TGA Celebrates its 100th Birthday in Style in Chattanooga

Monday, March 31, 2014 - by B.B. Branton

It was a celebration of Chattanooga and Tennessee golf worth waiting for.

Banquet tables at the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club Saturday night were filled with past and present champions with impressive golfing resumes and an array of trophies to prove it.

But more important than the trophies and titles are the people and their friendships forged over decades of battling for state supremacy on the fairways and greens from Memphis Country Club to Bell Meade (Nashville) to The Honors (Ooltewah).

Yet those same competitors, working diligently side by side, committed to continually raising the bar of the game of golf in the Scenic City and the Volunteer State.

One hundred and eighty strong came together for the third gala dinner in a six-city tour celebrating the centennial year of the Tennessee Golf Association which first opened its doors in 1914.

How appropriate that the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club – sit of 13 Tennessee Men’s Amateur championships – host the 100th year party in this part of the state.

A who’s who of golf showed up from past champions of various TGA events who received a beautiful TGA centennial coin documenting the occasion, plus TGA past presidents and hall of famers.

 A few of the attendees is worth noting and their place and impact on the TGA.

Dick Horton – an early 1970s Wake Forest grad, the 23-year-old Horton’s hire and leadership as executive director of the Tennessee PGA and the Tennessee Golf Association changed golf in the Volunteer State forever.

His vision and hard work led to the establishment of Golf House Tennessee and the Little Course in Franklin and the formation of the TGA Junior Golf Academy.

Current TGA executive director Matt Vanderpool is quoted in Chris Dortch’s book, Titans of the TGA, “Think about it; thousands and thousands of kids have learned the game because of that one idea. That was one (of his many ideas) that impacted us forever.”

Ed Ingle – the 1987 Southern Senior Amateur Champion made his most significant contribution as TGA president in 2000 as he led the way for the merger of the TGA and the Women’s Tennessee Golf Association. At a time when the WTGA needed the umbrella of the TGA, Ingle was the level-headed leader able to bring both parties to the table.

Lew Connor – The 1973 Tennessee Amateur of the Year, also found time that year as general counsel for the PGA and TGA director to create an equal revenue split between the club professionals and the amateurs.

In his book, The History of Tennessee Golf, Gene Pearce said the handicap agreement was, “the most formidable step in the history of Tennessee golf.”

Two examples of competitors working for the good of the game came when Lew Oehmig stood behind Conner on the revenue issue and also stood with Conner in support of hiring Dick Horton in the aforementioned role with the TPGA and TGA.

Betty Stocker and Jean St. Charles – these two Chattanooga ladies’ impact as rules officials as been felt at local, state and international events. Both are past presidents of the Chattanooga Women’s Golf Assoc. and the Women’s Tennessee Golf Assoc. while Stocker also headed the Women’s Southern Golf Assoc. and involved in two Curtis Cup events.

Once posting a perfect score of 100 on the PGA/USGA rules test, St. Charles has worked numerous championships, including the U.S. Women’s Open, the U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Senior Amateur.

 Three Families Remembered - Dick Horton noted Scotty and Betty Probasco, Jack and Alice Lupton and Lew and Mary Oehmig.

Horton called for glasses to be raised to “toast these families as Tennessee golf is indebted to them for their contributions to the game.”

Lew Oehmig Legacy – speaking for his late dad, former Baylor golf coach King Oehmig told how Lew reached out to others with no thought of being re-paid in any way.

“On many summer days growing up in the 1950s and 60s, my dad would drop me off here at the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club on his way to work and then pick me up at the end of the day heading home.

“I would be hot and tired and thinking only of how my game went that day – good or bad. But on many occasions, he would reach out to the club caddies offering them a ride home.  Not just ‘I’ll give you a ride down the way and then drop you off’, but ‘where do you need to go and I’ll get take you there.’

“There was no reason for my dad to do that, but he did.”

While King said that his dad’s great hands and wedge play was the key to his success on the course, “his graciousness lay at the heart of his character.”

And many of those caddies, if they were in attendance at the dinner Saturday night, would have stood and raised their glasses with gratitude and thankfulness to Mr. Oehmig for his random acts of kindness which far surpassed his titles and trophies.

Next 100 Years: As the TGA’s first 100 years closes and a second about to begin June 6, may those in attendance at the next centennial gala affair be able to note how their leaders and heroes successfully led the TGA by standing on the shoulders of past legends the likes of Horton, Ingle and Conner … Lupton and Oehmig … and Stocker,  St. Charles and Probasco and many more.

contact B.B. Branton at william.branton@comcast.net


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