January 3, 2010

Passings of 2009

*Some played, while others taught. Some planned golf's future, while others observed and wrote beautiful prose. Some fulfilled their aspirations, while others had just begun to dream them. No matter their status in the game, we chronicle the notable golf personalities who died in 2009 and reflect upon how they were fully engaged in the game. *

Players: Jameson, an original LPGA-er

The blessing of longevity and the tragedy of young death are contrasted in Betty Jameson and Carolyn Cudone with Ben Enoch and Mallory Code. Elegant, graceful and charming, Jameson always seemed to reflect the era from which she emerged. Making a big splash with U.S. Women's Amateur wins in 1939 and '40, the native of Oklahoma went on to win the 1947 U.S. Women's Open. Jameson did not have a dominant record typical of a World Golf Hall of Fame member -- 12 pro victories -- but she made it there all the same. Fellow hall of famer Carol Mann said Jameson's grip was "pristine" and as good or better than anyone else's.

But the honor that carried the most heft for Jameson was being known as one of the LPGA Tour's original 13 founding members. Having been there at the start in 1950, Jameson put great effort into making sure the LPGA grew as a serious vocation for women. In 1952 she donated the Vare Trophy that goes to the tour's scoring-average leader. As she transitioned into a teaching career and then a painter, Jameson loved the art world and worked to advance it. She passed away Feb. 7 at age 89.

Cudone's (age 90, March 19) lengthy playing career put her into the record books. Her five straight U.S. Senior Women's Amateur crowns from 1968 to 1972 are the most consecutive USGA titles anyone has ever won. By then the Staten Island native was already highly accomplished as a Curtis Cup player in 1956, a five-time Metropolitan Golf Association Women's Match Play winner and seven-time South Carolina Women's Amateur champ. She captained the U.S. side in the 1970 Curtis Cup, and, starting in 1981, she earned acclaim for the junior golf program she ran in Myrtle Beach.

The fullness these two players achieved in life contrasts with the harsh reality of Enoch and Code's shorter paths. The former, a promising Welshman, had planned on following his brother, Rhys, to East Tennessee State last fall, but a car accident in England April 30 ended his life at age 19.

Code has her own special niche as one of the game's heroic sufferers, never enjoying a time when discomfort, fear and pain weren't threatening to consume her. Diagnosed at just six weeks old with cystic fibrosis, Code was only expected to live 16 to 18 years. When she died on Nov. 9, she was 25 and had long since double-eagled every obstacle. She was a proficient pianist and dancer, four-time AJGA winner, part of a state high school champion team, played on two international teams, scored 1,340 on her SAT, earned a scholarship to Florida, and from the age of 16 on was an inspirational speaker who could talk for 45 minutes without the need of notes. While her playing career at Florida had been curtailed after her freshman year, Code graduated last August with an English degree and had created a website, thedealbloodhound.com, that helped families use coupons to save on their grocery bill.

Other player deaths include 1966 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion Lamont (Monty) Kaser (67, Sept. 18); Matthew Loving (30, Dec. 4), a professional on the minor circuits; Eric Monti (91, Feb. 1), a three-time PGA Tour winner and teacher in later years of Hollywood stars as an L.A. club pro at Hillcrest; Scottish player John Panton (92, July 25), a mid- and long-iron maestro who played for three Great Britain Ryder Cup squads; Australian Fiona Pike (44, March 19), who had played on the LPGA Tour in the early 2000s; Fordie Pitts Jr. (79, Oct. 27), who won throughout New England over a 50-year span; 1947 U.S. Amateur winner Robert (Skee) Riegel (94, Feb. 22), a physically strong player described in 1955 with "Tarzan" forearms but who possessed a great touch, only picked up the game at age 23 at his wife's urging, won the 1936 Virginia Amateur, played in the 1947 and 1949 Walker Cup, turned pro at 35 and the following year was second in the 1951 Masters; Riegel's golf exploits finally got him past his main notoriety: being confused with "Wrong Way" Roy Reigels of infamous 1929 Rose Bowl fame; Phyllis Semple (87, Jan. 18), a fine player in her won right who won the 1964 Pennsylvania Amateur but who also aced motherhood (mother to hall of fame member Carol Semple Thompson) and marriage (1974-75 USGA president Harton (Bud) Semple), and Toni Wiesner (62, July 27), the four-time Texas Women's Amateur champion who played in 50 USGA events but could not break into the winner's circle.

From the clubs and courses

From the familiar people we're likely to see in the golf shop, we begin with Gene Borek, one of the "unknown" players who pops up regularly at a U.S. Open. Borek (72, April 14) shot a course-record 65 in the second round of the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont. Johnny Miller broke the record with a 63 two days later, but Borek had his day in the sun. He was a frequent player in the majors, and a big winner on the club pro level during his 48 years as a PGA member, mainly at Metropolis in White Plains, N.Y.

Wendy Boyd (57, Feb. 24) was a pioneering African-American in the LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Division who also taught golf at Alabama State. Marjorie (Marge) Burns (83, June 3) was a sensational amateur winner (10-time North Carolina Amateur winner), but she, too, was an LPGA T&CP member who was immensely successful as a teacher, earning the group's 1976 Teacher of the Year Award.

Mickie Gallagher Jr. (78, March 6) knew Arnold Palmer before he became Arnold Palmer, having been a teammate of his at Wake Forest. A PGA of America member since 1964, Gallagher made his biggest impact at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Ed Hoard (63, Aug. 31) did more than just serve his members at places such as Athens (Ga.) Country Club. His expertise thrust him into the national spotlight as a two-time chief rules referee in the Ryder Cup, 1999 PGA Golf Professional of the Year and the 1996 Horton Smith Award winner for education.

PGA of America members of 50 or more years: Nick Carbo (79, Jan. 17), Wally Cichon (83, March 12), John DeLuca (94, Oct. 23), Jimmie Gauntt (96, June 27), Ed Golen (84, Feb. 8), Ken Henry (80, March 1), Tony Holguin (82, May 14), Ben Johnson (88, Feb. 8), Jack Kerins (97, June 26), Frank Marchi (86, June 17), John J. McClure (85, July 19), Joseph J. Nageotte (85, May 14), Joseph Nagy (82, June 24), Martin Nolletti (76, Sept. 20), Pat Palmieri (95, July 3), Bill Perry (93, April 4), Walter Romans (92, March 16), Lou Shue (86, March 21), J.R. (Son) Taylor (93, Sept. 17), George Waters (84, May 16), Joe Watrous (90, Feb. 17), Kenneth Weller (79, April 22), Cliff Whittle (81, Jan. 20)

Officials and administrators

A great behind-the-scenes force in the game was lost in Gordon Ewen (93, Feb. 27). The accomplished administrator had been a member of the Royal & Ancient, an official at the Masters, USGA Executive Committee member, and president of the Western Golf Association in 1978 to 1979. He was one of the creators of the USGA's Joe Dey Award, given since 1996 for meritorious volunteer service. His godfather and early golf partner was Charles Dawes, Calvin Coolidge's vice president.

Others include: Julius A. Bescos (97, May 23), who was a past president of the Southern California Golf Association. Bescos was a frat brother of John Wayne's (Marion Morrison) at USC, took lessons from Lloyd Mangrum one summer and was a Hollywood bit player, which led to a long friendship with Bing Crosby. "Julie" earned a spot in the Southern Cal Athletic Hall of Fame.

Helen Carter (81, March 12) served as a past president of the Women's Metropolitan Golf Association and won multiple club championships at Long Island clubs.

Howard Cassell (79, March 26) began the Hudson Junior Charity tournament in 1979 after helping found the Country Club of Hudson (Ohio); past winners include Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler.

Dr. Richard Ho (82, May 14) worked as a pediatrician but he put his love of golf into action by organizing the Hawaii State Golf Association in 1984; he later served on the USGA Regional Affairs committee and as a Golf Digest panelist.

John F. McGillicuddy (78, Jan. 4), as a CEO at Manufacturers Hanover Trust, helped operate the Westchester Classic during the 1980s and raise millions for charity.

Robert A. Miller Sr. (81, May 11), former president of the Westchester Golf Association, in 1996.

Bruce Parker (53, Oct. 24), who as Callaway Golf emerged as a major equipment leader worked for 15 years as an executive with Ely Callaway.

Andy Shepard (84, Jan. 20), a member of the LPGA Board of Directors from 1992-1996, and its chairman in 1997-2000.

William (Bill) Wilson (90, March 19), a worker at the PGA Tour for almost 30 years and an assistant to commissioners Deane Beman and Tim Finchem.

Architects and "supes"

The major figures lost from the field of course architects and superintendents included Charles Ankrom, Richard Blake, Ferdinand (Fred) Garbin and Ken Killian. Ankrom (72, July 24) expanded his career from director of golf for General Development Corporation clubs in Florida to his own architecture firm in the 1970s, mainly working in the Sunshine State.

Blake (80, Jan. 23) was president of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America in 1971 and a GCSAA member for 51 years who preached education and environmental issues to his colleagues.

Garbin (81, Sept. 6), past president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects in 1961, designed or redesigned 100-plus courses, mainly in New York, Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania. He had a particular fondness for Donald Ross courses and the remodeling work done on them, and retouched Oakmont preceding the 1983 U.S. Open.

One of Killian's (78, Sept. 20) major designs was 1989 PGA Championship site Kemper Lakes, done with Dick Nugent in Hawthorn Woods, Ill. Illinois was a major focus of Killian's work but he designed from coast to coast.

Scribes: Updike, May and Shrake

Golf was just one of many subjects John Updike (76, Jan. 27) delved into in a career that covered a host of writing forums, but we're fortunate he wrote about the sport as much as he did. And we can also be thankful the 20-plus handicapper wasn't terribly proficient at it, either, because he used his familiarity with the game's struggles to explain better than most why we stick with this addictive, frustrating game. He wrote 15 essays for Golf Digest, and in one of them he explained why the closeness of players on the golf course beats relationships elsewhere: "Our behavior, ideally, is better here than elsewhere because we are happier here than elsewhere….Golf camaraderie, like that of astronauts and Antarctic explorers, is based on a common experience of transcendence; fat or thin, scratch or duffer, we have been somewhere together where nongolfers never go."

Just as producer George Martin is often called "the fifth Beatle," John P. May (89, April 29) could be the "fourth Golf Digest founder" for all he meant as managing editor initially and later as senior editor. Joining the magazine in 1954, just four years after it began, May was involved in all editorial aspects, even to the point of shooting photographs at major championships during an era when there weren't many shutterbugs out there beyond the major wire-service shooters. May retired in 1983, but his presence is still felt, primarily in his championing the uncommon feats of the common golfer. He also prodded our editors to not take things too seriously as only a father named May could who named a daughter April.

Another Golf Digest senior editor who died was Dwayne Netland (77, June 30). "Netty" began his career in newspapers, most notably the Minneapolis Tribune from 1956-1974, but he worked for us as a writer from 1974 to 1997. While he took on any subject handed to him, he excelled with celebrity and tour player profiles. He was fastidious in his manner, always leaving his desk without a scrap of paper at the end of the day. He wrote one book each with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, and the tomes contained background detail to the entertainers' tour events.

Other members of the media elite include: Edwin (Bud) Shrake (77, May 8), the Texas sportswriter who was a close companion of fellow Texan Dan Jenkins and was notably the creative force behind putting legendary teacher Harvey Penick's thoughts in five best-selling books, beginning with the Little Red Book; Bob Fowler (69, Jan. 16), who wrote for the Orlando Sentinel and other papers before working at the Bay Hill media center; Phil Kosin (58, Aug. 10), a Chicago-area radio and newspaper personality; Charley Stine (81, March 3), founder of Florida Golfweek (now Golfweek Magazine) in 1975; Dawson Taylor (92, June 6), who had about a half-dozen careers in addition to writing historical books on the Masters Tournament, St. Andrews and a putting book with the proficient two-time Masters champion Horton Smith; and Harless Wade (80, March 28), who covered golf for 40 years for the Dallas Morning News.

The artistic world saw the passing of Bernie Fuchs (76, Sept. 17), the innovative illustrator who created a whole new style of traditional but abstract work. He was already a legend before Golf Digest showcased his genius starting in the 1970s. His pieces would take hold of a reader as strong as a good narrative, but he himself was a delightful collaborator. Longtime Golf Digest editor Nick Seitz says of him, "He didn't have any airs about him for having such clout with his drawings."

From colleges to caddies

Dave Adamonis (62, Oct. 10) was the head of a golfing family, producing a tour player in son, Brad. But his reach extended into a bigger golf family. After a 27-year teaching career, he coached Johnson & Wales in Miami to eight straight NAIA national finals, winning in 2005 and being named coach of the year. In 1980 he had started the U.S. Challenge Cup Junior Golf Foundation and as a member of the GWAA had worked on two New England golf publications.

Pearl Carey (96, Feb. 23) promoted junior golf (such as the First Tee of Monterey) and minority participation and was awarded the 2005 Joe Dey Award from the USGA, the second female and second African-American to be so honored.

Scotty Gilmour (75, May 5) was born John Wallace Gilmour, but he answered only to Scotty as a prominent caddie on the European PGA Tour. He worked with Tony Jacklin, Greg Norman and Mike Hill, among others, and was one of the first Euro caddies to come to the U.S. Explaining his longevity he liked to boast, "I caddied for Barabbas in the Nazareth Open years ago."

Bill Green (56, June 8) was traveling the Champions Tour as caddie with his younger brother Ken when a highway crash killed him, Ken's girlfriend Jeannie Hodgin (52) and Ken's German shepherd, Nip. Ken Green survived, but complications forced doctors to amputate his right leg at the knee.

From the entertainment world

Danny Gans (52, May 1), a Las Vegas entertainer and impressionist, was a familiar face at celebrity golf events, but he liked to be in the lead as host and benefactor. He ran a golf academy and junior golf tournament in Nevada, which earned charity money for youth golfers.

Ed McMahon (86, June 23) doing an emcee gig in Coal Valley, Ill., doesn't come to mind when you think of side jobs for Johnny Carson's longtime second banana on The Tonight Show. But when the Quad Cities Open needed some stability, McMahon attached his name to the event from 1975 to 1979. Today it's known as the John Deere Classic, but there might not be a Deere today without McMahon's boost 30 years ago.

Profile in courage

Medical salesman John Atkinson (40, June 11) was destined to win one of our contests. As an entrant in the inaugural Golf Digest U.S. Open challenge in 2008, with a chance to win a round of golf at Torrey Pines with three celebrities in the balance, it was difficult at first to know how much his inoperable lung cancer would help or hinder his chances. In the end, he was an overwhelming choice, and to see him play a dream round during the personal trial he was experiencing was as good an example as one could hope for of a proper recognition for a brave and courageous attitude. He sadly did lose the battle, but the world of golf got to see what "keep the faith" really meant in human terms.

The oldest member

Edgar (Ted) Swartz (104, Oct. 18) was definitely old school, running the store founded by his father, Swartz' Men's Store, for more than 50 years and being married for 71 years to his dear Louise. He went so far back in history that he could recount an hour-long conversation he'd had with a grounded Charles Lindbergh in 1927 in Coatesville, Pa., during a bit of bad weather. But Ted earned our praise when we labeled him the "longest continuous member" of a club due to his membership at Punxsutawney (Pa.) Country Club, where his father had been one of the founders. Ted paid $5 to join the club at age 9 in 1914. Over the years, he won one club championship (1929) but figured he'd "played more rounds, fixed more ball marks, replaced more divots and told more lies than anybody" at the club. But best of all, when he turned 104 last July, besides the practice of still dressing every day with pants that zip, he left us with a dual mantra for golf and getting older and avoiding death: "Don't give up. Just don't give up."