1951 Kokomo High School golf team

WILDCATS: The 1951 Kokomo High School golf team consisted of Dick Dezelan, left to right, Charles Chisholm, Bill Grant, Ronnie Quinnette, Don Holt, Bob Snyder, Dick Cardwell and Jack Fell.

Last year after reading the article on Bill Grant Jr, reader Jeff Cardwell suggested I might like to talk his father Richard (Dick) Cardwell. I could sense his pride in his father’s accomplishments. It was a great suggestion and I am sure you will agree after reading this article.

First, here is a little background on Dick Cardwell. He graduated from Kokomo High School in 1951 where he was a member of the golf team. After high school, Cardwell double-majored at Indiana University in journalism and government. While there, he also lettered four years in golf and was the Big Ten long-drive champion. He proceeded to get a law degree.

After graduation, he joined a law firm and the Hoosier State Press Association where he became the general counsel. His 50-year distinguished career included being the primary author of the Indiana Open Door Law and Access to Public Records Act. He represented the newspaper industry before the Indiana General Assembly on First Amendment causes throughout much of his career. Cardwell indicated that “I represented the news media. I represented the Tribune a lot.”

But this column is about golf — and besides his high school and college accomplishments, Cardwell has an impressive résumé here also.

In high school, his teammates included Grant, Dick Dezelan, Charles Chisholm, Ron Quinnette, Don Holt, Bob Snyder and Jack Fell. While in high school he caddied at the Kokomo Country Club. The members would allow the caddies to play with their clubs on caddie’s day knowing they would take care of them.

“In Kokomo, there were a lot of good players at the Country Club. Fred Kroft was probably the best. His son Steve is on "60 Minutes." Bridane Brant was a marvelous player. Jim Young — he was a great guy. I caddied for all these guys.

“The KCC started a Caddie Council to be the liaison between the caddies and the members,” Cardwell said, and he was elected president of that. “I was a pretty good player and was doing well in the state tournaments. My dad was not a member. And next thing you know they made me a junior member — $6 a month.”

Cardwell, who will be 84 this month, is a past-president of the Indiana Golf Association having served in that leadership role in 1982 and 1983. He even wrote a golf column for the Indianapolis Times for several years. His golf handicap has ranged typically between one and three — a very fine player.

Following his term as IGA president, Golf Digest asked if he might be interested in becoming a rating panelist. This opened many doors to some of North America’s premier layouts.

Cardwell indicated that Golf Digest “would give you a list at the start of the year that would have about 300 courses on it and maybe 100 on it were new and they asked that he play as many of those as you could. They expected you to go to the ones near you. Many years I would rank up to 100 courses.”

Supported by his wife, Marcia, and a flexible schedule, Cardwell would start in March and have about four months to complete his ratings. While on the surface this sounded like a great deal — and it was, as the courses were very supportive — it typically cost Cardwell about $80 a round for travel and hotels. Cardwell’s son David is now also a Golf Digest rater.

“The best course I think is the Banff Springs Hotel designed by the Toronto Terror, Stanley Thompson, in Alberta, Canada. Of course, Augusta National is up there also," he said.

Cardwell was fortunate to have played Augusta National many times as a friend to one of the 20 founding members, Henry Heffernan.

“They were all old guys. They had one good player and his name was Val Hastings. When they put a new bunker in they would have Val hit the shots because he was the only one that was any good.

“The12th hole — I bet I played that hole in 15 under-par for my life. It was just a perfect 6-iron and landed in the right place every time. Never hit it in the water or hit it over,” Cardwell added.

Another great course Cardwell mentioned was the Country Club of North Carolina in Pinehurst.

“Pebble Beach was a rotten course," he said. "It had nice holes along the ocean. The only thing interesting about Pebble Beach was the bunkers around the greens set up all the strategy on the golf course. That’s about all I liked about it. The condition was always terrible. From a conditioning standpoint, from Los Angeles all the way up the coast to Oregon, the conditions of the courses compared to here would be about five out of 10 due to the grasses used.

“I was a member of the Country Club of Indianapolis for over 50 years and I thought everything about it was good. It goes every direction. Good holes. When you were young and you moved to Indianapolis, you came to play at the Country Club because it was where all the good players were. Pete Dye was certainly one of them. There were dozens of them. Probably the next place with the most good players was Meridian Hills.”

Cardwell caddied at Meridian Hills during his college years.

I asked Cardwell about state golf Hall of Famer Bobby Resener, a three-time state Amateur champion who won 18 Kokomo Country Club championships.

“Resener was about 5 foot, 7 inches. Didn’t weigh 110 pounds. Chewed a big cigar. Probably had a one or two handicap and couldn’t hit it but 180 yards. I caddied for him a lot. He used an old wood-shafted putter. It looked like something that was 60 years old maybe. He always tipped me a dime. $1.15 and a dime tip — gave me a dollar and a quarter. But he was a great player.”

Resener died in 1951 at the age of 62 after a three-year battle with cancer which may explain the short driving distance Cardwell noted.

Cardwell has traveled with his sons and played courses including the “home of golf” St. Andrews in Scotland. It was there that son Jeff shot a memorable round of 74, well under his handicap.

His father John was active in the American Legion and was an active member of the committee that brought golf to the American Legion. He was president of the Kokomo Community Golf Association when the city took over the course as the Legion did not have the funds to buy the course at the end of its 10-year lease in 1937.

It’s been a distinguished career for a distinguished gentleman.

Until next time, have more fun playing more golf!

Jon Kelley is an active golfer and local golf historian who contributes columns to the Tribune. He may be reached by email at jon_kelley@comcast.net.

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