Thursday, February 28, 2008

Stan Dudas RIP

Stan Dudas RIP – Golf Pro

Played on Pro Tour as Teen - Was there when Arnie Met Winnie

Local golf pro Stan Dudas, of Egg Harbor Township, passed away last week, leaving a legacy of memories of the game of golf and the players he knew.

When he was 15 years old Stan Dudas ran away from his Simpson, Pennsylvania home, not knowing what he wanted to do other than he didn’t want to be a coal miner.

Fortunately for him, he was picked up hitch hiking by big band leader Fred Waring, who gave him a job at his Shawnee on the Delaware resort. Although he started out as a bus boy in the dining room, young Dudas quickly drifted to the pro shop where he cleaned clubs and was taught how to play by then pro Harry Obitz and his assistant Spec Hannon, a former caddie for Walter Hagen.

Within a few years Waring sponsored Dudas on the winter pro tour, and while he was still a teenager, Dudas was playing and learning a lot from the early pros like Sam Sneed Ben Hogan and especially Jimmy Demereat, who took the young Dudas under his wing. "Demereat taught me a lot," said Dudas. "He taught me about traveling with people, playing the game, who to stay with on the road, and who to stay away from, which is important, because I was a young boy, seventeen, and just didn’t know. You can go out there and get mixed up with the wrong guys."

After a stint in the army, Dudas said, "I started having trouble with my legs, and I just decided I better get out of playing. I wasn’t going to make it as a tour player because I just wasn’t that good of a player. I thought I was good, but I wasn’t good enough. I played good enough to qualify and play on the tour, but I never finished high enough to make a living at it."

But Dudas was good enough to win local events, qualify for major tournaments, run the golf shop and give lessons, all of which he did very well.

It was working at Shawnee, early in his career, when Dudas met Arnold Palmer, fresh off his US Amateur championship. The late, great amateur golfer Howard Everett, who lived on the Atlantic City course in Northfield, also worked at Shawnee at the time and knew Palmer from having been paired with him in the Pennsylvania Amateur.

As Howard Everett recalls, "At the time I was working publicity for Fred Waring at Shawnee-on-the Delaware, as they called it, and I had invited Arnie, to participate in this tournament that Waring called ‘the Young Masters.’ I had invited Palmer before he won the U.S. Amateur, and Fred Waring kidded me and said that since he won the championship he probably wouldn’t come to our tournament. I said not only would he come, but he was bringing his boss and his boss’ wife, and I told him who they were."

Stan Dudas recalls, "When Palmer came to Shawnee Dixie Waring and Winnie Waltzer were there entertaining the young guys who came in for the tournament, and Arnold Palmer was one of them." Dixie was the daughter of the club owner Fred Waring and Winnie was the daughter of a club member.

At a strange club where he didn’t know many people, Palmer drifted towards the other young players, including Stan Dudas and Ronnie Ward, but he had caught the eye of young Winnie Waltzer.

"When Arnie met Winnie it was love at first sight," said Everett, but there still had to be formal introductions.

Stan Dudas says that at some point Palmer just blurted out, "Who is That?," obviously speaking about Winnie Waltzer, who he then met more formally.

While they were together for much of the tournament, Palmer left to play in the Miami Open in Florida, but he couldn’t take his mind off that girl.

After talking to his father, Howard Everett said, "And I got this from the Deacon himself, Palmer said, ‘Dad, I will never feel right until I go back to Shawnee and see whether I want to marry that girl.’"

"I was there when Arnie came back," recalled Everett. "Stan Dudas was there, and Ronnie Ward, both later became Atlantic City pros. They played a round with Fred Warring and Palmer. And of course Winnie was there and walked the whole 18 holes with us. After that Arnie proposed and they were married shortly thereafter."

While Palmer and Winnie took to the pro tour, and with the advent of TV, took golf to another level, Stan Dudas returned to the pro shop, working at Shawnee, North Hills Country Club, Ramblewood and Princeton, where he helped build the course.

It was at Princeton where he met Leo Fraser, then the head of the PGA, who hired Dudas to work at the Atlantic City Country Club and Leo Fraser, Dudas and Palmer played in the 1960 British Open. "I like playing in Europe," Dudas said. "It’s different golf, it’s target golf. The courses are fair and you have to be a player, you have to be an engineer, you have to play the shots."

"They say St. Andrews is where golf began," Dudas said, "and I guess it did, but St.Andrews is not a course where the public can play because it’s unplayable. It’s great for great players because of the hazards and situations, but a three handicapper back home is 15 or 20 over there."

After five years at Atlantic City, Dudas moved over to the Mays Landing Country Club, built by Fraser as a public course for those who couldn’t afford the country clubs. "We always had the working man, the retired man in mind," Dudas said, reflecting Leo Fraser’s philosophy, "and we tried to make it reasonable and affordable to play golf."

Dudas operated the Mays Landing Country Club until 1998, when the Frasers sold the Atlantic City Country Club to Bally casino and decided to renovate and redevelop Mays Landing.

While his legs and his health often prevented Stan Dudas from playing the game he loved, he was always ready to comment on the game and the players.

"My memories," Dudas said, "are of the people I’ve met and the way we’ve operated. I was lucky when I started out to be around good players, shot makers," Dudas said. "Today, they’re not shot makers. They’re good players, they can make the shots they have to, but they bully the ball, they hit it, power golf. So it’s a different game today than when we played it. The equipment has come a long way. More than anything I think the scores they’re shooting reflects the turf technology, the ball, the shaft, metal head, everything’s longer, and there’s better conditions, better turf. We never played on turf like they’re playing on today. We never spun the ball. Players wanted the ball to run, today they want it to stop."

"And it’s more of a business today. We didn’t play for a lot of money. Today they play for millions of dollars. When we played $20,000 was the purse, and there were only 20 places, so if you got a check you were a good player. We just played golf and had fun."

1 comment:

rick said...

I started as a shag boy and caddy at the Atlantic City Country Club and later I was a member of the Mays Landing Golf Club for several years. I also did a lot of club repair work for Stan Dudas, he liked to tinker with his clubs. I always enjoyed listening to the great stories he told about the early days of the PG tour, Snead, Hogan etc. Golf lost a great ambassador.

Rick Grieshaber