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Edward Batta

  • 2011
Edward Batta

For his decades of leadership with the New Jersey State Golf Association and especially his caddie scholarship efforts, Edward J. Batta received the eighth Distinguished Service Award.

"Ed has worked tirelessly over the years to raise awareness and funds for deserving young men and women who have served as caddies throughout the state, all the time preaching to keep the caddie in golf," according to Steve Foehl, executive director of the NJSGA. "There are many stories of young caddies that he has personally helped and mentored. Through his leadership and innovative thinking, the NJSGA Caddie Scholarship Foundation has grown to become one of the top state caddie scholarship organizations in the country. This year marks Ed's 30th year of service to the NJSGA and caddie scholarships."

Says Thomas McGovern, president of the NJSGA: "There is no one who has worked harder or done more for the game of golf in this state over the past 30 years than Mr. Ed Batta."

During Batta's long tenure as chairman, the NJSGA Caddie Scholarship Foundation has grown to where this year it awarded 192 scholarships totaling $660,370. Since 1947, the totals are 2,418 caddie scholars with a graduation rate of 96 percent and $8,744,642 in awards.

Batta has married his fundraising with a determination to keep strong caddie programs at New Jersey clubs.

"It's always been the focus of the State Association and certainly for me personally to promote caddying at our member clubs," Batta says, "because caddying has been one of the true traditions of golf since its inception. I personally feel very strongly about preserving and maintaining the caddie in golf. The game was meant to be walked. You really can't get a true appreciation for the real beauty of a golf course unless you walk it. There are so many subtleties out there that you never acquaint yourself with by riding a cart."

Not to mention, Batta emphasizes, what caddying does for the caddies themselves: "Caddieing is a wonderful opportunity to make money to help pay for your college education, and it's an opportunity for these kids to meet excellent role models, it's an opportunity for them to gain some maturity and independence and learn how to interface with adults. And I think it gives them a sense of wellbeing in helping their parents with the onerous burden of college costs."

"Plus the fact that once they go into caddieing it really dovetails with their time off both in high school and college so they can do it as long as they want. It's not unusual for a kid to caddie through four years of high school and four years of college. And it opens up the opportunity for the college scholarship."

Attracting young people to become caddies continues as a priority for Batta, an - effort complicated by the erosion of caddie programs over the years. "We have to continue to do a selling job at our member clubs to acquaint boards and golf committees with the value of caddying," he says. "The advent and dependence on income from cart revenue is our biggest challenge. I would encourage clubs that are carts only to use forecaddies for pace of play. If clubs can offer children an opporutunity to work it certianly increases the club's perception in their communities."

While Batta is best known for steering the scholarship program, he has been heavily involved in most aspects of NJSGA operations, including service as president of the association. 

"I was recruited by Carol Rhodes, who was then the executive director, specifically to take over the Caddie Scholarship Program," Batta recalls. He co-chaired the program with Bud Doggett, NJSGA president in 1978-79, then became chairman and eventually chairman of the Caddie Scholarship Foundation, his present position.

Batta feels one of the most significant developments during his years with the NJSGA was the decision in 1981 to become the second state and regional association to opt into the GHIN handicapping program introduced that year by the USGA. Without the advent of the handicapping program, Batta emphasized, the NJSGA could not have grown to its present level of service.

He makes a point of crediting John Rochford and Benjamin Del Vento Sr., who succeeded him as chairmen of the Caddie Scholarship Program, with helping to achieve "phenomenal growth" in the program.

And Del Vento has high praise for Batta: "Ed has been a leading force. He's very conscientious, and he's tireless. Ed has been able to increase the value of these scholarships. The graduation rate for all our scholarship recipients of close to 100 percent is a tribute to his tremendous effort. His whole heart and soul go into this program. Ed was a caddie himself, and he recognizes the value of caddying to the game of golf and to the important role it plays for the enjoyment for thousands and thousands of golfers in New Jersey."

Tom Paluck and his wife, Dot, received the Distinguished Service Award in 2010. Paluck, a past president of the NJSGA and Evans Caddie Scholar from Michigan State, met Batta when he got involved with the Caddie Scholarship Program while a member at Rock Spring. He says, "I have tremendous respect for what Ed has done. He's endured in a major role and expanded the capabilities of the Caddie Scholarship Foundation to greater levels. I'm glad he's stayed on the job. This award is more than deserving, and it's overdue. He's a true gentleman, he's got a tremendous wit, and he's easy to work with."

Thomas McGovern recalls that Batta would not take "no" for an answer when approached by Batta to join the Tournament Committee and accept subsequent leadership roles.

"Mr. Batta has been a friend and mentor to me for close to 20 years," McGovern recalls. "He has been extremely helpful and always offers well-thought-out advice and encouragement. He has been a guiding force, not only to me but to the Caddie Scholarship Foundation and the NJSGA. Whenever you discussed with him how were having difficulty achieving your goals he woudl always renerergize you to improve the organization."

McGovern revealed that Batta had been nominated to receive the Distinguished Service Award every year since its founding but always managed to remove himself from consideration. This year, newly appointed to the Celebration of Golf committee that decides the receipient, McGovern helped encourage Batta's selection but drew the task of notifying the reluctant receipient.

"Mr. Batta never gave me the option of not getting involved with the NJSGA," McGovern says, "so in return I felt it was perfectly fair not to allow him the option of rejecting recognition for all the dedication he has given to improve the NJSGA and the Scholarship Foundation and to all of th caddies who have benefited, to all of our clubs and their members and to the game of golf here in New Jersey."

Batta became a caddie at age 14 at Essex Fells Country Club, then worked on the green staff during high school and college. He joined Essex Fells in 1966 and has served on the Green Committee since 1968, including several years as chairman.

He remembers: "Rees Jones did a total redesign of the golf course under my aegis and really made it into what I think is a very interesting golf course."

Batta played to a 4 handicap at one point and twice played on the winning team in the NJSGA Best Ball of Four Championship.

After graduating from Villanova University with a degree in chemistry and biology, Batta served in the U.S. Army, worked for Ayers Laboratories, then for Union Carbide, rising to national sales manager and for Niagara Blower Co. as director of sales.

In 1987, Batta and two friends from Essex Fells purchased Plastinetics, a plastics fabricator and maker of large pipe fittings based in Towaco, N.J. Batta is still active there as chief executive officer. He is on the Board of Directors of Annin & Co., the world's largest maker of flags.

Batta and his wife of 52 years, Virginia, have three daughters, Susan, Lauren and Virginia, and a son, Steven.

Liz Pfeffer worked closely with Batta as director until recently of the Caddie Scholarship Program. She says the time he spent on the program was the equivalent of a full-time job, noting, "He maintains records and manages finances from his own house. He makes visits to clubs all over the state inhis personal time and is constantly thinking of strategies to improve the function of the foundation. He does all these thingsout of the good of his heart, and he expects nothing in return."

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