Joe Dey -- USGA Photo 
Joe Dey: A giant of golf with a legacy in Philadelphia

By Joe Bausch
Published January 20, 2016

The Golden Era of Philadelphia Golf as Written by A

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.


Influence 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.


USGA 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 Life."  According to, 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.


He 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 America.


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 informative article 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.


Legacy 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 water supply.


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 articles


Joe Dey was truly a gift to the game of golf.


Joe 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.




Send to a friend
1 Comment   |   0 Pending   |   Add a Comment  
Joseph Bausch[2/18/2016 2:32:41 PM]
I hope you enjoyed the article.
  About MyPhillyGolf
  Blog Archives
Special Features
  Advertise with Us
  Course Finder
Links to Other Golf Sites
  Philly Publinks
  Philadelphia PGA
   © 2024 All Rights Reserved
   Privacy Policy | Terms of UseDeveloped by AppNet Solutions