Hockenjos, Paluck, Ross and Wender elected to NJSGA Hall of Fame

Hockenjos, Paluck, Ross and Wender elected to NJSGA Hall of Fame

JANUARY 22, 2024 - Helen Hockenjos, Dot Paluck, Bob Ross and Chester “Red” Wender have been elected to the New Jersey State Golf Association (NJSGA) Hall of Fame as the Class of 2024 and will be formally inducted at a ceremony later this Spring.

“We are very excited to announce the NJSGA Hall of Fame Class of 2024”, stated NJSGA President Rod McRae. “The nominating committee's criteria to select inductees is based on an individual's contributions to, or impact on the game of golf in the State of New Jersey. The 2024 class celebrates four esteemed individuals for their extraordinary accomplishments and influence on the game. We look forward to celebrating with the inductees and their families later this spring,” McRae continued.

Helen Hockenjos (1906-1995) was one of the preeminent female amateur players of the mid-1900s. At the height of her competitive career, Hockenjos won the NJSGA Women’s Amateur Championship four times (1936, ’39, ’48, ’52), the Women’s Metropolitan Golf Association Shore Championship twice (1936, ’39), and was also a four-time runner-up in the NJSGA Women’s Amateur (1937, ’40, ’42, ’49). In addition, she won the 1956 NJSGA Women’s Senior Championship.

A member of Lake Hopatcong Golf Club, Crestmont Country Club, and Baltusrol Golf Club, Hockenjos played a large role in New Jersey golf not only as a player, but also a major contributor to the game. A founding member of the Garden State Women’s Golf Association, Hockenjos was also very involved with the Women’s Metropolitan Golf Association (WMGA). She served as Tournament Chair and President at a pivotal time; with events at an indefinite halt due to World War II, Hockenjos successfully restored the women’s tournament scene in the Metropolitan area after the war concluded.

Dot Paluck of Bernardsville is a decades-long volunteer for the USGA, NJSGA, and WMGA, rising to become chair of the USGA Women's Committee in 2013-2014 . Well-renowned and highly regarded for her service to the game, her volunteer career has spanned parts of six decades in myriad capacities. Beginning with her service on the WMGA Board in 1979, she held roles during the 1980 U.S. Open at Baltusrol and the 1990 Curtis Cup at Somerset Hills Country Club. Paluck spent nearly two decades on the USGA Women’s Committee (which she also chaired and vice-chaired) in addition to her work on behalf of the USGA Regional Associations and Regional Affairs committees. On the local scene, Paluck is a past president of the Women's Metropolitan Golf Association, an expert course rater, and former chair of the New Jersey State Golf Association Women’s Committee. She is also a former golf commissioner for the Somerset County Park Commission and was a key contributor to the development of Neshanic Valley Golf Course which hosted the 2012 U.S. Women's Public Links Championship.

The list of Paluck’s accolades are many and wide-ranging. She was bestowed the WMGA’s highest honor – the Judy Bell Award – in 2005 for her exemplary contributions to the game. In 2010, alongside her husband, Tom, the Palucks were honored with the NJPGA/NJSGA Distinguished Service Award. In 2021, Paluck was honored with the USGA’s Ike Grainger Award in recognition of 25+ years of service to the organization. She served as chair and vice-chair of the USGA Women’s Committee and USA captain for the 2016 Women’s World Amateur Team Championship.

Bob Ross is best known for his tenure as the PGA Head Professional at Baltusrol Golf Club, a role he held from 1976-1996. While at Baltusrol, he was honored by the PGA of America as Golf Professional of the Year (1981) and Merchandiser of the Year (1989).  Considered the consummate golf professional, Ross is respected for his career of devoted service to his membership, mentoring dozens of young golf professionals, a strong playing record, and for hosting multiple national championships and earning national recognition for his achievements.

An accomplished player, Ross won the New Jersey Senior Open, the Pennsylvania Open, and Philadelphia PGA Section Championship. He competed in six PGA and USGA Championships along with eight PGA and USGA Senior championships. When Baltusrol hosted the 1980 U.S. Open, Ross was the first host professional to qualify for the event in two decades.

In recognition of his achievements, Ross was inducted into the Philadelphia PGA Section Hall of Fame in 2000, the New Jersey PGA Section (NJPGA) Hall of Fame in 2003 and was honored with the 2017 NJPGA/NJSGA Distinguished Service Award. During his time at Baltusrol, he was named NJPGA Golf Professional of the Year and NJPGA Merchandiser of the Year (in addition to his national honors of the same nature). Also of note, Ross was instrumental in the development of Hawk Pointe Golf Club (in Warren County), where he was the Director of Golf after its opening in 2000.

Born in Vermont, Ross grew up in Connecticut and learned the game of golf as a caddie at Shennecossett Golf and Country Club in Groton. Later, he enrolled at Pasadena City College in California where he was coached by two-time PGA Championship winner Paul Runyon. After college, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in the 77th Special Forces unit at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Before arriving at Baltusrol, Ross was first hired as an assistant Shennecossett before moving on to another assistant position in Amarillo, Texas. His first head job was at the Susquehanna Valley Country Club in Selingsgrove, Pa., where he performed the dual role of head professional and greenkeeper. Then came a succession of head professional jobs: Valley C.C. in Hazelton, Pa.; North Hills in the suburbs of Philadelphia; and the prestigious Philadelphia Cricket Club prior to his appointment at Baltusrol in 1976.

Chester “Red” Wender (1927-2020) was the golf course superintendent at Plainfield Country Club from 1952 through 1994. In those four decades, he established a national reputation for excellence, was known as the “go-to guy” for area golf course superintendents and considered an esteemed part of the Plainfield Country Club community.

In his role as superintendent, he led preparations for more than a dozen local, regional and national championships including the 1978 U.S. Men’s Amateur Championship, the 1987 U.S. Women’s Open Championship, the 1952, ’61, ’68, ’75 and 1990 NJSGA Open Championships, the 1965, ’70 and ’83 NJSGA Men’s Amateur Championships and the 1957, ’63 and ’79 Met Open Championships.

A generous mentor to his staff, Wender boasts an impressive succession of former assistants who went on to superintendent positions at other clubs, including Brett Price (Metuchen Golf & Country Club), Greg James (Liberty National Golf Club), Jim Gilligan (Bedens Brook Club), Chuck DiFrancisco (Scotch Hills Golf Club), and Lance Rodgers, the current superintendent at Colonia Country Club.

Wender was always looking for ways to improve his craft and was known throughout the region for his best practices, knack for innovation and willingness to share his knowledge. He cultivated relationships with turfgrass construction firms and the nearby Rutgers University Turf Management programs to ensure that Plainfield was among the first clubs to benefit from new research into mowers, grass, pesticides, and herbicides. For example, Wender was among the first superintendents to use three watering lines per hole (versus the standard two lines).

Wender made it clear to his staff that his standard was to always maintain the course at tournament-level quality. This extended as practicable to Plainfield’s sister course, the public West Nine, which was also Wender’s responsibility, and later the nearby Colonia Country Club, where Wender served as green superintendent for three years after leaving Plainfield. For his extraordinary career and achievements, Wender is recognized as the first golf course superintendent elected to the NJSGA Hall of Fame.

Information regarding the induction ceremony and reception will be announced by the NJSGA in the coming weeks.

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