A Golf Professional Who Left His Mark on Eastern PA Was the First President of the PGA!

“DID YOU KNOW”
A Golf Professional Who Left His Mark on Eastern PA Was the First President of the PGA!

One hundred years ago this April, the PGA of America was founded. In January 1916, seventy-five golf professionals and leading amateurs met in New York at Wanamaker’s Department Store, to explore forming a national organization of golf professionals. Philadelphia’s Rodman Wanamaker offered to put up the prize money for a championship of the organization, so the golf professionals agreed to give it a try.

On April 10, 1916 the pros met again and founded the Professional Golfers Association of America. There were 78 members spread out across the United States. The Philadelphia region was in one of the seven PGA Sections, which was called the Southeastern Section. An executive committee was formed with representatives from each PGA Section. This was based on the number of PGA members in each Section. The Philadelphia area was represented by; William Byrne (St. Davids GC), Wilfrid Reid (Wilmington CC) and James Thomson (Philadelphia CC).

In late June the PGA of America held its first annual meeting in Minneapolis, where the 1916 U.S. Open was being held at the Minikahda Club. The day after the tournament ended, the professionals met and elected officers. The president elect was Robert White.

White, Robert 5x (TGH)Robert W. White was born in St. Andrews, Scotland in 1874, and immigrated to Boston 20 years later. White held pro jobs in Boston, Cincinnati, Louisville and Chicago before landing at the Shawnee Inn & Country Club in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania in the fall of 1913.

His duties at Shawnee were Golf Professional and Head Greenkeeper (now called Golf Course Superintendent). The Worthington family, who had made their fortune in pumps, had hired A.W. Tillinghast to build the course in 1908. When White arrived at Shawnee, the course was in poor condition. The golf course property had been farm land for the Indians, who had been growing corn for many years, and did not know about crop rotation. While in Chicago, Robert White had been studying agronomy at the University of Wisconsin during the winters, so he was well prepared to solve the Shawnee problems.

At the end of 1914 White moved on to the North Shore CC on Long Island as the professional and green keeper. While at North Shore he also supervised the maintenance at 11 other golf courses.

When the PGA was founded in 1916; White with his knowledge of the golf business and being so well known among the golf professionals, was the right man to be the first president. He held the office for three years.

White was also instrumental in forming the MacGregor Golf Company in 1897. As the golf professional at the Myopia Hunt Club outside Boston, he was sweating away one day with rasps and files making a wooden head for a golf club. A man who was watching him announced that he could show him how to do that job in a few minutes. He took White to a factory in Lynn where they were shaping wooden shoe lasts (templates) with a machine. While later working in Cincinnati in 1897 White met the owners of the Crawford & Canby Company, which made wooden shoe lasts. White showed them how they could have a business making wooden heads for golf clubs. That led to the Crawford, McGregor & Canby Company. Later, to make it sound more Scottish, they added the letter “a” and called it the MacGregor Golf Company,.

White laid out numerous golf courses and was a founder of the American Society of Golf Course Architects. Some of the courses in the Delaware Valley by White are Berkleigh, Buck Hill, Skytop and Water Gap. He designed a course south of Reading in 1932 for a bootlegger, which is called Green Hills.

In the 1920s he laid out a couple of golf courses near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. That led him to start spending time there during the winters, and he began purchasing Myrtle Beach real estate. He later retired there.

Without ever winning a golf tournament or endorsing a piece of golf equipment Robert White, the first president of the PGA, became one of the wealthiest golf professionals in
the world.

************************************

A Philadelphia Golf Professional was the Father of the PGA Merchandise Show!

“DID YOU KNOW”
A Philadelphia Golf Professional was the Father of the PGA Merchandise Show!

Sprogell, Frank (TGH) (2)Johnny McDermott, Morrie Talman and Frank Sprogell all grew up on the same city block in West Philadelphia and were within a few years of each other in age. They were introduced to golf as caddies at the Aronimink Golf Club, which was then located near where they lived. McDermott went on to win back to back US Opens and Talman became the head professional at the Whitemarsh Valley Country Club where he held forth for 40 years.

Frank T. Sprogell was born in Philadelphia in 1895. He turned pro in 1913 to take a job as the assistant at the Pocono Pines Golf Club. The next year, he was the professional at Philmont Country Club, and from 1915 to 1916 he was the professional at Bon Air Country Club, which later changed its name to Llanerch CC. From there Sprogell moved to Tennessee, where he worked as a head professional. While in Memphis he won the Tennessee Open.

After that he was the professional at several well know golf clubs in Michigan, where he became involved in PGA affairs. For five years he was a PGA of America vice president, which is now called director. At the national meeting in late 1940 he was elected to the office of secretary, which he held for five years. At the same time, he was president of the Michigan PGA for eight years.

In 1957 Sprogell took on a new challenge when he was hired to be the golf professional and general manager at the PGA National Golf Club in Dunedin, Florida. He had noticed that for a few years the pro-golf salesmen had been displaying their wares on card tables in the parking lot during the Senior PGA Championship. That January, Sprogell rented a tent from Ringling Brothers Circus that was wintering in Sarasota. The tent was put up next to the club’s parking lot during the senior championship, and sold exhibit space to 50 golf salesmen and golf companies. The next year he rented a larger tent and then a second tent.

Under cover the show grew by leaps and bounds and came to be known as the PGA Merchandise Show. It became one of the PGA’s largest revenue producers. With the move of the PGA National Golf Club to Palm Beach Gardens, the show continued on in larger tents. From there it moved indoors to Disney World near Orlando. After that it was in Miami and then back to Orlando at its present home, the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. There is a demo day, where the golf professionals can try the newest golf equipment outdoors. For the next three days the latest golf merchandise is on display with salespeople on duty for the placing of orders at 1,100 booths. The show which is now televised by the Golf Channel will attract 40,000 people from the golf industry this January.

In 1998 the PGA of America sold the show, which still exists with the same name, for more than 100 million dollars. The golf show was the brainchild of Philadelphia’s Frank T. Sprogell, and he should he remembered as the “Father of the PGA Merchandise Show”.

************************************

A Philly Man Hit His First Golf Ball at Age 23, Won the US Am, and Almost Won the Masters!

“DID YOU KNOW”
A Philly Man Hit His First Golf Ball at Age 23, Won the US Am, and Almost Won the Masters!

Robert Henry “Skee” Riegel was born in 1914 in New Bloomfield, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Upper Darby. He attended Harrisburg Academy, West Point, and Lafayette University before graduating from Hobart College. At Lafayette he captained both the football and baseball teams. An exceptional athlete, he could walk on his hands almost as well as he could on his feet.

At age 23 Riegel got married and honeymooned in Reno, Nevada. His wife Edith, a very good golfer, suggested that he take a golf lesson. After that first golf lesson, which was provided by the hotel chef who was substituting for the absent golf professional, Riegel attacked golf with a vengeance. When Skee began golf Edith quit. She said one golfer in the family was enough.

Skee and Edith moved to Southern California, where Skee played and practiced every day. Less than three years later, he was playing in the 1940 US Amateur, qualifying locally and on site. The next year he made the round of 16 in the tournament. A man who owned a golf course in Glendale gave Skee a membership so he could enter USGA tournaments. He never played a round of golf there.

When the United States declared war on Japan and Germany in late 1941, Skee was off to Florida to study at Emery Riddle University’s flight school in Miami. While in Miami, he won his first big tournament, the 1942 Florida State Amateur Championship. Riegel then joined the US Army Air Corp and taught flying during the war.

Riegel, Skee (TGH) (2)When the war ended, Skee rose to the top of amateur golf. In the 1946 US Amateur, which was played at Baltusrol Golf Club, he qualified for the match play with a score of 136, which set a record that stood for more than 30 years. The next year he won the US Amateur at Pebble Beach. He won the 1948 Western Amateur and the Trans-Mississippi Amateur in 1946 and 1948. As a member of the 1947 and 1949 Walker Cup teams, he never lost a match.

On the way home from the 1947 Walker Cup, which had been held at St. Andrews, Skee and Edith were having dinner with the ship’s captain. During dinner Skee shinnied up the smokestack. He said that everyone thought it was funny except Edith and the president of the USGA. After climbing back down to the floor, Skee exited the dining room and could not be found. Some feared that he might have jumped overboard, but he had just crawled into a lifeboat and gone to sleep.

In late 1949 at the age of 35, Skee turned pro. At the 1951 Masters Tournament it looked like he might be the winner when he finished with a six under par 282, but Ben Hogan who was playing well behind him put together a 68 for a 280 total. Skee finished second alone. That year he finished eighth on the PGA Tour money list.

After four years on the PGA Tour and now age 39, Skee returned to Philadelphia as the professional at the Radnor Valley Country Club. In late 1961, he left Radnor Valley for the opportunity to participate in the ownership of a new golf course in Bucks County called York Road Golf Club.

Skee played in 16 US Opens, 11 straight Masters Tournaments and 9 PGA Championships. He was not eligible for the PGA Championship until age 40. In those days only PGA members could play in that tournament and everyone had to complete a five year apprenticeship to become a PGA member. He finished second in the 1952 Insurance City Open. While at Radnor Valley, Skee won two Pennsylvania Opens and a Philadelphia Open. For fifteen years after leaving the PGA Tour, he returned to the tour in the winter months and continued to finish in the money quite often. Until late in life, Edith walked every hole of tournament golf that Skee played.

Skee was an expert on the rules of golf. He knew the rules as well or better than the people at the USGA, which makes the rules of golf. For more than 30 years he was rules chairman for the Philadelphia PGA. He was always the non-playing captain of the Section team that played matches against the Middle Atlantic PGA. He is a member of the Philadelphia PGA Hall of Fame and its Playing Legends.

Skee Riegel died in West Chester, Pennsylvania in 2009. Radnor Valley Country Club is going to unveil a plaque commemorating Skee’s golfing achievements in June.

************************************

The Graphite Golf Shaft Was Created in a Golf Ball Factory at Plymouth Meeting, PA!

“DID YOU KNOW”
The Graphite Golf Shaft Was Created in a Golf Ball Factory at Plymouth Meeting, PA!

The Plymouth Golf Ball Company was founded in 1916 in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. The company’s best known golf balls were the Stylist and Blue Goose. The company survived by manufacturing golf balls for other companies.

Shakespeare, headquartered in Kalamazoo, Michigan, purchased Plymouth Golf Ball In 1968. Shakespeare had been around since 1900 and was the leading maker of fiber glass fishing rods.

Fiber glass golf shafts had been marketed since 1954 by a California company named Golfcraft, but without much success. The Golfcraft shafts, which were composed of a steel rod and fiber glass, tended to flutter and shiver at impact, causing a loss of distance and accuracy.

Shakespeare had ventured into the golf equipment business in the 1940s, selling balls and clubs.

By 1962 Shakespeare thought they had solved the Golfcraft shaft problems and began producing clubs with their version of fiber glass shafts. These shafts, all fiber glass, were a slight improvement on the Golfcraft shaft. They were strong and didn’t flutter, but too heavy. Shakespeare produced a Black Knight model and paid Gary Player to play the clubs. Player represented Shakespeare but played with steel shafts painted black to resemble the fiber glass shafts.  By 1968 Shakespeare had given up on fiber glass for golf shafts.

In 1967 Shakespeare hired Frank W. Thomas, who had just graduated from Kalamazoo College with a BSC in mechanical engineering. Thomas was born in South Africa, where he played golf as a teenager. In 1963 he left his native country with a friend for the United States in a 25-foot sailboat. After several life threatening experiences they arrived in the States in 1964.

When Shakespeare purchased the Plymouth Golf Ball Company, Thomas was sent to its factory in Plymouth Meeting with the title of Sales Manager. Sales Manager may have been his title but it was not his job. The president of Shakespeare, who was frustrated with the fiber glass golf failures, told Thomas to spend every minute of his working day applying his golf and mechanical engineering knowledge toward making the best golf shaft possible.

About that same time True Temper, the leading manufacturer of steel golf shafts, had come out with an aluminum golf shaft, which was lighter than steel. That shaft had a brief spike of success when Arnold Palmer won the 1967 Los Angeles Open with aluminum shafts in his golf bag. The shaft was pretty good, but the better golfers did not like how it felt when they struck a golf shot. The aluminum shaft met its demise because the great golfers weren’t using them in tournament golf.

Thomas experimented with several materials until Union Carbide, a company that had been providing graphite fibers to NASA for the space industry, called on him. Graphite was expensive but it was 14 times stronger than steel at the same weight. Thomas had been working on the wrapping of various fibers into a golf shaft.  He impregnated the graphite fibers with epoxy, wrapped them around a steel rod, covered it with a cellophane sheath and then hung it in an oven to cure. After the epoxy had set the cellophane and the steel rod were removed. Now Thomas had a golf shaft that weighed half the weight of a steel shaft. When connected to a driver head it produced a club that weighed 12 ounces instead of the 13.5 ounces of a steel shafted driver. Some of that saved weight was added to the club head. The golf world now had a driver that could be longer in length with less overall weight. The end result was more club head speed.

Perla, Tony (TGH) (2)Gary Player and Don January tested the shafts. Thomas introduced the graphite shaft at the 1970 PGA Merchandise Show. Tony Perla, professional at Sunnybrook Golf Club and a two-time winner of the Pennsylvania Open, became Thomas’ local test pilot for the graphite shaft. Perla, the longest driver in the Philadelphia Section, was the perfect test for the shaft. With his power any flaws in the shaft were obvious.

Somehow due to the timing of Thomas’ introduction of the graphite shaft and application for patents Shakespeare never received a patent on the shaft. That was a blessing for the golfers. More than a dozen entities began working on graphite shafts. By 1974 several golf companies were offering clubs with graphite shafts. The only downside was the price of those golf clubs. A driver with a graphite shaft cost $100 to $120 opposed to $40 for a steel shafted driver.

Frank Thomas went on from there to spend 26 years as the Technical Director of the United States Golf Association, testing all new golf products for their compliance with the rules of golf.

************************************

Forty Eight Golf Professionals Came Out of the East Falls Section of Philadelphia!

“DID YOU KNOW”
Forty Eight Golf Professionals Came Out of the East Falls Section of Philadelphia!

The Falls of Schuylkill, known as “East Falls”, is a little neighborhood in Philadelphia on the east bank of the Schuylkill River between Strawberry Mansion and Manayunk. In the 1890s seventy-five percent of the area’s workers were employed by Dobson’s, a weaving mill that had supplied blankets to the Union Army during the Civil War. Dobson’s had two classes of employees; English weavers and Irish laborers. In 1893 the Philadelphia Country Club constructed a golf course on its grounds a mile or so west of the Schuylkill near City Line Avenue. There was now a need for caddies, and golf was introduced to East Falls. Up until that time the Irish boys usually dropped out of school when they reached the age of 14 and went into the mill, but now there were caddy jobs and the parents were happy to get them out in the fresh air, away from the drinking in the mill.

It didn’t take long for some of the boys to become accomplished golfers. They chipped and putted in the caddy yard while awaiting employment, and they played the course on Mondays. By the early 1900s the boys from The Falls were becoming assistant pros, and within a few years they were being hired as head pros by the Philadelphia clubs.

At one point there were 48 young men holding positions as head pros or assistant pros who had lived in East Falls. Some became famous, and some were colorful characters.

Jack Burke, Sr (2)East Falls’ most famous golfer was Jack Burke, Sr. who worked at several Philadelphia clubs before moving west. Burke missed winning the 1920 U.S. Open by one stroke while working at the Town & Country Club in St. Paul, Minnesota. He went on to win the Senior PGA Championship in 1941. His son Jack Burke, Jr. won a PGA Championship and a Masters Tournament.

Another caddy graduate of East Falls was Joe Roseman, who went west to work for Burke and became a pro-green superintendent. Roseman also designed more than 50 golf courses, pioneered the use of complete underground watering systems, and in 1922 built a night-lighted par-three course. Elected in 1922, he was the Illinois PGA’s first president. Roseman invented and manufactured golf course mowers that were sold under the Roseman name. One of his inventions was a hollow mower roller to preserve the turf. Some golf courses are still using Roseman mowers and looking for parts on the Internet.

Bill Byrne, an East Falls caddy, turned pro at age 17 to work for the professional at the Philadelphia Country Club. While later serving as the head professional at Aronimink G.C., Overbrook G.C. and St. Davids G.C., he was a founder of the PGA of America and the Philadelphia PGA. He met a caddy named Johnny McDermott while working at Aronimink. Later McDermott would give Byrne credit for strengthening his game sufficiently to win the U.S. Open in 1911 and 1912.

A famous East Falls caddy who didn’t become a golf professional was John B. Kelly, Sr., the father of the actress Grace Kelly. Kelly won gold medals in rowing at the Olympics in both 1920 and 1924. Kelly became a successful business man and a power broker in Philadelphia. His brother George Kelly wrote a prize-winning play called “The Showoff” using Matt Duffy, one of those colorful caddies from East Falls, as his inspiration for the lead character.

For years the caddies from East Falls were always arguing about who was their best golfer, so in 1920 they decided to hold an East Falls Open. The tournament, 36 holes in one day, was only for golfers who lived in East Falls or had lived there. The Philadelphia Country Club hosted the tournament on a Monday and went on to host the first 17. The winner was Bill Leach who was the professional at Overbrook for 33 years. He would win three more East Falls Opens and in 1930 he finished second in the Miami Open to Gene Sarazen.

In September the East Falls Open, which is now called the East Falls Golf Championship, will be played for the 100th time.

************************************

Ben Hogan Won His First PGA Tour Event at the Hershey Country Club!

“DID YOU KNOW”
Ben Hogan Won His First PGA Tour Event at the Hershey Country Club!

Most golfers know that Ben Hogan won every major golf championship, along with many other titles. You probably have heard about how Hogan struggled for years to become a successful touring pro, but you may not know that his first win came at the Hershey Country Club.

Hogan, Ben-late 1930s (TGH) (2)In the early days of the PGA Tour Milton Hershey was making money selling chocolate, and was also a golfer who owned the Hershey CC. In 1933 he held the first Hershey Open at his course, which offered a purse of $1,500. The Hershey Open continued for the next four years, but in 1938 Mr. Hershey changed the format. He had his professional, Henry Picard, invite 16 golf professionals for a “round-robin” event composed of eight two-man teams.  It was seven 18-hole rounds, with each team playing a match against the other seven teams, one by one. All of the 16 invited professionals had wins on the PGA Tour except one, Ben Hogan. Mr. Hershey questioned Picard about inviting Hogan. Even though Hogan hadn’t won anything yet, Picard replied that he thought Hogan was going to be a great player.

All of the big name golfers were there, including Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, and Gene Sarazen. Hogan’s partner was Tommy Armour, who at the age of 42 may not have been up to 126 holes of competitive golf in four days. Hogan may have gotten lucky when Armour broke a bone in his hand and had to withdraw. Vic Ghezzi, who lived in New Jersey and had won the North & South Open earlier that year, was brought in at the last minute to team up with Hogan. Now Hogan and his partner were the youngest team in the event. The Hershey Country Club members held a Calcutta Auction the night before the tournament began, and the Hogan-Ghezzi team sold for less than all of the other teams, by a large amount.

One round was played on Thursday September 1, and two rounds were played on each of the next three days. In the first round the Hogan-Ghezzi team put together a twelve under par 61 (12 birdies and 6 pars) to defeat the team of Picard and Johnny Revolta by five holes. That put the winners at plus 5, and they never looked back. They led by nine points after the second day, and by eight after the third day. In the seventh and last round they beat Nelson and Ed Dudley five down. When it was all over Hogan and Ghezzi were plus 17 and 15 points ahead of the second place team of Sam Snead and Paul Runyan, who were plus 2. All of the other teams were at zero points or minus.

Hogan and Ghezzi played the 126 holes in 53 under par, and they each took home $550 from a total purse of $4,600. The total prize money at the U.S. Open that year was $5,800. In 1941 Hogan, on the recommendation of Henry Picard, became golf professional at the Hershey CC and Ghezzi won the PGA Championship.

************************************

 

 

Wanamaker’s was Instrumental in Starting the PGA of America!

“DID YOU KNOW”
Wanamaker’s was Instrumental in Starting the PGA of America!

The PGA came into being in 1916, but before that there were golf professional organizations in the major metropolitan regions of the United States. Many of the golf professionals who were transplants from the British Isles were interested in having a national organization like the British PGA they had belonged to.  At the same time there were concerns that the size of the United States would make a national PGA difficult to manage.

One of the early promoters of a United States PGA was Charles C. Worthington, who had made his money in water pumps. He purchased 8,000 acres in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania in 1903 where he built the Buckwood Inn. A golf course designed by A.W. Tillinghast came along later. Soon he was in the golf course mower business, as well. In 1912 Worthington held the first Shawnee Open for the professionals. Worthington tried his best to interest the golf professionals in forming a nationwide organization. He held meetings with them during his Shawnee Opens and even wrote a letter to some of them on the subject. The professionals would not make the commitment, but something happened in 1916 that brought the golf professionals together.

Wanamaker’s department store, which was founded in Philadelphia, had been a leading seller of golf equipment in the early 1900s. They imported clubs, balls and other golf items from Great Britain that they sold to the public at retail and to the golf professionals at wholesale. John Wanamaker and his son Rodman were members at Huntingdon Valley Country Club. The Wanamakers opened two stores in New York as well. Tom McNamara, an America born golf professional who had finished second in the U.S. Open three times, was Wanamaker’s golf expert and salesman.

1916-Wanamaker TrophyBy 1916 Wanamaker’s had been surpassed in golf equipment sales by A.G. Spalding & Bros., that had been created by a professional baseball pitcher named Albert Spalding. McNamara convinced his boss, Rodman Wanamaker, to help the professionals organize as it would be good for Wanamaker’s golf sales. On Monday January 17, 1916 McNamara, who knew all of the golf professionals, invited them to lunch at Wanamaker’s private restaurant in New York, the Taplow Club. Thirty-five golf professionals attended. Several of the leading professionals had misgivings as to the success of a national organization. Also some may have wished not to be beholden to Wanamaker’s, but when Rodman Wanamaker offered to put up the prize money for a championship along with a trophy, the professionals signed up.

At a meeting on April 10 in New York, the PGA of America was officially founded with 78 “Class A” members. At a later meeting of the PGA Executive Committee it was decided not to accept the Wanamaker money. Some of the professionals were complaining that when ordering from Wanamaker’s they were told that their order had been put on back-order, but at the same time Wanamaker’s had plenty of the product for sale at retail. As a later meeting they agreed once more to accept Wanamaker’s offer.

In October 1916 the first PGA Championship was played at the Siwanoy Country Club on Long Island. The winner was Whitemarsh Valley CC professional, Jim Barnes. The tournament was played with a match play format, because that is what Rodman Wanamaker wanted. The purse was $2,580 and $2,500 came from Wanamaker along with the perpetual trophy that was 28 inches tall and a gold medal for the winner. Wanamaker also paid the travel expenses for all of the 32 professionals that qualified for the tournament.

After a few years the PGA stopped accepting the Wanamaker money, but the Wanamaker Trophy still exists even though Walter Hagen lost it for a few years, but that’s another story. The winner’s name is engraved on the trophy each year.

************************************

 

The 1921 Philadelphia Open Dates Were Changed Because of President Warren G. Harding!

“DID YOU KNOW”
The 1921 Philadelphia Open Dates Were Changed Because of President Warren G. Harding!

It was 1921 and the dates were all set for the country’s leading golf professionals to play four big golf tournaments from New York to Washington D.C., in just 15 days. The pros would start out at the Shawnee Open on July 14 and 15, go to Washington for the U.S. Open, travel by train to Whitemarsh Valley CC for the Philadelphia Open, which would be played the next two days, and finish up at the Metropolitan Open in New York on July 27 and 28.

The U.S. Open was being held at the Columbia CC, so the USGA decided to have President Warren G. Harding hit a drive from the first tee to kick off the tournament on the first day.  Qualifying for the tournament was to be held on site on July 18-19 with the tournament being played on Wednesday the 20th and Thursday the 21st.

In early July President Harding notified the USGA that he would not be available to open the tournament on the 18th but he could do it on the 19th. The USGA then moved the tournament dates back one day.

The U.S. Open was now going to end on Friday and the Philadelphia Open was being pushed onto a Saturday and Sunday at Whitemarsh Valley. The WVCC members came out against giving up their course for Saturday and Sunday. The Club had already hosted the Women’s Golf Association of Philadelphia championship for five days in May and the Golf Association of Philadelphia men’s championship in June, which ended on a Saturday. They had now taken the Philadelphia Open on short notice when Pine Valley Golf Club, which was to have held it, had declined due to poor turf conditions.

Barnes, Jim (TGH) TTTAt the U.S. Open all of the 258 entries had to qualify. England’s Ted Ray, the defending champion, was not in the states. The field was divided with one half qualifying on Tuesday, and the other half on Wednesday. They played 18 holes and the low 40 plus ties each day were put into the starting field. 36 holes were played on Thursday and 36 again on Friday. Jim Barnes, who had been the professional at Whitemarsh Valley just four years before, put together a score of 289 that won by nine strokes over Walter Hagen and the host professional Fred McLeod. President Harding was on hand to present the trophy, along with Vice President Calvin Coolidge. That was a first, and has not happened since. First prize was $500 which was $50 less the top prize at the Shawnee Open.

The Philadelphia Open was played in August at WVCC. New York’s Willie Macfarlane, who would go on to win the 1925 U.S. Open, won by 13 strokes with a two-day total of 294. Whitemarsh Valley CC member Woody Platt finished second.

************************************

A Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Changed the Golf Industry!

“DID YOU KNOW”
A Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Changed the Golf Industry!

As a young man Joseph M. Braly lied about his age to join the Air Force, and served as a fighter pilot in World War II and the Korean War. After WWII he enrolled at Auburn University and bought a gas station in Auburn on the same day. At Auburn Braly earned degrees in aeronautical engineering and veterinary medicine.

After graduating from veterinary school in 1960 he moved to Lancaster and then Chester County, where he opened a small animal hospital. He joined the Kennett Square Golf & Country Club and as a golfer he became interested in the design of golf clubs.

In 1973 he designed the Console Sand Wedge, which had a wide concave sole and sold quite successfully. Soon after that he designed a golf club using titanium for the head, which was a first. In 1976 he created and patented a frequency-matching (FM) tool that revolutionized the steel golf shaft. The tool measured the flex in a shaft. With the shaft clamped in a vise the tip would be flipped and as it vibrated it would break a light beam which registered a reading. The stiffer the shaft the faster it vibrated and the higher the reading.

Before Joe Braly the golf shaft came in five flexes; from L for ladies to X for extra stiff. The tolerances for each flex were far from tight. The good golfers were able to sense that their irons did not all perform quite the same and had the ability to make adjustments for each club.

Braly came up with flex readings from1.0 to 9.9. A reading might be 6.1 or 7.6. Most golfers needed something from 5.0 to 8.0. Every time Dr. Braly tested a good players’ clubs, he would find several different flexes. He would ask the person which clubs he liked the best, and then he would reshaft all of the set with that flex.

Robertson, Tom 2The Ram Golf Company was the first to embrace Braly’s idea. Ram Golf salesman, Brian Doyle, recruited Tom Robertson, who was one of the best ball strikers in the Philadelphia PGA as a test pilot for the FM shaft. Braly was able to tell right away which shaft was the right one for Tom and whether his FM idea was any good. With the FM shafts in his bag Robertson qualified for the 1983 PGA Championship and the PGA of America Cup team for club professionals that traveled to Scotland to take on the British PGA club pros.

From there Dr. Braly took a tour-van out to the PGA Tour, which was also a new idea, to promote his invention. At the 1982 Western Open Braly reshafted Tom Weiskopf’s clubs and he went on to win that week. There were numerous success stories. Tom Watson was on the Ram Staff and used the FM system. Calvin Peete, the straightest driver on the PGA Tour, won all of his tournaments after switching to Ram and FM shafts. Other early disciples of frequency matching were Patty Sheehan and Jay Sigel. Today Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth use golf shafts based on Braly’s theories.

As a result of Joe Braly’s frequency matching idea the steel golf shaft is now offered by the shaft makers in many more flexes for each category, such as S100, S200, S300, S400 and S500. The Philadelphia pros and amateurs were always welcome at his lab. Some have called Braly the father of the modern steel shafted golf club. He died this past Memorial Day, 2015, at the age of 92 and was buried in Arlington Cemetery.

 

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑