The idea for compiling the History of each Chapter was born at the 2003 National hosted by Del Val at Hilton Head, South Carolina. The host club President, Gil Spriggs asked Mel Blackwell, Secretary of the DC Chapter, to provide a history of how Pro Duffers got started. After delivering the history as told to him by one of the founding members, Sewell Horad, a lively discussion ensued for several weeks thereafter calling for a complete history of all Chapters. It was agreed that this was a noble idea and an idea whose time had come. Mel Blackwell offered to compile the History if all of the Chapters would submit their history and the project was under way. After several months and great work by all of the authors, the history has been told from the eyes and lips of each Chapter. Additionally, the history of how the National Organization was formed as told by Dr. Milton Bernard, former National President and DC Chapter President, the Constitution and By-Laws, a description of National events and a future vision of Pro Duffers was shared by National President Thomas H. Sweeney, Jr.
How Pro -Duffers Got Started
Over forty five years ago -in the late fifties -a group of golfers from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, known as the “Del Val” golf club contacted several of their former Howard University classmates who lived in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area, and expressed an interest in engaging in some friendly golf matches-area against area.
This very intriguing idea caught the fancy of nine D.C. golfers who decided to form a golfing group, with a name. The original group included Mark Brown, Otho Ferguson, Sewell Horad, William Hyde, Hugh Jackson, Mordecai Johnson, Leon Wills, William “Bus” Lofton and John “Buster” Rector. Sewell Horad was chosen as leader (President) of the group and even though they had not decided on a name, their purpose was well defined -BEAT DEL VAL. Competitive spirit ran high, but early encounters were not too successful.
Several months after the first encounter with the Del Val group, Robert Smith (a cousin of Bus Lofton’s) and Sewell Horad met a fellow golfer at Norwest Park Golf Club who identified himself as a “profession duffer.” The next time the D.C. group met, they proposed the name “Pro-Duffers” as a suitable title. The idea was accepted unanimously, and the group became the PRO-DUFFERS GOLF CLUB.
It soon became obvious to the PRO-DUFFERS that in order to match the size and skill of the Del Val Club, they would have to expand their own membership. Their first act was to recruit all the golfers who were members of the “WHAT GOOD ARE WE SOCIAL CLUB.” Even with the increased membership, their success in defeating the Del Val Club did not change drastically. So the search began for some more skillful golfers. The next person to join the club was Booker Kent, who was sponsored by Bob Smith and Bus Lofton who had observed Booker’s game at the East Potomac Golf Course and was impressed with his ability to play.
The largest single increase in the Pro-Duffers membership took place about a year later when a group of physicians, dentist and other professionals who played golf primarily at Langston Golf Course agreed to join the club. This group headed by St. Elmo Crawford, included Thad Mumford, Joe Murray, Bus Yancy, Joe D. Saunders and others. Through the years, they continued to increase the membership to the point where they found it necessary to declare a moratorium on new members.
During the early years, even with an increased membership all meetings were held in members’ homes on a voluntary basis. It was during a meeting at Horad’s home that “Joe D.” Saunders introduced his friend and houseguest Foster Kidd, from Dallas, Texas. Kidd was so impressed with the group that he asked permission to form a group in Dallas, to be known as the Pro-Duffers Southwest. His idea met with great success in Dallas. Soon after that, a small group of golfers in Memphis, Tennessee learned about the Pro-Duffers in Washington and the expansion in Dallas, and asked permission to form a group called the Pro-Duffers Memphis. C.C. Jones headed the Memphis group.
Several years ago, Calvin D. Banks (who had been Secretary in Washington) moved to California. Soon after he settled there, Cal asked and was granted permission to form a group of golfers in that area to be known as the Pro-Duffers West. This brought the count to four Chapters. The Pro-Duffers-West Chapter never got of the ground and eventually faded into the sunset. But, not to worry, other Chapters sprang up and blossomed into strong and viable groups –among them Little Rock, Atlanta, Houston, Del Val and Northern Virginia.
In Washington there was a loose organization (you can interpret loose any way that you like) of golfers called the Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday group. On any one of these days one would simply show up and they would be assured of a game that involved wagers based purely upon stroke play. On any given day approximately 16 to 24 guys participated in the groups.
Some of these were Milton Bernard, St. Elmo Crawford Sr., Joe D. Saunders, Dino Hall, Tank: Edwards, Floyd Dixon, Harry Martin, Thad Mumford, Billy Polk, John Agard, Van Thompson, John Roxborough, and the list goes on.
Most but not all were Pro-Duffers of Washington. Our group traveled every February to places like Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and finally we settled on Freeport, Bahamas. One year Foster Kidd from Dallas attended our stag February event and fell in love with the camaraderie and plain good fun enjoyed by one and all. He then brought along his two-man team partner Dan Evans and a slew of good fellas from Dallas, Ike Iglehart, and Howard Aldridge, among others. Annual grudge matches were played and much love was exhibited by all. From this fellowship was born the idea of a Pro-Duffers Club in Dallas, and by association Memphis. Initially, a group in California was headed by Calvin Banks, the former esteemed secretary of our chapter who asked for and received permission to use our name and logo, much the same as Dallas and Memphis. Foster Kidd petitioned our club, and Joe D. Saunders and Milton Bernard carried the ball in Washington to establish formally a national Pro-Duffers Club.
The first meeting was in Las Vegas at the Dunes Hotel. Here we had representatives from Washington, Dallas, California and Memphis. This meeting was to hammer out outlines for the formation of our national, and a constitution was formulated after much hashing and rehashing. Lemuel Osbourne, Foster Kidd, Dan Evans, C.c. Jones, John( Joe D) Saunders, Eugene Sills, Roosevelt Bush, and many others put together a constitution that was deliberately vague in certain areas since it was felt that each chapter should have the latitude to carry out their internal functions without interference from the National. It was never our intent to become a mammoth organization, rather, we wanted to be like the Marines and concentrate on having “a few good men” of integrity who had a lot in common and who liked to have fun while playing golf. If we could find a great many good men then more power to us. Basic issues related to tournament sites (should be at a resort) were put into place, and the minimum number of members for a new chapter etc was agreed to by all. At this meeting, Milton Bernard was voted in as the first National President and Foster Kidd the Vice President. Joe “D” Saunders was the tournament Director and Sewell Horad the Treasurer. We voted to return to the Dunes the following year to begin a National Organization (1986) and did so in fine fashion.
The tenure of President was agreed upon to be two-year terms. Foster Kidd assumed the Presidency after Milton Bernard’s first term. At our initial meeting it had been agreed that the Presidency would rotate from Chapter to Chapter so that there would be an opportunity for each Chapter to be integrally involved with the leadership of the club. Leon Griffin, Lemuel Osbourne, Dan Evans, Larry Brown and Tom Sweeney have all carried the mantle very well. Milton Bernard has had the privilege to serve in this capacity twice.
At one of the National meetings, Lem Osbourne made a point that we ought to begin hosting some of our affairs in our local jurisdictions and thus became the genesis of the National Spring Fling. Memphis already had their Spring Fling in place and the ability to expand this into National activity was fairly easy to effect. The thought process behind this was that this would not be as extensive and expensive an affair as the fall convention. Hence guys could room together or go stag, play poker at nights etc. This has evolved into quite an event.
Lastly, the emblem that represents the Pro-Duffers was designed and developed by the significant other of DC Duffer William Carr (deceased). Her name is Sharon Congdon and we are all appreciative other creative efforts.