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Bob Ross

  • 2017
Bob Ross

Bob Ross, the head golf professional at historic Baltusrol Golf Club (1976-96) and former director of golf at Hawk Pointe Golf Course, is the 2017 recipient of the NJPGA/NJSGA New Jersey Golf Distinguished Service Award.

While at Baltusrol (1976-96), Ross oversaw the playing of two US Opens (1980 and 1993) and multiple area championships for organizations such as the NJSGA and NJPGA.

In 1980, Ross was the first host professional to qualify in two decades for the U.S. Open championship when he did it, of course, at Baltusrol, although he failed to make the cut at 76-78. To qualify for the event, he shot 144.

Ross was an accomplished player, winning events such as the New Jersey Senior Open, the Pennsylvania Open, and Philadelphia PGA Section Championship. His play also enabled him to compete in six PGA/USGA National Championships and eight PGA/USGA Senior national championships.

Ross was truly one of those club pros who could have made his mark on the PGA Tour. “But I had to make a decision. I was married with two young children and didn’t want the family to be traveling around the country,” said Ross, who married Dolores in 1953. They added sons Bruce in 1954 and Brian in 1958.

“I had responsibility and a lot of those guys didn’t. I never regretted a thing I did in golf because of what golf has done for me.”

Off the course, Ross is past recipient of the New Jersey Section Golf Professional of the Year and Merchandiser of the Year award and also received both of these awards on the national level from the PGA of America.

He has walked with kings, well, The King, Arnold Palmer, and even defeated him once, and been respected by all who have known him including Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and many others. He’s attended a presidential inauguration (Jimmy Carter) and spent many an afternoon with Johnny McDermott, the first American-born U.S. Open champion.

Ross was born in Vermont, but grew up in Connecticut and learned the game of golf starting as a caddie at Shenecossett Golf and Country Club in Groton. He was a talented athlete at Robert E. Fitch High School who also excelled in baseball and basketball. He next spent a year at Billiard Academy and again excelled in athletics to the point where some highly-regarded colleges had offered scholarships.

He turned them down, instead, and following his passion for golf, enrolled at Pasadena City College, just outside the famed Rose Bowl in California. There, he was coached by two-time PGA Championship winner Paul Runyon. Bob had a pedigree, having won the local Chamber of Commerce junior golf title as a junior in high school and finished third in the William Randolph Hearst Junior Championship in the New England sectional.

At Pasadena C.C., he recalls placing third in the individual and helping the team to the Western Border Conference championship at Pebble Beach.

From there, he was drafted in to the Army and wound up in the 77thSpecial Forces unit at Fort Bragg, N.C.

His old course, Shenecossett, was the first to hire him as an assistant, He moved on to another assistant position in Amarillo, Texas, before landing his first head job at the Susquehanna Valley Country Club in Selingsgrove, Pa., where he was hired to perform a dual role as head pro and head greenkeeper.

Then came a succession of head pro jobs: Valley C.C. in Hazelton, Pa.; North Hills in the suburbs of Philadelphia; prestigious Philadelphia Cricket Club, where he ran into McDermott, the 1911 and 1912 Open champion, and then to Sawgrass outside of Jacksonville, Fla.

“I always thought if I did a good job, the jobs would become available and luckily for me, I basically never applied for a job. People came to me and asked me if I would come to their club.

In a short span of time, Baltusrol came calling for Bob in 1976 after former U.S. Open champion Johnny Farrell had decided to retire after an illustrious career at the Springfield course that lasted 42 years.

The rest is history.

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