It was everything you could ask for and much more. The GHS celebrated its 50th anniversary, delayed a year by Covid, with all the familiar activities and the added attraction of a memorable visit to Latrobe Country Club where friends of Arnold Palmer welcomed us with open arms.
(Click here for a video of the Latrobe CC golf outing at the 2021 convention, produced by golf media personality Randy Tantlinger.)
This had been a long-anticipated convention for the GHS. Organizers, particularly the hard-working Bob Muir, seemed to have everything in place. Signs, banners, speakers, golf at Latrobe CC… it was all in place. Landing at the DoubleTree Inn safely after a long day traveling was a good start. Now all one had to do was go with the flow.
The show began with registration on Wednesday, an early-bird golf outing, room trading and a PBA auction. Those who arrived early enough to enjoy the golf outing organized by Bill Reed at the Totteridge Golf Club said it was a good one. Lovely golf course and some good rounds turned in, none better than Eddie Woolwine from Virginia who took top honors.
Late on Wednesday, the PBA auction took place with auctioneer Chris Dunlop at the podium. Dozens of books were on the table for viewing during the day and sales were brisk for favored items.
Stephen Proctor and Young Tom Morris
Thursday morning began with a presentation by Stephen Proctor, author of Monarch of the Green, who treated us to a capital presentation on golf history as it revolved, and evolved, around the ascendancy of Tommy Morris, the early golfing prodigy and son of the Old Man of Golf, Tom Morris.
“Most baseball fans know of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, but how many know of John Ball and JH Taylor?” he asked. The two golfers were just as important to their sport as Ruth and Gehrig to baseball, but they are not well known. Proctor set about to change that with regard to another early golfer.
There were certain transcendent early golfers such as Young Tom whose skill and prowess on the links popularized the sport in the early going. Proctor wanted to know more. Blessed with a photographic memory, he began to read. Some 250 books of golf history later, he knew he wanted to tell the story of Young Tom as golf’s first superstar. Monarch of the Green admirably lays it all out, the while setting this young man squarely in the context of golf’s growth.
Proctor, a retired newspaper managing editor, was happy to talk about his book, but was equally at home during the succeeding Q&A, answering questions about his research, his affinity for Bernard Darwin, and his progress toward a second book on golf’s history following the Young Tom era.
Rand Jerris and the new USGA Museum in Pinehurst, N.C.
Immediately following Proctor, Rand Jerris, senior managing director of public services for the USGA, spoke about the USGA’s newest project, the building of a new museum in Pinehurst, N.C. With slides, photos and a wealth of information, Jerris explained how the new 16,000-square-foot museum will complement the Association’s current 30,000-square-foot museum space in Far Hills, N.J. Exhibits will rotate from one to the other. The new museum is to have three galleries.
Latrobe Country Club – GHS Golf Outing
Following Jerris’s presentation, the golfers in the group scurried away for the 40-minute drive to Latrobe CC and a day spent in the immortal presence of Arnold Palmer. Do not doubt, that good man may have passed away in 2016, but he is most assuredly ever-present at Latrobe.
It was a day immaculately planned and with help from several of Palmer’s close Latrobe associates, most notably the smiling and energetic John Rusbosin. Rusbosin, a retired Latrobe-area furniture dealer, who had become a good friend of Arnie’s and is part of a group who call themselves “Arnie’s Amigos.” They are pleased to carry on the Palmer Spirit of goodwill and charitable work so characteristic of the charismatic Mr. Palmer.
Carts were in place, names assigned, gift bags handed out and as nervous golfers prepared for a round on Arnie’s course, there was time to look into the locker room, perhaps a photo near Arnie’s locker, or his dad’s, Deacon, with a lock on it. (We were told it had been locked since the elder Palmer passed away and had not been opened since.) Others had photos taken on or around Arnie’s famous tractor, parked near the first tee. Surely the most photographed tractor in the world.
Latrobe’s golf professional Matt Pellis made the usual announcements and then something unusual – the splendidly dressed members of the Greater Latrobe School District Wildcat Band marched into place before the pro shop and in front of the assembled golfers played, with never a sour note, the National Anthem and the school song, which Arnie, an alumnus, knew so well.
Inspired by this beginning how could a round on Arnie’s home course fail to please? With The King ever in mind, one worked his/her way around the course with one thought for Arnie and another for the shot at hand. No matter that par was never threatened, Arnie had already taken care of that… many times. It was enough to simply enjoy a truly happy golfing ground.
Following the round, scores tallied, golfers and guests enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and drinks capped off in the crowded dining room with a few words from Arnie’s close family and friends, among them Doc Giffin (Arnie’s longtime assistant who said he and Arnie would often share “de-briefings” after work, Arnie would make the drinks “..and he made them strong!”); Sandra Palmer (Arnie’s sister) – “It warms my heart to see all of you. I welcome you to Latrobe and you are all welcome back.”); and Jim Rutkowski, a good friend of Arnie’s, who shared a story or two. It was all admirably emceed by Bill Hillgrove, the famed former play-by-play announcer of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Friday – General Membership Meeting and Presentations
At the general membership meeting, President Bern Bernacki outlined the Society’s efforts in promotion and marketing, improved social media presence, and an outreach effort through Zoom presentations with expert speakers that are available to the entire membership. He thanked Frank Cantrel Jr., Bob Gettis, George Petro, and Jim Davis for their combined communication and marketing efforts and asked Jim Jeselnick to present current nominations for Board roles and officers.
At-Large Directors Bob Gettis and Bill Reed are leaving as their terms of office end. Bob Muir has agreed to come on as vice president, so his At-Large seat is now open. Connor Lewis was appointed to fill the role left vacant with the passing of Dick McDonough in Region 3. Glenn Haueisen was appointed to fill the role vacated by Mike Sloan in Region 4 when he took on the treasurer’s role. And in Region 9, Taba Dale was appointed to fill a vacant directorship. At-Large Director Gillian Alexander’s term ends with 2021, as does Bill Robertson’s term in Region 10. The appointments for Regions 3, 4, and 9 were confirmed with a majority vote of the member’s present. Jeselnick asked the membership for nominations to fill the vacant At-Large positions.
With business done, the room was given over to Frank Cantrel Jr. who moderated an artist’s symposium with Steph Moraca, Keith Campbell, and Bob Fletcher. Easels off the side displayed several of their works for reference. Cantrel asked about their various styles, the mediums in which they prefer to work, and whether they prefer indoor, studio, work or outdoor work. They agreed that watercolor is a difficult medium, though Campbell does give it a go, in tandem with pastels. He enjoys lighthearted, smaller works that are often given as gifts. Moraca prefers oil and acrylic on canvas with a preference for landscapes. “There is something about painting what you can see directly in front of you,” she said.
Fletcher, who also sculpts, said the commission work is the toughest in that the artist must try to completely meet the expectations of the client.
Light is everything, they all agreed.
Most start small, with sketches, then work up until they are satisfied with the result. It’s not unusual to get somewhat along, then destroy the work to that point should it fail to satisfy.
For those who wish to buy a piece of golf art, the advice is simple: buy what you like. “If you like it, if something about it moves you in some way, then go for it,” Fletcher said. “There is a difference between collecting high end art for investment and buying something for sheer enjoyment..”
“A person has to have a connection to the art in some way,” Moraca added. “Besides the art itself, where will it be displayed and will the person you live with like it too.”
Prices for art can vary based on demand and the requested piece, the detail that is required to meet the buyer’s expectation. An artist can not always expect to be compensated for his/her time in the creation process. When asked how long it took him to paint a work featuring Jack Nicklaus, Fletcher answered, “My entire life.” It was his way of saying it took a lifetime of experience, hard work and patience to acquire the skills and perspective, necessary to create such a work, or any work.
Club Collector Workshop – Wedges
Noted putter expert Bobby Grace hosted this one, with panelists Bob Georgiade, Gary Wyckhoff, Tom Irving, and Byron Elder. Laid out on two tables in front of the panel were a couple of dozen clubs representing almost the entire history of the wedge, beginning with early wood shafted niblicks, through the initial experimentations with flanges and on into various patent and important designs in the steel shafted era. Some of the early models, particularly hickory-shafted Stewarts, are quite rare, Tom Irving possessing one. Bobby Grace said he intended to photograph the clubs individually for a later presentation, together with such information as maker, degree of importance to the evolution of the club, scarcity and value. This writer looks forward to the result of that project as such a gathering of wedges may never again be seen in one place.
Friday’s last presentation featured author Chris Rodell who shared stories from his book, Arnold Palmer, Homespun Stories of the King. He spoke in an easy, casual manner, punctuated with selfless humor, about his life in Latrobe, meeting Palmer and becoming a go-to interviewer of The King for a variety of golf publications. The book is a collection of stories about Palmer from various individuals, from local residents to golfing VIPs and celebrities. The common thread was Palmer’s unfeigned humility, his genuine enjoyment in helping others, and a hometown loyalty that never left him, not even when millions in the bank meant he could choose any lifestyle he wanted. In Latrobe, he had everything he wanted.
Author and researcher, Steven Schlossman, completed the presentation lineup with a Sunday seminar on Pittsburgh’s Sam Parks, a top local golfer who won the U.S. Open in 1935.
With President Bernacki presiding, the evening was a pleasant pastime in goodwill, and camaraderie from the announcement of several honors to a keynote from legendary golf professional Bob Ford. (Thanks goodness the golf awards were handed out the night before!)
To begin with, the 2021 Harris-Wolke Award was presented to John Capers III, who could not be at the meeting, but of whom Bill Reed spoke with some authority, noting Caper’s bullish support of the GHS for each year of its 50, now 51, years.
Two Golden Quill awards were given for excellence in our quarterly publication – the 2020 award to Breck Speed for his two-part article on the Hackbarth Brothers; and the 2021 award to Mel Lucas for his article on “The Golf Hole.”
A special Lifetime Golden Quill was presented to Kirsten McDonough on behalf of her late husband, Dick, whose various articles in The Bulletin and The Golf formed a significant body of informed and enlightening work on early American golf illustrators and on early Dutch paintings on colf. Dick and Kirsten’s daughter, Kara, also was present to accept the award.
2021 Hall of Fame inductees included Pete Georgiady, Dr. Michael Hurdzan, Glenn Moore, and Bill Reed. Georgiady summed up the feelings for most of us when he stated that, for him, the award was a confirmation of what he had always believed and felt – that the GCS/GHS is a family, a family with shared values, passions, and interests that transcend our geographic boundaries.
Mr. Ford’s keynote address was brief, including a few stories about his work as professional for both Oakmont and Seminole and his feelings of awe whenever he was called upon to play with Arnold Palmer.
However, said Mr. Ford, the first professional he ever saw striping balls on the practice range, to a sound of raw power that he had never before heard when someone hit a golf ball, was what inspired him to become a professional. That man was in our audience, and Rives McBee’s name was heard to a solid round of applause and appreciation.
Carole Semple Thompson, the great amateur and Curtis Cup player, was in the audience, too, as she had brought along a few memories for the Society’s auction. She is closely associated with Allegheny Country Club in Sewickley, Pa. Both she (2003) and Ford (2017) are recipients of the Bob Jones Award given by the USGA in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf.
The evening’s auction, by the way, thanks to gifts of artwork and golf collectibles, raised a few thousand dollars for the Society. Thank you to all the donors and bidders!
A night to remember.
The Trade Show
This year’s edition featured 90 exhibitors and got off to a roaring start on Saturday morning with an energy not seen these many years. A extra effort by show organizers to publicize the event resulted in a pleasing traffic from public show-goers eager to find a treasure of some kind, or learn more about something they already possessed. Authors Rodell and Curt Sampson had books to offer. Pete Georgiady, too, had his invaluable Value Guides on hand along with some of his other many works. The Golf Auction, the presenting sponsor of the GHS National Convention, had a table with a variety of collectibles. Perhaps no collectible in the room was more fetching to the eye than the solid silver Masters presentation trophy displayed by George Petro. This large replica of the Augusta National clubhouse was an eye-opener among many in that great trading room. (You can catch a glimpse of it below in the photo with Bob Muir.)
Our membership owes a solid round of thanks to the convention chairman Bob Muir, and to Bern Bernacki, Pete Georgiady, Jim Jeselnick, Bob Gettis, John Rusbosin and so many other organizers who did a remarkable job of preparing such an engaging and rewarding 50th Anniversary celebration. Pairing all that with a visit to Latrobe was a stroke of genius. It’s easy to imagine Arnie giving two big thumbs up.