For those of us lucky enough to have the opportunity to golf with friends and family this weekend, we’re already well aware that Monday’s holiday, Memorial Day, presents us with an exciting third possible weekend golf round.
Courses around the Mahoning Valley will undoubtedly enjoy the warm weather and opportunity to make up for lost rounds.
And golfers like me will participate in holiday rounds with friends and family.
Yes, Memorial Day is great for golfers and golf courses alike. But after doing some reading about Memorial Day, the military and golfers who tie in with those two ideas, I’ve come to the conclusion that today’s column has to be a celebration of those who not only literally created the record books on the course, but who also served our country off of it.
Now I don’t mean to say anything controversial here and I’m not trying to get all “nostalgic” on everyone. But after doing just a little reading on the topic, can I just say that there’s a reason why the term “The Greatest Generation” exists.
Here are just some of the interesting stats regarding golfers from a few generations ago:
• 900 PGA of America members at the start of World War II were World War I veterans.
• By the end of World War II, 20 percent of all PGA of America Members had served in the Armed Forces.
A lot of golf’s biggest names served their country. Ben Hogan, Bob Jones, Orville Moody, and Horton Smith all joined the Army. Jimmy Demaret and Sam Snead served in the Navy. Arnold Palmer served in The Coast Guard for three years.
Tommy Bolt, Herman Keiser, Porky Oliver, and Ted Kroll all served in active combat positions during WWII.
Jack Fleck stormed the beach in Normandy on D-Day. Ten years later, he beat Ben Hogan to win the U.S. Open.
And one of Augusta National Golf Club’s most famous members, Dwight D. Eisenhower, also happened to serve his country. He was Supreme Commander of Allied Forces during World War II and then as Commander in Chief when he served as the 34th President of the United States.
Then there’s the story of Lloyd Mangrum:
A PGA Tour winner in 1940, Mangrum joined the U.S. Army at the outbreak of the American involvement in World War II.
While training for the D-Day landings in 1945, Mangrum was offered the head professional position at the Fort Meade golf course in Maryland. It was a position that would have spared him from seeing combat.
Mangrum declined. Two purple hearts later, including a combat wound from the Battle of the Bulge, Mangrum returned to the PGA Tour and promptly won the 1946 U.S. Open.
During his career, he won 36 PGA Tour events, one major championship and was on four Ryder Cup Teams (one as playing captain).
To this day, only 11 men have won more PGA Tour events than Lloyd Mangrum.
Now, I understand that was then and this is now. We’re never going to see Tiger Woods in a military uniform. And we’ll probably never see a combat veteran win the U.S. Open.
But on this three-day weekend as so many of us look to capitalize on an extra day of golf, I just thought it was important for us to take a moment to remember the individuals and the unbelievable accomplishments of those who came before us.
And to thank those who, on this Memorial Day, continue to serve and defend our country.
Jonah Karzmer is a former golf professional who writes a Sunday golf column for The Vindicator. In his spare time he sells commercial insurance for Huntington Insurance and loves getting feedback on his weekly columns via email at firstname.lastname@example.org