The USGA will bestow its highest honor, the Bob Jones Award, on Dennis Walters of Jupiter, Fla., at a ceremony on June 13, 2018, one of the highlights of U.S. Open Championship week in Southampton, N.Y.
Presented annually since 1955, the Bob Jones Award recognizes an individual who demonstrates the spirit, personal character and respect for the game exhibited by Jones, winner of nine USGA championships.
Known for his never-say-quit attitude, Walters turned the tragedy of being paralyzed from the waist down at age 24 from a golf-cart accident into a personal mission to teach golf and life lessons to a worldwide audience. His story continues to inspire fans of all backgrounds through the countless professional talks and trick-shot shows he has conducted since 1977.
Dennis grew up along the New Jersey shore and honed his game at Jumping Brook Country Club in Neptune. Through his hard work and determination, he developed into the top junior player in the state. In 1967, at the age of 17, Walters won the New Jersey Junior Championship, Caddie Championship and Public Links Junior Championship, an unprecedented triple crown. Dennis was the first and only player to achieve this accomplishment.
He attended North Texas State on a golf scholarship and finished 11th in the 1971 U.S. Amateur Championship. He had reached the final stage of the PGA Tour’s Qualifying School when the accident changed his life.
Determined to return to the game he loved, Walters started hitting golf shots from his wheelchair. A friend created a mounted swivel seat on the passenger side of a golf cart that allowed him to get back on the course again. In developing this unique way to play, Walters showed that it was possible to play golf even if one has a severe disability.
In the last five decades, Walters has traveled more than 3 million miles and has made more than 3,000 appearances to energize and motivate audiences in all 50 states, Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom – many of them for enthusiastic junior golfers and those with disabilities. He has performed in New Jersey annually always giving back and always delivering his message.
Walters uses his personal experience to challenge each person he encounters to do something in their life that they thought impossible. His message is simple and profound: with hard work, dedication and perseverance, you can achieve almost anything.
“I have been on tour for 41 years, just not the tour I imagined,” Walters said. “I started this path for myself as a mechanism to cope with what I considered to be a hopeless situation. I never knew what I could accomplish with my show or how many people it would reach. I made up my mind and was determined to do whatever I could to still make golf my career and a part of my everyday life. What I didn’t know was how it would extend past the golf community to show others what is possible under almost impossible odds.”
Congratulations Dennis. You have made all associated with New Jersey golf proud.
“Is it worth our trouble to have to listen to "patrons" for four days? The answer is yes. The alternative would be allowing CBS to control the content. Viacom, which owns CBS, doesn't care about golf. The Augusta National people care about golf.”
This week is my favorite week of the year to watch golf. If you love golf and you have never been to The Masters Tournament, you need to go. Herb Wind designated The Masters like opening day at so many ball parks around the country. There are so many things that Augusta National Golf Club does right in presenting the tournament both in person and on television.
Let’s start with in person. The parking is free and it’s an easy walk to the course. The concession prices are incredibly reasonable. The first time I went through the line I grabbed an egg salad sandwich and a diet Coke. The cashier said that’ll be $3. I said that I had the drink along with the sandwich and she again said that’ll be $3. So OK, that’s nice.
There are so many wonderful viewing areas some with spectator stand seating some with natural gradual slopes such as the 18th green. Speaking of the 18th green it’s so cool to see patrons place their seat near that green in the early morning and go spectate at other parts of the course. No one touches or moves that seat and the patron returns to it later in the day.
There’s no “flotsam and jetsam” (as Frank used to call it) in the fairways, only the player and caddie. And the caddie wears the club uniform of a white jumpsuit and Augusta National Golf Club hat. It’s pure golf with virtually no distractions. No crazies yelling stupid utterances such as … well you know.
The club has total control.
Each year the club makes improvements and keeps moving the bar higher. In recent years they’ve built the ultimate high-end hospitality area, Berkmans Place, a new press building last year and a new Masters Golf Shop this year.
There are so many wonderful traditions that the club supports and perpetuates such as the amateur and champions dinners, the par 3 contest and the honorary starters. The club oozes history and tradition. Everywhere you look there are familiar settings - Amen Corner, the Crow’s Nest, Rae’s Creek, and Butler Cabin. There’s Hogan’s Bridge, as well as Nelson, Sarazen, and many other monuments to recognize and honor the past including plaques commemorating Jack Nicklaus (6 wins) and Arnold Palmer (4 wins).
On television The Masters is fantastic. There are minimal commercial interruptions thanks to the control Frank referred to. We don’t see the normal promotions of weekly tournament telecasts and there’s no konica minolta biz-hub swing vision camera.
We know the holes by heart and we know what’s coming. We know the history and hope for a classic ending like Jack in 1986 or in 1997 when Tiger became the youngest (at 21) to win, and after an opening nine of 40. Think of it. He finished the 72 holes in 18 under par after that first nine of plus four. That’s 22 under for his last 63 holes. I walked that front nine and had to leave to catch a flight home.
Starting this Thursday, I’ll be watching as much as I can and I will definitely be front and center for the last nine holes on Sunday maybe with a pimento cheese sandwich.
Merchandise Show kicked off in Orlando this week and marked the start of the PGA of America’s yearlong Centennial Celebration. About ten years ago the PGA added an outdoor “Demo Day” on Tuesday of the show week. It’s held at Orange County National Golf Club in Winter Garden www.ocngolf.com which has the largest driving range in the world. Even Bubba Watson can’t hit a drive from one side of the 360* range to the other.
The PGA did a really cool ceremonial tee shot, or shots, by having a PGA professional and a junior golfer from each of the 41 sections around the country hit the shots. The demo day is also a great place to try equipment from all the major manufacturers and all the latest and greatest training aids. If you’ve never been, it’s worth the trip.
The indoor show at the Orange County Convention Center on International Drive in Orlando is massive. But perhaps the best part is catching up with friends or just saying hi as you pass by. At the Callaway booth which is so big it occupies two sides of an aisle, I was able to spend a half hour chatting with Roger Cleveland about wedges. Where else can you do that? Lydia Ko came through and shook hands and posed for pictures. Very special.
Callaway definitely takes the award for “Best in Show” for their amazing booth and of course all their new equipment. Check it out here www.callawaygolf.com
This past Sunday, January 17th, marked the 100th anniversary of a luncheon organized by Rodman Wanamaker that led to the formation of The PGA of America. Wanamaker, a department store magnate, believed golf professionals might boost equipment sales if they formed an association and invited a number of golf professionals and leading amateurs to gather for lunch at the Taplow Club in the Martinique Hotel in New York City.
Later that year on April 10th The PGA of America was founded in New York City with 35 charter members. During that meeting, Wanamaker hinted that the newly formed organization needed an annual all-professional tournament, and offered to put up $2,500 and various trophies and medals as part of the prize fund.
The first PGA Championship was play later that year in October at Siwanoy CC in Bronxville, NY. The inaugural champion was Jim Barnes who also won the next PGA played in 1919. The championship was not played in 1917 and 1918 due to World War I. “Long Jim” as Barnes was known also won a US Open and a British Open. His last professional win was the New Jersey State Open in 1939 when he was working at Essex County Country Club.
Thve PGA Championship returns later this year in July to Baltusrol where Phil Mickelson won in 2005.