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The Golden Isles has several connections to Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters tournament.
Obviously, several of the top names in golf including Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson, the 2007 tournament winner, will play there this week in the 82nd edition of golf’s most recognized event.
Longtime Sea Island touring pro Davis Love III has contended for the Green Jacket on Sunday afternoons at Augusta with his brother Mark Love by his side as his caddie.
Love’s father, the late Davis Love Jr., finished tied for 34th in the 1964 Masters.
Of course, longtime Jekyll Island golf professional Johnny Paulk has been a part of the Masters as a green-side announcer on the ninth and 18th holes for many years.
Those are just some of the local ties to Augusta that quickly come to mind.
But have you ever heard of Ed Dudley?
That’s what I thought.
Dudley was the first-ever head golf professional at Augusta.
Dudley was hired for the pro’s job at Augusta by golf legend Bobby Jones, who founded Augusta National along with the club’s first chairman Clifford Roberts.
Jones supposedly wanted someone who could both play and teach and he liked Dudley’s ability to do both.
You see, Dudley was one of the best to play the game in the 1920s and 30s. He won 15 times on the PGA Tour. On top of that, he finished as the runner-up 11 different times on the Tour.
One of his victories came at the 1931 Western Open, which back then was considered a major championship. It was there that he beat the great Walter Hagen by four shots.
After doing some quick research – Wikipedia, of course – I found that Dudley is currently tied for 58th all-time on the Tour’s list for career victories. That puts him in the company of Tommy Bolt, Fred Couples, Bobby Locke, Corey Pavin and Mike Souchak.
One of Dudley’s best years was 1933 when he was a quarter-finalist in the PGA Championship and was named to the U.S. Ryder Cup team a second time. He played on three U.S. teams in the matches against the Europeans, also competing in 1929 and 1937. The 1937 squad was the first American outfit to win in England and Dudley won two matches in that competition to help get the historic win.
Dudley also had a big year in 1937 when he finished among the top-10 in all four major championships, a feat that was not equaled until “The King” Arnold Palmer did it in 1960.
Dudley’s best finishes in majors were his tie for third in the 1932 PGA Championship and also his third-place finish in the 1937 Masters.
In all, Dudley, nicknamed the Big Ed because of his 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame, finished inside the top 10 in 24 major championships – a record among players who have not won a major crown.
Dudley actually played in the first eight Masters and posted a remarkable seven top-10 finishes. He set the course record with a 69 in the 1934 tournament and that mark is noted on the Record Fountain that sits off the 17th green at Augusta National.
He was the head pro at Augusta from 1932 to 1957. When Augusta
was closed during the hot Georgia summers, he also served as the head pro at the Broadmoor Golf Club in Colorado, which is currently owned by Philip Anschutz, who also now owns the Sea Island resort. Dudley worked at the club in Colorado Springs from 1941-63.
Among his students that he tutored on the golf swing as a teacher were Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dwight Eisenhower who sought his expertise for some 12 years.
Of course, anyone who really knows golf is aware that the famous Eisenhower Tree, a loblolly pine, once stood on the 17th hole and was named for the former President who lobbied to have the tree removed from the course in the 1950s because he hit it so many times while playing. The tree was removed from the course in 2014 after suffering significant damage in an ice storm.
But what people may not know is that the Eisenhower Cabin on the property, along with the pro shop and Sarazan Bridge were the works of Augusta architect H. Lowrey Stulb who married Dudley’s daughter Elizabeth.
Dudley also served the game as president of the PGA of America from 1942-48. In this role, he helped pro golf survive during World War II. He convinced the War Manpower Commission that wartime golf was fine as long as it didn’t interfere with the war. He persuaded the group to exempt the pro players at the time from gas rationing so they could continue playing for their livelihoods and help raise money for the war.
Also, Dudley played a role in creating the Tournament Bureau within the PGA to separate club pros from the playing pros. This is now called the PGA Tour.
Dudley died of a heart attack in 1963 while in Colorado Springs. He was inducted posthumously into the PGA of America Hall of Fame in 1964, the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 1976, the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame in 1990 and was an inaugural member of the Philadelphia PGA Section Hall of Fame in 1992.
You can say Dudley certainly left his mark in golf. But ask those attending the Masters this week who was the first head professional at Augusta and chances are the answer won’t be known without the help of Google.
But if you’re ever asked, well, now you know. It was Edward Bishop Dudley.
And for bonus points, you know he was born in Brunswick, Ga., too.