Most followers of golf can easily name
some of the most influential golfers in the game in America. There are such legends as Francis Ouimet, Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and, more
recently, Tiger Woods (in a few years, Jordan Spieth
could become part of the conversation?).
All of these people have helped to grow
the game in one way or another.
But what about some prominent figures
that were not primarily players who helped make the game what it is today?
Many avid golfers would likely suggest
the names of course architects, who design and build the wonderful golfing
playgrounds -- iconic names from the golden age of American golf, such as
Donald Ross and A.W. Tillinghast. (Readers of MyPhillyGolf
may recall the 2014 article I wrote about Tillinghast: "A treasure
trove of golf writing by A.W. Tillinghast." Tilly was a long-time Philadelphian that
for years wrote weekly golf articles for two
different local newspapers.)
Now, I would like to focus on another
important person in the history of American golf, who also has ties to
Philadelphia and was neither a player nor an architect. I’ll get to his name in a moment.
on Jack Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus said of this man:
"Outside of my father and [his PGA golf instructor] Jack Grout, [he] was the
most influential person in my life."
"From the moment I met him, I could
tell he was in charge of the game of golf," continued Nicklaus. "Every time I had a question or a
problem about what was right, I always picked up the phone and placed a call to
[him]. I always knew I would get
the right answer, whether it was what I wanted to hear or not. We loved him."
C. Grant Spaeth,
then president of the United States Golf Association (USGA), said the following
about this man upon his death in 1991:
"One sentence cannot capture the extent of our reverence, our gratitude
or our loss, not simply because [he] was the overpowering force in golf for
four decades, but because he lived a principled and exemplary life of service."
This mystery man is no stranger to the
City of Brotherly Love. He went to
school in Philadelphia and lived worked here for several years, writing
hundreds of articles about golf for two local newspapers.
and PGA Tour
His name was Joseph C. Dey (pronounced "die"). Dey left his
indelible mark on the game as the Executive Director of the USGA for 34 years
and as the first commissioner of the PGA Tour, a post he held for five years.
An extensive bio
for Joe Dey is available on World Golf Hall of Fame
website, into which he was inducted in 1975. An excellent obituary
was written by Jaime Diaz and published in the New York Times on March 5, 1991. Another good read on Dey
is an extensive article
penned by former PGA Tour player Kermit Zarley.
I’ll add to the biography with some
details I have unearthed over the last couple of years. Dey was born
in Norfolk, Va., in 1907 and grew up in New Orleans. A 1921 Times-Picayune article states he attended McDonogh
No. 14 school for eighth grade.
A 1924 Times-Picayune article indicates he graduated from Warren Easton
High School that January and gave a commencement speech entitled "Education and
According to Ancestry.com, in 1924 he was still living in New Orleans
(1664 Robert) and his occupation listed as a reporter. His first foray in sports writing was while
he was still in high school, where he wrote a handful of articles (track and
field and tennis) in the summer of 1923 for the Times-Picayune.
lived and worked in Philadelphia
Although I do not know exactly when Dey moved to Philadelphia from New Orleans, he was a student
at Wharton during the 1925-6 school year and the College (now called the School
of Arts and Sciences) in 1927-8, according to the University of Pennsylvania
University Archives’ Timothy Horning, although he never received a degree. In 1930 he lived in a row house in
southwest Philadelphia (5642 Whitby Avenue). He was single, lived with his parents
and still listed his occupation as a reporter.
By 1935, Dey
was living in Brooklyn, N.Y., as he was hired by the USGA in 1934 to be their
executive secretary. In November
1952, his job title was changed to executive director, a position he held until
1968. The following year, he was
named the first commissioner of the newly-formed PGA
Tour, a tumultuous time right after the touring pros split from the PGA of
If records from my microfilm research
are accurate, Joe Dey first began writing in
Philadelphia on college sports for the Evening
Public Ledger in 1927. He also
wrote for the Philadelphia Golfer magazine starting in 1928, where he penned an
on the early history of the Cobb’s Creek Golf Course, which was about to host
the 1928 USGA Men’s U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
of golf writing in Philadelphia
His most extensive golf writing began
in January of 1930 for the Evening
Bulletin, a very popular newspaper in Philadelphia that had a long run
until it ceased operations in 1982.
His first article
was about proposed changes to the LuLu golf course.
Some of his most interesting articles
were in 1931, called "Golfing
Waterloos", where he wrote about prominent golf
holes in the area, each of which included a detailed drawing of the hole. Was it these entertaining "Waterloo"
articles that attracted the attention of the USGA? Perhaps. But more likely it came from his
excellent coverage of Bobby Jones earning golf’s Grand Slam in 1930 at
Merion. One of his first articles
on this historic tournament was on a new sprinkler system with an independent
Overall, Joe Dey
wrote hundreds of articles for the Evening
Bulletin, until his stay ended there in August 1933.
Philadelphia Bulletin archives
I have gathered all of these articles
from microfilm and they are presented in chronological order here:
Joe Dey was
truly a gift to the game of golf.
Bausch, creator of The Bausch Collection of golf course photo
galleries, is a chemistry professor at Villanova University. He also oversees the Friends
of Cobb’s Creek Golf Course blog.