USGA Award Winner Rundle Dies At 78

 

By Ken Klavon, USGA

When Trip Kuehne sat down to write a letter of recommendation in support of Dick Rundle’s nomination to receive the USGA Joe Dey Award last year, it didn’t take him long to formulate a glowing review of the longtime volunteer’s dedication to the game. He called Rundle his “mentor.”

Golf lost more than a mentor when Rundle, 78, died peacefully Friday morning in Dallas, Texas, after a long battle with cancer. It lost a treasured resource and a dedicated steward of the game who made a lasting imprint as a USGA committee member, organizer, rules official and referee. Rundle was held in particularly high regard for his knowledge of the Rules of Golf and served as a rules official at several U.S. Opens and innumerable USGA qualifiers and tournaments throughout Texas.

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Dick Rundle converses with USGA Executive Committee member Pat Kaufman upon receiving the Joe Dey Award in February at the Annual Meeting. (John Mummert/USGA)

“Absolutely,” said Mike Davis, the USGA’s senior director of Rules and Competitions. “He was one of the best without a doubt. He’ll be sorely missed.”

On Oct. 14, 2008, the USGA announced that Rundle would receive the 2009 Joe Dey Award. Named after Joseph C. Dey Jr., who served as USGA executive director from 1934 to 1969, the award recognizes an individual’s meritorious service to the game as a volunteer.

When told of the honor, Rundle said he was “absolutely stunned.” Little did Rundle know it then, but more than 20 letters from friends and colleagues had been sent to the USGA Awards Committee in a show of support. Kuehne, 37, an All-American at Oklahoma State University from 1994-96 and lifelong amateur player, wrote that Rundle “had an extremely positive influence on my playing career, always willing to give an encouraging word.”

At the USGA Annual Meeting, held in Newport Beach, Calif., this past February, Rundle told the large audience, "I accept this award with a mix of emotions: pride, humility and gratefulness." Humbled by the experience, his eyes welled with tears and he added, "As most of us do when something like this happens, you say, 'What did I do?'"

Rundle always remained modest about the countless hours he put in as a volunteer, subscribing to the premise that it was the least he could do to give back to something that he loved so much, he said.

“Mr. Rundle was the ultimate volunteer,” said Kuehne via phone Friday. “What was so great about Mr. Rundle was that he never took himself seriously. … I don’t think I would have won a USGA championship if not for him.”

Kuehne, who first met Rundle in the late 1980s during a U.S. Junior Amateur qualifier, said Rundle taught him how to carry himself inside and outside the ropes. In 2003, as Kuehne immersed himself in competitive play, Rundle pulled him aside and told him that “it was on your shoulders” as a representative of the USGA and the amateur side of golf to act impeccably on and off the course.

Kuehne recalled becoming the “first recipient of the Dick Rundle pace of play penalty” during a sectional qualifier for the 2005 U.S. Open.

Kuehne’s group was informed that they had incurred a two-stroke penalty because they were seconds over their time. It turned a 66 into a 68, which led to Kuehne questioning the penalty. “He was stern but fair and he had your respect,” said Kuehne.

Born Nov. 21, 1930, Rundle graduated from OSU with an engineering degree. He started in the oil business at an early age, and acquaintances say he was one of the best in the world at drilling wells, a wildcatter who lived and worked in many places: Oklahoma, Louisiana, Germany, Venezuela, Colombia, Libya and England before returning to the U.S. in 1968, locating briefly in Houston before settling in Dallas in 1972.

“He was a great father and husband,” said John Howard, a friend and fellow member at The Northwood Club in Dallas. “He was a perfectionist. We’d play golf in fivesomes and have games and bets going with other groups on the course, and Dick would almost always keep score. The scorekeeping got complicated, but when you looked at Dick’s scorecard it was simple. Every mark, name and number on it was perfect.

“He was a perfectionist in everything he did, right down to how he marked his golf ball,” added Howard.

“Dick was just an outstanding individual, a man of high intelligence and skill and integrity,” said Joe Shepherd, another longtime friend from Northwood. “He’d call the rules on you, too – he wouldn’t waiver on that.”

In 1990, Rundle became a volunteer rules official working in the Northern Texas Section PGA of America. In 1995, he was recognized by the Section with the Byron Nelson Award for service to the game.

Rundle had served on the USGA Regional Affairs Committee since 1993. He devoted his time to numerous sectional qualifiers in the Dallas area, traveling to each host site with a trailer in tow containing tents, tables, chairs, banners, clocks, flags, radios and other supplies – almost all procured at his own expense – to ensure that every qualifier was conducted to the same high standard. Among other lasting contributions to the game, Rundle was instrumental in combating slow pace of play, instituting a pace-of-play policy in the Dallas area that shaved more than an hour off the typical round.

"To have one's efforts noticed, acknowledged and commended by the folks he works with, is the highest honor there is,” Rundle said this past February. “Certainly, the most precious accolade one can ever receive comes from his peers. I am proud that my work has been worthy.”

Joan Bernadine Rundle, his wife of 57 years, passed away in January 2008. A son, John Rex, died in an airplane accident in Colombia as a young teenager. Rundle is survived by daughter Susan Hyde, her husband, Sam, of Irving, Texas; their son, John Rex Hyde and his wife, Nicki, of Keller, Texas; daughter Elaine Tricoli of Cedar Hill, Texas, and her daughter, Laura, of Frisco, Texas; and daughter Ann Rundle of Dallas.

A funeral service will be held at Restland Funeral Home in Dallas on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. Visitation will be at the funeral home Tuesday from 6–8 p.m. Burial will be in Ames Cemetery, Ames, Okla.

Instead of sending flowers, Dick’s girls think he would be pleased if those wishing to do so would make a donation to the American Cancer Society or a favorite charitable organization.

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