47th GHS meeting adds new title, new directions

World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Fla.

Oct. 11-13, 2018
  “If you love golf, you must visit.”

So says Gary Player about the World Golf Hall of Fame and the World Golf Village in St. Johns County, Fla., near St. Augustine. And he’s right.

   Meeting host and GHS President Jim Jeselnick worked very hard with organizers to prepare a solid show and all indications are it was a fine success.

   The World Golf Village is spacious, green, and well designed around a central pond with a tantalizing golf green set in the middle. For a few dollars, visitors can take a few shots a putting a ball on the green, the closest to the pin each day winning a brick, etched with his/her name, that will join many hundreds of others along the esplanade that circles the pond. That walk, by the way, seemed to be a favorite with guests for morning walks.

  Standing tall over everything is the 10-story tower of the Hall of Fame, a notable landmark from nearly every corner of this huge property, with its golf courses, condos, and our host hotel the World Golf Renaissance Resort.

  Here are some notes from our 2018 meeting and trade show.

Formal presentations

Dr. Tony Parker, left, historian for the World Golf Hall of Fame, and Dr. Gary Wiren, gave presentations on the history of the golf bag and the golf ball. Tops in their respective fields, their presentations were highlighted by amusing personal anecdotes and insights hard to find from any other source.

  History of the golf bag with Dr. Tony Parker

   Parker is the historian for the World Golf Hall of Fame and has done a marvelous job with the exhibits, but more on that in a bit. His presentation with us on Friday morning was brief, but illuminating as he covered major steps in the evolution of our ubiquitous club holder from a simple canvas covering to the over-the-top giant owned by Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield), real estate king and beloved pain-in-the-behind from the movie Caddy Shack. We plan to share Parker’s presentation in a future issue of The Golf.  

  History of the golf ball with Dr. Gary Wiren

   If anyone could follow Parker’s fine presentation, it was Dr. Gary Wiren, one of the country’s foremost golf teachers, golf historians, and collectors. Wiren, an accomplished speaker, drew upon his own extensive collection of balls to showcase the near-infinite variety of balls down through ages, from ancient wooden balls, through featheries, gutta percha, early rubber cores and our modern examples. Golf balls have been extensively researched over the years and dozens of books are available on their history. Wiren did not try to overreach, given the depth of the subject, rather presenting a general overview with well-chosen photographs of the rare and unusual from his own collection. It was a brilliant talk, spiced with anecdotes from his golf and collecting career. 

Tour of the World Golf Hall of Fame

   Dr. Tony Parker treated GCS guests to a tour of the hall on Thursday at 2 p.m. From the first two rooms devoted to Bob Hope, right through to the hall of champions, the exhibits were engaging, never dull. A replica of the Swilcan Bridge stands near an artificial grass putting green where visitors might try an old putter with a replica gutty ball. From there one passes a wonderful display of long noses of the first order. Everything, of course, is reinforced with signs and plaques of informative description for visitors to read as much or as little as they would like of the history and background on the clubs and other artifacts. Other rooms are devoted to women and African American players, to the LPGA and to historic figures such as Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen. One may hit a ball into a screen to retrieve swing speed, ball speed and such. The finale is a visit through the Hall of Fame, each recent honoree depicted with artifacts from his/her life. All Hall of Famers are awarded a locker such as one might see in a locker room. One after another, each locker offers a look at the golfer’s life through books, clubs, shoes, bags, and photographs. Parker’s deep knowledge of every golfer and artifact in the Hall was impressive. As a tour guide, none could have been better, and we were the luckier for it.

Hall of Fame lockers contain memorabilia and personal artifacts from each person honored in the exhibit. Dozens are on display.
Painted in 1925 by Seth Steward, Walter Hagen is shown enjoying the great outdoors, possibly near his beloved home in Cadillac, Mich. One of many paintings in the Hall of Fame Museum.

PBA Auction

   Early Thursday evening, PBA conducted an auction that saw energetic trading on several items. Up for auction were copies of The Boy’s Life Bobby Jonesand Down the Fairway, both signed by both OB Keeler and Bobby Jones. Nearly 65% of items up for auction sold, with the big sale of the evening a $15,000 hammer price for a rare copy of The National Golf Links of America, by CB Macdonald.

A selection of silver and other small items at the PBA auction. Rare books were the featured items, but these and some some golf clubs were on hand, too.

The General Meeting

   On Friday morning President Jeselnick told the assembled members that our new name, the Golf Heritage Society, is meant to reflect how our group has changed over the years to embrace, not just collectors, but historians, writers, archivists, and other societies as well. New directions are being implemented to encourage more memberships from these groups as well as from younger segments of society. Jim Davis, editor of The Golf, spoke of the launch of the new magazine, with its new look and features, but with many connections that honor The Bulletin. He also said that work on a new website continues and it is hoped to be completed by the first of the year, with a word-searchable archive of past magazines and newsletters. Even Golfiannamagazine, produced for several years by former Bulletineditor Bud Dufner, may be placed on the website.

   Frank Cantrel Jr. spoke of new efforts on the dues structure, efforts to streamline the process and to include more amenable rates for international members, young members, and sponsorship levels as well.

   Executive Director Pete Georgiady spoke about his job, what it entails and invited all members to contact him with any and all questions about their memberships and the Society. He’s ready to help and is very good at it.

   Vice President Bern Bernacki spoke about his initiatives with the First Tee, an organization undergoing some changes, but which continues on local levels to enjoy a close and productive relationship with the GHS.

  All in all, good things are happening, so stay tuned, stay involved, and please contact your Board members with questions you may have.

The GCS Championship

   Bill Kreischer was the 2018 Open division winner with a 78 on a Squire and Slammer golf course that played long and with grainy, but rather fast, greens. Bobby Grace was second with an 80, followed by Jack Crosby in third with 84. Scott Staudacher took the Open net title with 75 (scorecard playoff), followed by Ross Snellings with 75, and Gary Wiren with a net 88. Jim Jeselnick was the Statesman division winner with a 92. Steve Carney took the Senior division title with a 78. In the Scramble division, it was Ron Lyons, Chris Ream, Rives McBee, and John Ausen in first place with a 69 (scorecard playoff) over Russ Fisher, Joe DeWulf, and Bill Reed. Dick McDonough took honors in the steel division and Gillian Alexander won the ladies title.

Click here for a PDF of the complete results.

Bill Kreischer, right, won the Open division of the 2018 GCS championship with a 78. Bobby Grace, left, came in second with an 84. It was not an easy round with tough greens and some long seconds, plus there was that gnarly Bermuda around the greens.
GHS Banquet

The Banquet

   The large and spacious banquet hall at the Renaissance Resort was the perfect spot to host this most agreeable night. It is one of the highlights of the annual meeting and this one did not disappoint. The night began with drinks and socializing on the outdoor patio of the resort. Conversations, laughter, and serious golf talk moved easily into the hall where members found their tables and continued with lively talk until brought to order by Jim Jeselnick who announced honorees for GHS awards.

   The Founders Award was accepted by Barbara Crist in honor of her late husband, Lee, known to all GCSers as “Mr. Tee.” Mr. Crist’s extraordinary fascination for the tee in all its many shapes, sizes, and materials, was shared through The Bulletin, posters, and other publications. 

   A new award, the Harris-Wolke Award, honoring a passion for golf collecting, generosity of spirit and fellowship exemplified by the late Richie Harris and Eric Wolke, was awarded posthumously to Mr. Sonny Chappie. A long-time GCS member, Mr. Chappie was a familiar site at trade shows and always happy to share his deep knowledge of antique golf club repair and maintenance.

  The evening was then given over to our keynote speakers, former PGA Commissioner Deane Beman, and golf course architect, Bobby Weed Jr.

   Beman took us on tour of his career from top amateur and professional to his days and accomplishments as tour director – and these are many and far reaching. In 1953, at 15 years old he played an exhibition round with Ben Hogan, a round that followed the great man’s three Major victories that year.

   As tour commissioner, he was instrumental in securing more prize money for the players and retirement benefits; in establishing the importance of tournament volunteers; in establishing the enormous charitable contributions that tournaments now raise (some $2.6 billion to date); in changing television partnerships; broadcasting rights; attracting corporate sponsorships; and in changing the name of the tour from the Players Tournament Association to the PGA Tour. Oh, by the way, he was also instrumental in bringing the World Golf Hall of Fame to its location near St. Augustine.

   As a player, Beman has four professional victories, nine amateur victories, and has competed in all four majors, missing a playoff in the 1969 U.S. Open by only one shot.

   Golf architect Bobby Weed Jr. was no less mesmerizing in his talk about what it is to build a golf course. The Squire & Slammer at the WGHoF is his work. He credited working with Pete Dye and Deane Beman as highlights of his career. By and large, building a course is not a glamorous business, he said. One of the primary ingredients in a good course is not so much the land, important as that might be, but in the passion and commitment from the course’s owner. Length, he said, should not be the primary factor in a new course, rather the enjoyment from playing it. About 1 percent of all golfers, he said, those at the top, control the game. But fewer than 18 percent of all golfers have established handicaps. Shorter courses with smaller greens lead to faster play, he told us.

Deane Beman, left, and Bobby Weed Jr. were the keynote speakers at the 2018 AGM banquet. Eloquent speakers both, they held the audience with tales of business and architecture at the highest levels of golf. Beman’s accomplishments, both as a player and as PGA Tour commissioner, are many. Weed provided some insight into the life of a working golf architect – “it’s not glamorous” – and said his focus is on building courses that are fun to play for all skill levels.

Auction at the Banquet

Two paintings and a golf-themed slot machine raised more than $2000 for GHS scholarship and new membership and marketing efforts.

GHS President Jim Jeselnick, left, presented the Founders Award to Barbara Crist in honor of her late husband, Lee. Far right, John Gates awarded several cash prizes for competitors in the golf competition.

Trade Show

   I did not count the tables, there were too many. It was a large room and it was filled. Visitors to the WGHoF and the Celebration of Golf that Saturday came by, too, not in great numbers, but it was good to see members of the public wandering among the tables, eyes wide at the number and variety of golfing memorabilia and collectibles. You know the scene, you have been there. It was a brisk and energetic day. There may have been those who had a quiet day of it, but those with whom I spoke were very happy with the day’s proceedings and the sales that came along with it.

Trade show exhibitors ready their tables for a day of buy, selling, trading and swapping yarns with old friends.
Artist Bob Fletcher sculpted an exquisitely detailed chess set with historic golfers from both a British and an American team. Above are Old Tom, Joyce Wethered, Young Tom, and Harry Vardon.

   It was a show that left you breathless, from the first day’s warm-up golf round (thank you Bill Reed!) to the Hall of Fame, the first-class presenters, banquet and trade show. It all went much too fast. It’s got my sights set for Cleveland in 2019. The dates are in September and we’ll put that right up top when it’s finalized. 

   Really, if you have not been to an annual meeting and trade show lately, you must come!

The sun sets on the World Golf Hall of Fame and the 2018 Annual General Meeting of the Golf Heritage Society.