How Pro Duffers Got Started
Over 60 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 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 DC 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, Leo Willis, William “Buster” 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 and Sewell Horad met a fellow golfer at Northwest Park Golf Club who identified himself as a “professional duffer.” The next time they met with the D.C. group, they proposed the name “Pro-Duffers” as a suitable title for the DC golfers. 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, our 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 his 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, dentists 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 Yancey, Joe D. Saunders and others. Through the years, we continued to increase our membership to the point where we found it necessary to declare a moratorium on new members.
During the early years, even with an increased membership all meetings were held in the member’s 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 our 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. This chapter never got off the ground and eventually faded into the sunset. But, not to worry, as other chapters sprang up and blossomed into strong and viable chapters — among them Little Rock, Atlanta, Houston, Del Val, Northern Virginia and Carolina. Today there are a total of 15 Chapters.
National Beginnings Chapters
Washington, DC Chapter
All of the history of how Pro-Duffers was formed is the history of the DC Chapter, as DC is the “Mother Chapter.” That leaves plenty of opportunity for recounting some of the colorful characters that were and are still a part of the DC Chapter. Only one of the founding members of the Chapter is still with us— Sewell Horad, the first President. Although he has retired from golf, on occasion, Sewell still hits the ball straight as an arrow even though he professes to have but “one good eye”.
One story about Sewell…a several years ago (2001), DC played its annual grudge match against the Del Val Club and Sewell was hitting from the senior tees (he was 79). Mel Blackwell was his partner and Gil Spriggs and Armondo Burnette were the opponents, both under 50 years old. After every stroke Sewell would ask, “Did you see where that ball went?” Every
time it was straight down the middle. Sewell and Mel won hole after hole and their opponents got tired of Sewell asking, “Did you see where that ball went?” At the 14th hole, Sewell and Mel closed them out and Gil and Armondo asked to see Sewell’s identification and looked into his eyes to make sure he had a sight problem. Sewell has never let them forget that match. Sewell served as the National Treasurer for many years.
Another colorful character was Booker Kent, arguably one of the best golfers in the history of the chapter. He was a DC policeman and told story after story about his encounters. His swing was silky smooth and had an irregular putting stroke, but it found the hole almost every time. Watch your wallet when you played with him as it was always lighter at the end.
William “Big Bill” Carr was another character. He had a raspy voice and walked the links to the end. He passed away a few years back and is sorely missed. His significant other designed the logo.
Odell Polk was club champion twice, once when he was 80 and the second time when he was 85. Yes, EIGHTY FIVE! Odell was famous for talking smack constantly and distracting his opponent. He was mild-mannered and full of life, but all of his efforts were aimed at beating the opponent and it happened!
Beginning in 1986, the Pro-Duffers in Washington began to discuss the potential of an outstanding group of professionals and agreed unanimously to focus our attention on a specific goal, and not just merely play golf and socialize. It was decided that a “Memorial Tournament” would be held in memory of our deceased members and at the same time, raise funds to help needy and deserving DC high school students interested in continuing their education.
Under the determined leadership of our then President, Dr. Milton Bernard, we have been able to give something back to the community. For the past thirty years, our club has been quite successful in conducting our annual “Memorial Tournament” designed to raise funds for our Scholarship Program. During that period of time we have contributed over $200,000 to Howard University and high school scholarship programs for needy students. In addition, in the past several years we have supported educational activities for junior golfers at Langston Golf Course. A special thanks goes to Dickie Carter for his outstanding generosity related to the scholarship activities over the years.
The Chapter has been blessed with outstanding leadership over the years. Twelve men have been honored with the title of President. In order, Founding member Sewell Horad, Iboo Mohammed, Mordecai Johnson, William Hyde, Worden (Bus) Yancy, Booker Kent, Milton Bernard, William Powell, Roy Baptiste, William Taylor, Melvin Blackwell, Calvin LaRoche and Jim Martin. Other members who have served with distinction and longevity in officer positions have been Tom Norman and Sewell Horad as long time treasurers and Ted Lewis as secretary. Terms are for a two-year stint and there are no term limits.
Tom Norman delighted us with his humor as the master of ceremony at our yearly banquets for 23 years and was followed by Mel Blackwell. Tom was also the master of ceremony at several nation banquets.
We currently enjoy an array of golf competitions. The first is team competition where an annual draft is held in the same procedure as a football draft. Five teams of twelve members are chosen and play throughout the year. The second is a match play flighted competition with five flights – Saunders (championship), Horad (first), Hyde (second), Carr (third) and Bernard (fourth)vii
flights. The winners of the five flights play a 36 hole medal play playoff to determine the club championship. The champion receives the ‘Red Championship Blazer’; a tradition that began in 2008. The third is the medal play flighted competition that is flighted the same as the match play competition. The individual with the low net score for the best two rounds out of three is the club medal play champion. Finally, we participate in our annual grudge match against the Del Val and Northern Virginia chapters which is held in Ocean City, Maryland.
The year is capped by an awards banquet where we “put on the dog “for our ladies and hand out the awards for the year’s competition. Currently we hold the yearly awards banquet at Congressional Country Club thanks to Rufus McKinney.