• PGA Philadelphia Section Hall of Fame •

Joseph F. "Joe" Phillips
Class of 2001

           

Joe Phillips was a longtime friend of the Philadelphia PGA and the PGA of America. He was born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania in 1928 and grew up in Maple Shade, New Jersey. At that time the children from Maple Shade attended Moorestown High School. Even though the boys and girls from Maple Shade were considered outsiders Joe was elected class president in his freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years. To earn extra money during high school he caddied at the nearby Spring Hill Country Club. Phillips was an accomplished musician. He played the saxophone well enough to work the nightclub circuit around Philadelphia and South Jersey but he soon learned that he needed a more stable career. Early in 1949 he went to work for the Wilson Sporting Goods Company at their distribution center in Philadelphia as a shipping clerk. The local golf professionals would stop by the Wilson warehouse to pick up merchandise for their golf shops so it wasn’t long before they became acquainted with the likeable Phillips. When pros like Skee Riegel, Ken Gibson and Marty Lyons visited Wilson, Joe would listen to what they had to say about golf equipment and the business. In 1955 Wilson sent Phillips out on the road as a pro-golf salesman. Riegel, who was a Wilson staff member, went with Joe to introduce him to the pros. That year Elvis Pressley was the new star of the music world and Phillips had Elvis’s songs on the car radio. Riegel had a nickname for everyone and it was only fitting that he began calling him, Elvis. Phillips was an instant success as Wilson’s salesman. He always wore a coat and tie when he called on the pros and he was happy and cheerful regardless of what size order you placed with him. Phillips always had several Philadelphia Section members on the Wilson staff like Ted McKenzie, Henry McQuiston, Bob Ross and Bruce MacDonald who were paid along with receiving the usual equipment. When Tim DeBaufre went on the PGA Tour in 1962 Joe signed him to a PGA Tour Wilson Advisory contract. In 1958 Phillips and Bob Jones formed the Philadelphia Pro Golf Salesmen’s Association. The salesmen showed their wares at the Philadelphia Section’s spring golf show each year along with helping with the tournaments as starters and scorers. Phillips quite often provided the spring golf show with Wilson staff members like Patty Berg and Sam Snead. In 1974 when the legendary Joe Wolfe retired Phillips was promoted to fill his place as Wilson’s Vice President of Golf Promotions. This meant moving to Chicago where Wilson was headquartered. Phillips was now responsible for signing and resigning tour players to represent Wilson. That also meant that he was the liaison between the tour player and the custom club department at Wilson. It was Phillips’s job to make sure that each staff member was totally satisfied with his or her Wilson equipment. Some of the many players that he signed and resigned for Wilson were Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Julius Boros, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, Johnny Miller, Ben Crenshaw, Greg Norman, Patty Berg, Kathy Whitworth, Betsy Rawls and Juli Inkster. In the 1970s Phillips developed the most successful “Home Professional” staff program of its time by signing over 900 club professionals to contracts. Phillips not only discovered new talent for Wilson he also designed wedges for the company. With input from Wilson’s tour players and the help of Wilson’s custom designer Bob Mendralla he designed a set of wedges with “JP” stamped on the back. For many years Wilson had been known for having the best wedges in golf so it was quite an accomplishment to design several new wedge clubs that would be added to the Wilson line of clubs. Phillips retired in 1989 but Wilson kept him on as a consultant for another sixteen years. As a Wilson employee he had begun as a shipping clerk and retired as a vice president while being employed by the company for 58 years. He had an office at the National Golf Foundation in Palm Beach Gardens. Along with other duties he represented Wilson at all the major golf tournaments and the merchandise shows. Thanks to Joe Phillips, the Wilson Company was always one of the staunchest supporters of the PGA golf professionals and their tournaments. In 1997 Phillips received the PGA’s Ernie Sabayrac Award for lifetime contributions to the golf industry. Wilson created a Joe Phillips Award, which is awarded each year to an individual in its golf division for their commitment to the game of golf. Some of the winners have been Sam Snead, Patty Berg and Bob Ross. The Illinois PGA Section inducted him into its Hall of Fame and in 2001 Phillips was inducted into the Philadelphia Section’s Hall of Fame. Phillips and the late Fred Byrod, who was the sports editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, are the only non-PGA members who have been inducted into the Philadelphia PGA Hall of Fame.

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