Below is a list outlining my thoughts concerning the top ten forgotten heroes of golf.
Think about this the next time you play a round…how are the greens? Are they rolling true? Are the fairways in
good shape? Is the course good? If so, you can thank the members of the Golf Course Superintendents
Association of America. These are the guys behind the scenes keeping the course looking good and keeping our
rounds fun. The truest forgotten heroes in the golf world.
The golf course architects/designers are the ones who dreamt up these course that we play. They've strategically
placed all these god-forsaken hazards that we curse as they elevate our scores to unwanted levels. But in all
honesty, we want a challenging golf course…that is part of what makes the game so fun…overcoming a tough
challenge. Next time you play a course, make sure to do a little research on who designed the course and
appreciate the thought behind the beast you are about to play.
Hagen is often remembered for his lavish lifestyle as much as he is remembered for his great golf. Therefore,
someone might balk at the fact that I have put him on my list of forgotten heroes. But the part about Hagen that is
forgotten is not his lifestyle or his great play, it is the cultural impact he's had on the game. When he started
competing, professional golfers where looked down upon as second class citizens at the clubs they played at. The
amateur players were the ones respected. In fact, there were times when the pros weren't allowed in the
clubhouses at all, even to change into their playing attire. Then came Walter Hagen and his loud and boisterous
behavior was used in the context of showing the errors in the clubs ways and eventually forced a change in how
pros were treated. This in turn, led to a direct impact on the compensation of the pros. As the greats of today cash
their pay checks, they should all remember Walter Hagen.
One funny thing pertaining to golf occurred during my annual trip to Las Vegas for the beginning of March
Madness. One morning during breakfast, I asked a fellow golfer and a low-handicapper who his favorite golfer of all-
time was. His response was Tiger Woods. Not surprising and, in fact, a very reasonable answer. However, I
inquired why not Bobby Jones. He peered over at me with a very perplexed look and responded, “Huh, I’ve never
seen him play.” Immediately I responded with a chuckle and a laugh, given that Mr. Jones played in the 1920’s and
1930’s and I thought for sure he was making a joke. Nope, he wasn’t. He didn’t know who Bobby Jones was.
Frankly, I was shocked. Here was a very good golfer who had been playing for over 30 years, who additionally was
very well educated, Notre Dame grad/MBA from Texas, but he had no idea who Bobby Jones was. This is a mind-
blower to me and a real eye-opener. Bobby Jones a forgotten hero…I think so!
Francis Ouimet is perhaps the most important figure in American golf history, but not many people/golfers know who
he is. In fact, I watched the movie "The Greatest Game Ever Played" with a golfer friend of mine and at the
conclusion of the movie he said…"Hmmm, I wonder if that was based on a true story?"
I think golf many times misses the boat concerning bringing up its history and educating the masses concerning the
game. I remember distinctly when Annika played Colonial and all the times Michelle Wie played with the men. My
God did the media make a big deal about it, but what they didn't do was let you know that Babe Zaharias played in 3
PGA events in the 1950's and made a three cuts!!! Also, the media made a huge deal about the "Tiger Slam", but
failed to talk about the Babe's "Le Femme Slam" as I call it, winning all the female majors played in
1950. This stuff is too good to be ignored.
Both men were pioneers in getting the PGA Tour desegregated. Lee Elder was the first black man to play in the
Masters, while Charlie Sifford was the first black man to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Gary Player
was the presenter for Charlie Sifford at his Hall of Fame induction and Mr. Player also invited Lee Elder to play in
South African PGA Championship in 1971, this match was South Africa's first integrated golf event. Without
pioneers like these men, we might not have been able to see the greatness of players like Tiger Woods…however, it
is simply a shame that it took so long for this to happen. Elder teed it up in the 1975 Masters, Sifford became a tour
member in 1961.
In the latter half of the 1800s it was frowned upon to partake of any frivolous activity on God’s day of rest. The
Sunday (or Sabbath) Stick was used by avid golfers in Scotland. They would come out of Church with their walking
sticks quietly drop a ball on the village common, turn their stick round and practice their putting! Without these
rebellious souls, would we have championship Sunday in golf?
Casey Martin was born with a birth defect effecting his legs. His condition caused his right leg to wither to the point
where a simple fall could force him to have his limb amputated. For some reason, the PGA would not allow this
disabled golfer to ride in a cart. Instead they forced him to endure the extreme pain and bleeding that accompanied
him as he walked the 18 holes every round. Nevertheless, Casey persevered and continue to play the game he
loved. Eventually he won his case versus the PGA and was allowed to use a golf cart. Although, Mr. Martin never
won on the PGA tour he continues to be a hero to the many disabled people in the world today.
Alice Bauer, Patty Berg, Bettye Danoff, Helen Dettweiler, Marlene Bauer Hagge, Helen Hicks, Opal Hill, Betty
Jameson, Sally Sessions, Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork, Louise Suggs, and Babe Zaharias planned and organized
the golf tournaments, drafted the by-laws, supervised membership, set up the courses and much more. The
financial rewards were often nonexistent in the beginning. The dedication to the sport and the LPGA was very much
a "labor of love" for these 13 women. Today not much is mentioned about them, but without them Michelle Wie
Annika Sorenstam, and Nancy Lopez would not be household names. Additionally, the $60 million in prize money
award to LPGA golfers in 2008 would not have been there.