Dean Lind, who defeated future U.S. Open champion Ken Venturi in the final of the inaugural U.S. Junior Amateur Championship in 1948, died Wednesday morning in Encinitas, Calif., of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 80.
Lind was a 17-year-old high school state champion from Rockford, Ill., when he was one of the 128 players from 41 states who qualified for the first U.S. Junior Amateur at the University of Michigan Golf Course in Ann Arbor. He had played the game since the age of 12, but prior to the USGA creating the U.S. Junior Amateur in 1948, there were few national junior competitions.
The championship was conducted completely at match play. Lind, who posted a 4-and-2 victory over Venturi in the 18-hole final, used that triumph to gain a golf scholarship to the University of Michigan.
“My parents were just ecstatic that I was going to get a scholarship,” said Lind, who attended the players’ dinner at the 2006 U.S. Junior Amateur, which was held at the Rancho Santa Fe (Calif.) Inn near Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club, site of that year’s championship. “I was going to go to Northwestern [in Evanston, Ill.] and the coach would never look at me.”
At Michigan, Lind helped the Wolverines to a pair of Big Ten golf championships and also met his wife, Sally, during his freshman year. For the first eight years after graduation, he rarely played golf. When the Korean War began, he was stationed at Fort Knox in Kentucky for three years. He then went to work for his dad’s water treatment company in Rockford for five years.
“I didn’t have any interest in being a traveling salesman, and that’s about what [professional] golf was back then,” Lind told the Rockford Star seven years ago. “Get in your car and drive to the next town to try and make ends meet.”
A three-time Men’s City champion in Rockford, Lind didn’t get back into golf until he helped found The Ledges Golf Course, serving as the pro at the Roscoe, Ill., course from 1965-72. During that time, Lind honed his skills sufficiently to compete on the Asian Tour, where he once recorded a hole-in-one at the Singapore Open. His wife said he pocketed more cash for that feat than if he had won the tournament.
“We spent wonderful winters on the Asian Tour,” Sally Lind told the Rockford Star. “He played all of the Opens in different countries. The Hong Kong Open, Singapore Open, Kuala Lumpur Open. He was leading the Philippines Open one year. I was in Japan. I opened the paper and saw his picture. That was exciting.”
In 1975 at the age of 45, Lind qualified for the U.S. Open at Medinah Country Club. He also qualified for the 1988 U.S. Senior Open at Medinah, one of four U.S. Senior Opens in which he competed.
Back in Rockford, Lind became a golf legend. Those golfers growing up in the 1960s heard all about Lind, especially after Venturi claimed the 1964 U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club.
“When I was in high school, that’s who we heard about, Dean beating Venturi,” David Claeyssens, the Rockford Park District’s co-manager of golf services, told the Rockford Star. “We all looked at him as a rock star.”
Lind, who moved to California in 1989, was voted into the Greater Rockford Golf Hall of Fame in 2006.
He is survived by his wife, Sally, and two daughters, including Lisa Holton, who coaches the men’s and women’s golf teams at Avila University in Kansas City, Mo. She is the reigning Heart of American Conference Coach of the Year.
“The thing Dean was most proud of in golf,” his wife said, “is his daughter Lisa.”
David Shefter is the USGA communications staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.