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Dot and Tom Paluck

  • 2010
Dot and Tom Paluck

Dot Paluck started playing golf at age 10. Tom Paluck was a caddie at 11.

For nearly five decades they have shared their love of the game with each other and with all who love the game in the Garden State, donating their time, talent and energy to its service.

It is safe to say that virtually anyone who has plaved or cared about golf in New Jersey during that time has been influenced by the Palucks in one way or another.

"Each of them individually would deserve this award," says NJSGA President John Murray. "I can't think of two people who have been more generous with their time and talents for the benefit of golf, not only in New Jersey, but beyond the state as well. All golfers have benefited from their efforts. Through the caddie scholars, their contributions are going to be felt for years to come."

Tom Paluck got his first exposure to golf as a caddie at Oak Park Country Club, just outside Chicago.

"My dad worked two jobs," he remembers. "My mother got me out of bed and took me there because we needed the money. I was 11."

Paluck continued to caddie throughout high school, where he played on his golf team, then attended Michigan State University, thanks to the Western Golf Association's Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship program.

During his summers off, he caddied while also working on a yacht that belonged to one of his regular loops.

"Caddying is the experience of a lifetime," Paluck says. "You've got to learn manners. You have to learn to deal with older people in general because you're young. We had the upper crust, all the famous people that used to come to our golf course, and I recognized that they put their pants on just like I did."

Dot Paluck spent most of her growing up years around Pompton Plains, N.J. She was an all-around athlete in an era when there weren't many opportunities for girls in organized sports.

She started playing golf with her father on public courses but also rode horses, played baseball with the boys in her neighborhood and ice hockey on frozen ponds.

"I would play anything" she says.

Dot enrolled at the University of Arizona but transferred to Michigan State after a year; she met Tom on her second day in East Lansing. The couple married following their graduation.

After their wedding, the couple settled in New Jersey and soon joined Lake Mohawk Golf Club in Sparta. "We joined I think in October [of 1962], Dot recalls, "and they let us play for free for the rest of the year."

By the late 1960s, the Palucks were members at Rock Spring Club and were becoming active on the administrative side of the game, volunteering their time on various club committees.

They held memberships at Baltusrol Golf Club and at Somerset Hills Country Club, which was within walking distance of their Bernardsville home.

Encouraged by Babs Collins, the one-time president of the New Jersey Women's Golf Association, Dot soon got involved at the state and regional levels. She spent four years on the board of the Garden State Women's Golf Association in the mid-1980s and served as the organization's president in 2002-03.

She's also served two tours of duty on the board of the Women's Metropolitan Golf Association and was that groups president in 1997-98.

Dot has chaired the WMGA's New Jersey Course Rating Committee since 1999. She first loined the committee at a time when the USGA was developing the Slope system, which is now standard across the country. She's been rating golf courses ever since.

In 1998 she was invited to become a member of the USGA's Regional Associations Committee. Two years later she was appointed to the Women's Regional Affairs Committee, and she has been part of the Women's Committee since 2002, helping to administer the USGA's six national championships for women.

She has chaired the Women's State Team Championship for the past six years while remaining involved with the Regional Affairs Committee. Her various commitments to USGA require an investment of time, energy, and expenses, but Dot Paluck, like her husband, is effusive on the topic of giving back to the game.

"I really like the people I'm working with," she says. "We have a great staff at the USGA. I like working with them a lot. It's all people to me, in addition to trying to make the championships better."

Dot believes in growing the game from the ground up. She is a staunch supporter of state and regional golf associations that administer the sport around the country.

In her quest to help grow the game, she would like to see those associations work to encourage and develop players, whether or not those players have access to private clubs.

She sits on the Somerset County Park Commission, where she's in charge of golf planning and land acquisition. In that role she oversees the county's network of public golf courses. One of them, Neshanic Valley, hosted a U.S. Women's Open qualifier last year.

Dot sees golf as a game that should be open to all. "I think if associations want to stay healthy into the future, they have to be more inclusive rather than less," she says.

When he became actively involved in golf administration himself, Tom Paluck handled a number of responsibilities, particularly after the Palucks joined Baltusrol in 1976. There he served on the Board, including a stint as the club's treasurer, while also chairing the club's long range planning committee.

He also handled security for several USGA national championships at his home club.

At Baltusrol, the Palucks built a close friendship with longtime head professional Bob Ross.

"He became not just a great member but also a great friend," Ross says. "He and Dot were great friends to me and my wife. He never forgot where he came from. That doesn't always happen."

Paluck joined the NJSGA's Board of Trustees in 1981 and would stay for 17 years. He served as NJSGA president in 1994-95.

But for all his accomplishments, Tom Paluck's roots have always been firmly planted in the caddie yard.

In 1996 he became a member of the NJSGA's Caddie Scholarship Foundation Board, where he's served ever since. He also serves as a director of the Chick Evans Scholarship Foundation Board, and he was instrumental in the two organizations creating a joint scholarship. 

Edward Batta, who chaired the Caddie Scholarship Foundation for the NJSGA lauds what Tom Paluck has meant to the program both before and since he's served on the board of the foundation.

"He was very supportive of the program when he was NJSGA president," Batta says. "He's also been a major contributor."

Through the years the Palucks have focused their attention on different areas of the game. But they share an ability to connect with people and find practical solutions to make golf not only a better game but also a more accessible one.

Dot Paluck's longtime colleague, Brigid Lamb, reflects on her friend's ability to find agreement among competing interests.

"She is incredible with people," Lamb says. "She has the ability to bring people together and solve problems. She has no agenda."

None, that is, apart from making golf a better game for all. Just like her husband.

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