school for potential competitors. Out on the racetrack, he won a Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Formula Atlantic national championship,, and once teamed with then 19-year-old Michael Andretti in the Formula Atlantic series of open cockpit racing. It’s a circuit that included races in New Zealand and Australia, and among its alums are legendary racing luminaries Gilles Villeneuve, Bobby Rahal and Danica Patrick. “I’ve always been enamored with ma- chines,” Phipps said. “And I had a great life as a racecar driver, won a lot of races.” And then came the crash. It happened in a training run at the Sears Point track in Napa, Calif., in 1983. A driver in front of him had spun out on the V IRGINIA G OLFER | S EPTEMBER/ O CTOBER 2017 downside of a hill, out of view of Phipps’ car whooshing along at 120 mph over a blind rise. “I came over the hill and hit his car,” Phipps said. “When I looked down, my feet were six inches closer to my kneecap. At first, I thought my shoes had just come apart and slid up my shins. I was trapped in the car. It took them an hour and a half to get me out of the car. I broke the heels, ankles and tibias and had a broken arm. I was out for six months, got back in the car and won again. But I wasn’t getting much traction in finding the sponsors I needed, so I decided to give it up in 1985.” Phipps was a real estate broker in South Florida for a number of years and also worked on his art, eventually switching from painting and illustrating to sculp- ture. He moved from Florida back to Vir- ginia six years ago, when he also became interested in golf again, taking lessons with highly-regarded instructor Mark Guttenberg. Guttenberg and his wife, Les- A serious accident during a training run cut Hubert Phipps’ career as a racecar driver short. Ever enamored with machines, though, Phipps gets his thrills by flying helicopters.