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Maryland's Hall of Fame Golfers

By Matt Hombach

Unless you've been camped out in the parking lot at McDaniel College, cut off from contact with the outside world, waiting for the start of Ravens training camp, you couldn't help but notice that Cal Ripken Jr. was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. What many sports fans and avid golfers throughout the area aren't aware of is that Maryland has produced a number of Hall of Fame-caliber golfers over the years as well.

The Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame has inducted golfers who achieved high levels of success on local and national stages and have made major contributions to the game itself. The organization honors Maryland natives who have excelled at any number of sports, from traditional games like baseball and basketball to those uniquely Maryland pastimes of jousting and duckpin bowling.

While the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame has been around for more than 50 years, it only recently found a permanent home at Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards. The unique exhibit features a classic photo of each athlete and a brief write-up of career accomplishments. It's somewhat reminiscent of a miniature version of the "big hall" in Cooperstown.

While golfers make up a relatively small number of the inductees, it's interesting for even the casual fan to discover the achievements of a few of Maryland’s greatest golfers.

Most notable among the inductees is Deane Beman, who is also a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. Beman won two U.S. Amateur titles and played on four Walker Cup teams before he turned pro.He won four times on the PGA tour throughout the course of his career.

While his accomplishments as a player are noteworthy, it is his 20-year tenure as PGA Tour Commissioner that will serve as his greatest legacy to the game.

Beman was responsible for generating astounding television revenues for the PGA Tour and, in turn, upping tournament purses significantly. He also created the Senior PGA Tour (now the Champions Tour) and the Ben Hogan Tour (now the Nationwide Tour). Beman also turned the vision of the World Golf Village and the TPC Stadium Course at Sawgrass into a reality. 

In short, Beman played the lead role in ushering in the modern age of professional golf and making the PGA Tour what it is today.

Another Marylander who accomplished great things in golf on and off the course was Ralph Bogart. He won an astounding 10 Maryland State Amateur titles and was the men's mid-Atlantic amateur champion four times. He also dominated the Washington area championship, winning it three years in a row from 1939-1941. He added a Maryland Senior championship to his tally in 1976.

Interestingly, Bogart teamed with another great amateur golfer, Robert Brownell, to start the Bogart and Brownell Insurance Agency. According to the firm's Web site, the two leveraged the publicity and name recognition they got from newspaper articles about their golf prowess to help expand their business.

In the early 1980s, Bogart partnered with several other top golfers from around the country to form a national senior golf organization -- the Society of Seniors. The organization is still thriving 20 years, later and one of their championships is named after Bogart. 

Before there was Tiger, the Golden Bear, the Shark or even the Walrus, there was the Silver Fox of Maryland, Albert Houghton. Houghton hailed from Glen Echo and was initially exposed to the game when he caddied for President Woodrow Wilson.

Houghton went on to win several U.S. Amateur titles in the '20s. The Silver Fox also took medalist honors three different years in the opening qualifying round of the U.S. Open. One of Maryland’s best female golfers is also enshrined in the Hall. Mary Ann Downey Cooke from Baltimore won the Maryland Women's Amateur five times. She won the Eastern Women's Golf Association Championship in 1953 and 1955 and represented the United States in the Curtis Cup in 1956.

Golf Digest also honored Cooke as the greatest female golfer ever from Maryland. The only other female golfer in the Hall of Fame is Evelyn Glick of Baltimore, who was inducted in 1977.

Another top Charm City golfer was Spencer Overton. At 58, Overton became the oldest man ever to win the Maryland State Amateur. He also has the unique distinction of winning a Maryland Amateur in three separate decades. His other wins came in 1936 and 1945. 

Apparently Overton was as lucky as he was good; he was fortunate enough to score an unbelievable lifetime total of 13 holes-in-one.

The future of golf in Maryland is bright. Local courses are bustling year round, and the area is a hotbed for outstanding amateur competition. Two major golf championships, the McDonald's LPGA Championship and the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship, are contested within the borders of the state and the greatest player in the history of the game, Tiger Woods, has chosen Maryland as the home for his own invitational tournament. 

While it's exciting to think of what's ahead, a quick trip to the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame exhibit at Sports Legends can help shed some light on the people and personalities that dominated the game of golf in the state over the last century.
Issue 2.31: August 2, 2007