The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

July 14, 2007

Clair Goodwin: Joplin hosted greats

Did you know that Gene Sarazen, Ralph Guldahl, Ky Laffoon, Ben Hogan and Patty Berg once strode the fairways of Schifferdecker Municipal Golf Course and/or Twin Hills Golf and Country Club?

That was back in the days when the professional tour wasn’t quite so lucrative and players frequently teed it up for exhibitions in communities between tour stops to pick up a little extra cash or stopped off to visit a club pro buddy.

A wonderful photo exhibit of some of those stars of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s is on display in Schifferdecker’s clubhouse. Twin Hills also has great photos of Hogan, “The Joplin Ghost” Horton Smith and others.

In those early days, Joplin was an important place for golf.

Smith, who exploded on the golf scene with a dozen pro victories in 1929 and 1930, and Laffoon, the player who Horton replaced as pro at Oak Hill (now Twin Hills), honed their considerable talents here.

Ed Dudley, an early-day pro at Oak Hill (Twin Hills), became the first club professional at Augusta National and was elected president of the PGA. Springfield’s Herman Keiser, who won the Masters in 1946, played in the Ozark Amateur at Schifferdecker in the mid-1930s.

And, of course, Hale Irwin, a three-time winner of the U.S. Open, was born in Joplin and played quite a bit of golf at Schifferdecker as a youngster.

Leonard Dodson, a multiple winner on tour, probably played at some time here because he and Laffoon were close buddies with legendary hustler Titanic Thompson and Thompson frequently played at Schifferdecker from the 1930s through the 1950s.

The colorful Thompson would bet on almost anything. He reportedly bet that he could toss a peanut onto the roof of a tall building in Joplin, rumored to have been the Connor Hotel. He palmed the peanut he was given and substituted one with a lead weight glued inside. He threw it onto the roof. Was it the Connor? Doubtful since it was seven stories high.

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