The growth of U.S. golf—there were 2 million players in 1936 compared with 8 million last year—meant Joe Dey had a growing job, but he kept pace. Now his organization has a gross annual revenue of $800,000, and spends almost all of it. More than a third goes toward the running of the USGA championships, a little less than a quarter apiece toward administration and operation of its Green Section, which assists member clubs in the agronomy and proper maintenance of their courses, and the rest on its movies and myriad publications aimed at educating the golfing public in such elementary matters as rules and etiquette.
Golf House, where Joe Dey now presides over a staff of 27, reflects the somewhat musty elegance of the USGA. It is a handsome five-story Stanford White town house that the elder J. P. Morgan built in the once-stylish neighborhood of East 38th Street, just off Park Avenue. Bought for the USGA after a nationwide public subscription following World War II, it serves as a golf museum and library as well as an office, and there is scarcely an item among its 15,000 rare reference books, old prints and golf artifacts with which Dey, a Sunday school teacher by avocation, is not as lovingly familiar as he is with his own Bible. ("Familiar!" says a Dey aide. "Why, he quotes the Bible to me daily.")
In addition to the immediate staff at Golf House, there are some 600 volunteer workers who man the USGA's 20 committees governing such matters as rules, championships, implements, handicaps and finance. Of these, 15 eventually rise to the executive committee. They are scattered across the country, they must pay their own fares to all meetings and tournaments and they have no expense accounts. The gold USGA buttons they wear on their navy blue blazers are their only vigorish—the number of buttons on their coat sleeves showing rank; the president rates four. They also get to buy ($4) an executive committee necktie from Brooks Brothers. At tournaments, they must referee both the good and the boring matches, make unpopular rulings on technicalities, help control the galleries and supervise the parking and sanitary facilities. When the day is done, they sometimes even get to sit through committee meetings lasting well past midnight. If, like Clarence W. (Gus) Benedict, a White Plains, N.Y. businessman who is the current president, they do their work well, they are eventually elected secretary and move from there to second vice-president, first vice-president and finally to president. When they retire they get a USGA medal.
"They are," says Lewis Lapham, a New York banker and former member of the committee, "the most dedicated bunch of guys I have ever known. Everyone wants them to soften up the Rules and trick up the ball and do this and that, and they call you stuffy and snotty and claim you don't move with the times, but believe me, they are a very superior bunch of fellows, and they run the USGA intelligently and courageously."
This, then, is the organization of which Joe Dey is the "heart, brains, belly and soul," as Lapham puts it. Even the pros, who are, year in and year out, Dey's most vociferous critics, will grudgingly admit—when pressed—that he has been a wonderful influence on golf. (They even said it ungrudgingly when he ordered the format of the U.S. Open changed this year to abolish the 36-hole final day—this being a change most of the pros were very much for and a great number of traditionalists very much against.) Recently Arnold Palmer went so far as to suggest that the PGA, which could use some firm leadership, should try to hire a man like Dey, or even Dey himself, to run its affairs.
Fred Corcoran, one of the pioneers of the professional golf tour, puts the proposition even more emphatically. " Joe Dey," says Corcoran, "will never get any Academy Awards for what he does, but no one has ever done more for golf. He is absolutely fair. He thinks only about what is good for the game. Golf should have more people like Joe Dey. Every sport should."
But don't walk up to a pro slashing at his ball in the U.S. Open rough next week and suggest this point of view to him. You might get killed in Deysville.