Tuesday, November 3

When War, Not a Virus, Kept Pros Off the Tour

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By John Coyne

Bestselling author John Coyne became a caddie at Midlothian Country Club near Chicago when he was 10 and oversaw the caddie yard as a teenager. Learn about his golf novels at JohnCoyneBooks.com.

THE COVID-19 VIRUS HAS THROWN a tough hazard at the PGA Tour this year, having to play a short season without spectators. But it is nothing like what World War II golf professionals had to deal with when they were on the tour.

Here is a short list of some professionals and their experiences playing golf and fighting in a war.

Ben Hogan. Ben's prime years were from 1938 through 1959. He served in the U.S. Army Air Forces from March 1943 to June 1945, stationed at Fort Worth, and became a utility pilot with the rank of lieutenant.

Lloyd Mangrum. Lloyd joined the tour in 1937 and won 36 events. He might have won more but for his tour being interrupted by WWII. While training for the D-Day landings, Mangrum was offered the professional's job at the army's Fort Meade golf course, which would have kept him out of combat, but he declined. He was awarded two Purple Hearts and was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge.

Jack Fleck. Jack worked as an assistant golf pro before WWII. During the war, he served in the Navy and participated in the D-Day invasion from a British rocket-firing ship off Utah Beach. Within two weeks after separation from the Navy, Fleck was on the PGA's winter golf tour. He is best known for winning the 1955 U.S. Open in an 18-hole playoff against Ben Hogan.

Ed "Porky" Oliver. Porky won eight times on the PGA Tour in the 1940s and 1950s. He lost several years of playing time while serving in the Army during WWII.

Jay Hebert. Jay won seven times on the PGA Tour, including the 1960 PGA Championship. He served in the Marines in WWII, rising to the rank of captain. He was wounded in the leg at the Battle of Iwo Jima and received a Purple Heart.

Herman Keiser. Herman won five times on the PGA Tour, including the 1946 Masters. In 1942, he joined the U.S. Navy and served aboard the USS Cincinnati during WWII.

Ted Kroll. Ted won eight times in his 34-year PGA Tour. In WWII was awarded three Purple Hearts and was wounded four times.

Walter Burkemo. Walter won his first PGA Tour event at the 1938 Southern Florida Open. After that he was drafted into WWII and served as an infantry sergeant in the European Theatre. He was seriously wounded twice during the war; the second time during the Battle of the Bulge. His best years on tour were in the 1950s. He won the 1953 PGA Championship and finished as runner-up in 1951 and 1954.

4 comments:

WannaBeBen said...

Just a point on military custom: soldiers don't "win" the Purple Heart, nor do they "earn" or "receive" it. Wounded soldiers are "awarded" the citation. But thanks for pointing out the service of former members of the military services.

I think, but am not sure, that Sangmoon Bae is the only current player on Tour with military service.

John said...

You are right about the purple heart in regard to how it is stated. There are also other pros of that period who I did not mention. Sam Snead for one and someone I knew very well, as I was his caddie, Tony Holquin of Midlothian Country Club.

John said...

You are right about the purple heart in regard to how it is stated. There are also other pros of that period who I did not mention. Sam Snead for one and someone I knew very well, as I was his caddie, Tony Holquin of Midlothian Country Club.

Robin Suntheimer said...

I have been watching golf since I was a little girl and I never knew any of the golfers I was watching had prior military service. That just thrills me. My dad was in the Army, I am a Veteran having served 29 years in the Navy. My husband is a Veteran and my son is currently serving in the Navy. We are all golfers and knowing that some of my favorite golfers served our country just adds to the pride and joy of watching those wonderful golfers.
Thank you for pointing out those who have served.