A tribute and look back at notable golf deaths of 2017
The golf world took a deep loss in 2016 with the passing of Arnold Palmer. He had been a pivotal and influential figure since the 1950s and we are just at the start of seeing how his absence will affect golf going forward. In 2017, we didn’t lose anyone with Palmer's immense clout, but international golf star Roberto De Vicenzo, administrators such as Sandy Tatum, Stuart Bloch and Hootie Johnson and smooth-speaking broadcaster Dick Enberg were among the golf-related personalities who passed away in the last year. Below are notable golf deaths, listed chronologically within their golf category.
Jane Mack, 72, Dec. 30, 2016: A four-time Virginia State Golf Association Women’s Amateur champion, she also won the association’s inaugural Women’s Stroke Play Championship in 1978.
Gail Sykes Clayton, 68, Jan. 20: Winner of the 1965 U.S. Girls’ Junior, the Schenectady, N.Y., native also won the 1968 national intercollegiate women’s individual title while playing for Odessa (Texas) College and the 1975 and 1976 Ohio Women’s State Amateur.
Betty Stanhope-Cole, 79, Jan. 27: With traces of Babe Zaharias in her blood, the Canadian excelled at numerous activities. In golf, she won the 1956 Canadian Junior Girls, 1957 Canadian Ladies’, and the 1967 Canadian Ladies’ Close. She won the Alberta Ladies Amateur 16 times, and 40 City of Edmonton Championships. Pro golf was not financially lucrative enough to play, but in 1980 she retired to help mentor young players on the Canadian Ladies’ Golf Association.
Simon Hobday, 76, March 2: A South African golfer whose reputation for being a free spirit seemed greater than his playing ability, Hobday won the 1994 U.S. Senior Open, four other Champions Tour events, plus six titles on the Sunshine Tour, including the 1971 South African Open. He also won twice on the European Tour.
Jackie Pung, 95, March 15: Undoubtedly Hawaii’s First Lady of Golf, Pung won the 1952 U.S. Women’s Amateur and went on to win five LPGA Tour events. She finished second in the 1953 U.S. Women’s Open, but in the 1957 National Open, after seemingly coming out the winner, she was disqualified for a scorecard error that still shocks the system.
Carole Jo Kabler, 78, March 16: The 1955 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion, she won several more premier amateur events before turning to a pro career starting in 1970. She won four times, playing under the married names Skala and Callison.
Sam Holmes, 19, March 17: A freshman golfer at Missouri State who lost his struggle with anxiety and depression. He was widely regarded as a generous person who thought of others first.
Ken Still, 82, March 19: Jack Nicklaus was among those to pay tribute to this three-time PGA Tour winner. Still’s lone Ryder Cup appearance was in Jack’s inaugural playing in 1969. “Not a single person who met Ken Still walked away with anything less than a smile,” Nicklaus wrote in a tweet.
John Paul Cain, 81, March 20: One of the best players to emerge from Texas Tech, he achieved late fame on the PGA Champions Tour. He played at least one senior event each year from 1986 to 1999, playing in 289 tournaments in all and earning $1.84 million in prize money with victories in the 1989 Greater Grand Rapids Open and the Ameritech Senior Open in 1994. The Houston stock broker was also a five-time club champion at Champions Golf Club in Houston.
Bob Brue, 82, April 19: One of Wisconsin’s most accomplished players—and lover of bucket hats—Brue was a club pro, instructor, tour player and even a trick-shot specialist. He played in more than 100 PGA Tour events, and was most visible as a Champions Tour player, where he earned more than $1 million. He held the first-round lead at the 1961 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills but faded to a tie for 22nd.
Pat Browne Jr., 84, April 20: He ranks with legendary Charles Boswell as the most accomplished blind golfers in history. Browne won the Guiding Eyes Classic 25 times, 23 U.S. Blind Golf Association national titles, 70 events worldwide and was given the Mary Bea Porter Award in 2007 for inspiring others to face similar challenges.
Cassandra Kirkland, 32, April 30: A member of the Ladies European Tour who died following a two-year affliction with lung cancer; she was not a smoker and had led a healthy lifestyle. The French player won the 2012 Sanya Ladies Open.
Roberto De Vicenzo, 94, June 1: I always thought of this Argentinian great as an international version of Sam Snead. Both played well late into their dotage, both were proficient winners, and both had magnificent and stylish swings. Roberto won the 1967 Open Championship, the inaugural U.S. Senior Open in 1980, and some 230 other tournaments, but, sadly, of course, is infamously linked to the scorecard error in the 1968 Masters that forced him to finish runner-up.
Charles Owens, 85, Sept. 7: What a marvel the 6-foot-3 Owens was on the course. The African-American golfer turned pro in 1967, played cross-handed, had a limp due to an Army injury, pioneered the 52-inch Slim Jim anchored putter, and became good late. Mastering the putter allowed him his most success on the Senior PGA Tour, with two victories in 1986. Because of that, he was my first assignment to do an instruction story for Golf Digest, with Bob Toski doing the analysis.
Tommy Horton, 76, Dec. 7: A two-time Ryder Cup player, he won eight times on the European Tour and 23 times on its senior tour. He also had an impact in course design, broadcasting and as a golf author.
These PGA of America members died, having served 50 or more years: Brian Boggess (Aug. 27), Joe Bonadio (Jan. 14), William (Billy) Brown (March 8), Ed Bucklin (May 23), Skinny Carter (May 26), Jim Chapman (Sept. 16), John Conley (Aug. 31), Harold Dore (Dec. 20, 2016, age 97), Michael (Mike) Dowaliby (Sept. 17), Bill (Cotton) Dunn (Oct. 7), Robert Foppe (Aug. 25), Robert Ford (Aug. 18), Ellsworth Franklin Jr. (Sept. 24), Rudolph Gimbrone (Sept. 21), Bart Haltom (July 19), George Hannon (Oct. 19), Thomas Hanson (Nov. 3), J.B. Harris (Jan. 23), Joseph Kotlarczyk (April 17), Michael Krak (Jan. 28), Tom Kuhn (June 22), George Lauretti (April 22), Michael Mancini (Dec. 24, 2016, age 102), John Mathias (Oct. 26), Richard McGuire (June 23), Jim Minana (Oct. 4), Sal Monte (June 28), Joe Moresco (March 25), Paul Mosca (Aug. 21), David Mose (Aug. 7), James (Jim) Orsi (July 30), Paul E. Parsons (April 26), Herman Peery Jr. (Jan. 21), Jerry Pepper (Aug. 5), Bob Pritchett (Oct. 20), Gary Rehfeld (Jan. 11), Melvin Rowe (Jan. 3), Kenneth Sample (Oct. 12), Gene Shreves (March 28), George Skomsky (June 4), Charles (Joe) Stoddard (June 27), Jack Tindale (Aug. 17), Lawrence (Larry) Tomasino (Nov. 2), Richard Walker (July 9), Robert (Bob) Watson (July 17), Joseph Wilson (June 18).
Edwin Pope, 88, Jan. 19: A south Florida institution, Pope was a sports columnist for the Miami Herald for more than 50 years; in golf he reported on the major events, including covering 63 Masters Tournaments. He was a classic example of a sports writer’s progression to nationally known columnist during a time when the newspaper business ruled supreme and columnists carried great clout. In 1989, Pope was the youngest winner of the Red Smith Award, given for lifetime achievement in sports journalism.
Ken Bowden, 86, March 4: American born but internationally raised and cultured, he became an influential golf journalist in the 1960s, beginning with Golf World UK in 1962. From 1969-1972 he was editor at Golf Digest, whereupon he became Jack Nicklaus’ collaborator on hundreds of articles and a dozen books and many translations. Jack said, Ken “became me in the printed word.” Bowden co-authored with Dick Aultman one of the finest golf books, “The Methods of Golf’s Masters.”
Don Ohlmeyer, 72, Sept. 10: A longtime sports producer at ABC and NBC during the 1970s and 1980s. He created the Skins Game during the Thanksgiving weekend, starting in 1983, and it was a hit for several years before the glut of Silly Season events it created ironically forced it off the air.
Dick Enberg, 82, Dec. 21: The versatile and beloved TV broadcaster who was honored in multiple sports worlds made his presence felt in golf, notably with NBC in the 1990s. Among his calls was Payne Stewart’s now iconic 1999 U.S. Open victory. With Phil Mickelson on the verge of being a father for the first time while trying to win, Enberg delivered a trademark “Oh, my!” after Stewart holed the winning putt.
Gary Chapman, 49, Jan. 26: Golf architect Jerry Matthews hired him as a full-time associate in March 1992 and they did many Michigan designs. He was made a partner in 2006 in the firm of Jerry Matthews Natural Course Design.
Brad Benz, 70, March 16: He learned golf design with Dick Phelps in Denver, becoming his design partner in 1973, mainly working on public courses in the Plains States and Texas. In 1983 he and Mike Poellot formed a design group out of California. In the 1990s Benz expanded his reach into international work.
Vicki Martz, 72, April 13: She spent most of her 35 years in design work with the Palmer Course Design group, where she started in 1985. She had been an American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) member since 2000. Among her main projects were The K Club, County Kildare, Ireland, the TPC of the Twin Cities in Blaine, Minn., and the Classic Club, Palm Desert, Calif.
Robert Moote, 92, May 29: A Fellow of the ASGCA, Moote’s first jobs were supervisory in nature, and in the late ‘50s he began a 20-year job as course superintendent at Oakdale G.&C.C. near Toronto. During that time he practiced course design with his brother David, who was president of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America in 1964. Robert and his son, David, would later work together at R.F. Moote and Associates.
Sid Puddicombe, 85, June 1: After an attempt to play professional hockey, he turned to greenkeeping in Saskatchewan, a career he led at a few locations from 1957 to 1988 when he opened Sid Puddicombe Associates in Nisku, Alberta. He was later joined by sons Grant, Mark and Tod.
Dominic Palombo, Jr., 94, July 21: After World War II, he earned a Penn State degree in landscape architecture. He designed parks and ball-fields, but in 1957 he began operation of a golf course and the design bug hit him starting in the 1970s, designing courses mainly in Pennsylvania.
David Gordon, 95, Oct. 20: Son of golf architect William F. Gordon, David was a bomber pilot in World War II who later went to work for his father and became a partner in 1953. Their courses were ranked by Golf Digest among America’s Toughest in the late 1960s and later in its 100 Greatest, including Saucon Valley. David was president of the ASGCA in 1959 and at his death was the longest-tenured member.
Roger Packard, 70, Oct. 14: The son of accomplished course architect Edward L. Packard, Roger joined his father’s design firm and eventually became the primary designer, making a large impact in the Midwest before Roger moved to China in the early 2000s.
P. Daniel Yates Jr., 98, May 12: Imagine seeing 78 consecutive Masters, beginning with the first in 1934. Atlanta businessman and amateur standout Yates did, and after becoming an Augusta National member in 1961 served on assorted committees, including as a moderator during tournament press conferences. His brother Charles and son Danny also were club members.
Frank Tatum, 96, June 22: “Sandy” Tatum starred at golf as the 1942 NCAA champion for Stanford before building a lawyer career in San Francisco. With that base, he launched into a hugely pivotal golf administrative career that included a U.S. Golf Association presidency and a strong perspective on U.S. Open course setups. His adept quote that the USGA wasn’t trying to “embarrass the best players in the world, we’re trying to identify them” after players were bludgeoned by tough Winged Foot in 1974 is easily a top 10 golf quote of all time. Even his architectural forays were a success: the Links at Spanish Bay in 1989; with Jim Summers they did three courses in California; with Johnny Miller on Bay Club StoneTree in Novato, Calif. (2000), and consulted with Tom Fazio on the design of The Preserve G.C., Carmel, Calif. (2000) and with Chris Gray on the redesign of TPC Harding Park in San Francisco (2003).
John Jacobs, 91, Jan. 13: A pioneer in every sense of the word, the two-time European Ryder Cup captain was instrumental in forming the European Tour but perhaps was better known for his brilliant teaching career and his thoughtful, philosophical and analytical beliefs about the game in all aspects. He played on the 1955 Ryder Cup team and went 2-0. He also teamed with David Pottage on a course design firm that did dozens of English courses.
John Anselmo, 96, July 13: The Huntington Beach, Calif.-based instructor worked with Tiger Woods from ages 10 to 17, at which point Butch Harmon stepped in. Anselmo utilized the tie-in to the golf champion by writing a book, “A-Game Golf: The Complete Starter Kit for Golfers from Tiger Woods’ Amateur Instructor.”
Bob Fischer, 68, Feb. 12: A Southern California Golf Association board member and member of the Los Angeles Country Club, Fischer served as chair of the Rules & Competitions department starting in 2014 and was heavily involved in the Hall of Fame and Junior departments. He was active in the USGA Junior Amateur committee as well.
Bill Meadows, 82, Feb. 28: He established the garden-center giant Meadows Farms Nurseries in 1960 and joined up with Bill Ward to design Meadows Farms Golf Course in Locust Grove, Va.
Mark Laesch, 62, March 4: The founder of Golfstat in 1984, he changed the game for college golf with his focus on live scoring, rankings and detailed analysis of players’ games. College golf had never been viewed so closely. His family business had been a dairy store empire in central Illinois; I grew up on Laesch Dairy Vitamin D milk in Bloomington, Ill.; their chocolate milk was awesome.
Don Samatulski, 66, March 17: A longtime club professional, he was an accomplished player who served as assistant coach at Post University and at Sacred Heart University starting in 2015.
Ross Randall, 71, April 21: He coached the Kansas University men’s golf team for 28 years from 1979 to 2007, guiding seven KU teams to the NCAA Championships and 19 to NCAA Regionals. Randall coached five All-Americans with the Jayhawks, and his 27 all-conference selections include 2007 graduate and PGA Tour player Gary Woodland.
Dr. David Kovach, 73, June 28: A past member of the Virginia State Golf Association Board of Directors and a member of the selection committee for the Virginia Golf Hall of Fame.
Patricia Bridges, 95, Aug. 5: Considered the matriarch of Australian golf, her name adorns the trophy for the Women’s Australian Open. She was the only life member of Golf Australia, the governing body for golf in the country.
Glen Campbell, 81, Aug. 8: The country music superstar hosted and lent his name to the Glen Campbell Los Angeles Open from 1971 to 1983 during the heyday of celebrity hosts.
Jerry Lewis, 91, Aug. 20: The entertainer was not above using golf for gags, and his 1953 movie "The Caddy" featured cameos by Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Julius Boros.
Louise Solheim, 99, July 7: The wife of Ping Golf founder Karsten Solheim, she made her own mark with her ability to be a sounding board for anyone seeking advice and for her devotion to the success of the Solheim Cup.
William (Hootie) Johnson, 86, July 14: A banker in South Carolina by trade, he was the fifth of seven chairmen in the history of Augusta National, a position that allowed him to set the direction of the Masters from 1998 to 2006. He oversaw improvements to the course and enhanced television viewing. He notably rebuffed pressure in the early 2000s to admit female members to the club, which eventually happened in 2012. A close friend of Augusta cofounder Clifford Roberts, Johnson was invited to join the club in 1968.
Lowell M. Schulman, 91, Oct. 8: An emeritus member of the Metropolitan Golf Association Foundation Board of Directors. The real-estate developer was also a golf collector and member of the USGA Museum Committee.
Christopher S. Thomas, 54, Oct. 24: A native of Fullerton, Calif., he had a love for football and golf, and used the latter in his role as the Executive Director for the Northern California PGA Section for the last 15 years. Previously he had served with the California Interscholastic Federation. He led the Northern California PGA with an outgoing personality and courteous manner. Lowell M. Schulman, 91, Oct. 8: An emeritus member of the Metropolitan Golf Association Foundation Board of Directors. The real-estate developer was also a golf collector and member of the USGA Museum Committee.
Stuart F. Bloch, 84, Oct. 29: President of the USGA in 1992 and 1993, he urged better environmental stewardship. He was also active on numerous USGA committees, chaired the Championship Committee and the Implements and Ball Committee, and he was also a member of the International Team Selection Committee.
R.J. Harper, 61, Nov. 8: The head of golf operations at Pebble Beach, he progressed from a course marshal there to head pro during the 1992 U.S. Open to championship director of the 2000 U.S. Open to general chairman for the 2010 and 2019 Opens. He also was the executive vice president of golf and retail at Pebble Beach Company and helped start AT&T Junior Golf on the Monterey Peninsula.
Carol McCue, 94, Dec. 16: A longtime executive with the Chicago District Golf Association and member of the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame. See a remembrance of her in my Golf Writers from the Heart section.
Dave Musgrove, 74, Feb. 13: One of the European Tour’s stalwart loopers, he carried for three major winners with Seve Ballesteros (1979 Open Ch.), Sandy Lyle (1985 Open Ch., 1988 Masters), and Lee Janzen (1998 U.S. Open). He came close to another with Tom Watson at the 1991 Masters. In 2001 Musgrove caddied in his 40th consecutive Open Championship, with Janzen.
Greg Sheridan, 63, Nov. 22: The well-liked and respected bagman mainly worked the LPGA Tour for 35 years and carried for Kathy Whitworth, Beth Daniel and Natalie Gulbis, for whom he worked when she won her only tour event in the 2007 Evian Masters.
Marshall (Chick) Jacobs, 94, June 16: In a tragedy upon a tragedy, Mr. Jacobs died while attending Round 2 of the U.S. Open in Erin, Wis., in the arms of his son, Bill. Only three days earlier, Marshall Jacobs’ wife of 68 years, Lucille, had died from complications from a broken hip.
Charles (Chuck) Austin, 68, July 7: A 27-year tournament volunteer at the John Deere Classic, he was killed in an accident involving a JD Gator while helping prepare for the classic’s playing the following week.