Luigs, Wright Recipients Of USGA Awards

Feb. 6, 2010

By Ken Klavon, USGA

Pinehurst, N.C. – Joe Luigs comes across as everyone’s best friend.

It’s a safe bet to presume that anyone affiliated with golf in Indiana knows the 66-year-old Luigs. How could they not?

luigsins 
Joe Luigs takes in the design of the Joe Dey Award plaque
that he received Saturday. (John Mummert/USGA)

Former director of the Indiana Golf Association. Trustee for the Evans Scholars Foundation. Indiana Golf Hall of Fame inductee in 2003. Master storyteller.

The Carmel, Ind., resident is a walking storybook. Luigs without an anecdote would be like Michael Jordan forgetting how to dribble.

It just doesn’t happen.

So it wasn’t surprising that Luigs entertained the masses Saturday night as he graciously accepted the Joe Dey Award, which is has been presented annually since 1996 to recognize meritorious service to the game as a volunteer.

“There are a lot of people out there who deserve it,” said Luigs on Friday in between countless golf-related stories. “I’m accepting it on their behalf.”

Modest to a fault, Luigs has been a USGA committee member since 1982, when he first joined the Green Section Committee.

In 1991, he was appointed to the Sectional Affairs Committee, which became the Regional Affairs Committee in 2004. He has served in a volunteer capacity over the past 25 years at more than 80 national golf championships and assisted in conducting more than 70 qualifying events for USGA championships. Luigs has been overseeing and managing USGA qualifiers in Indiana since 1990 when past USGA president Trey Holland joined the Executive Committee.

“I remember when Trey called me back then. He was wondering whether he should take it, and I said, ‘Trey, if you turn them down, they’re not going to ask you again.’ And he was considering saying no because he ran the Indiana qualifiers. If he accepted, he wondered aloud who would take them over, meaning me. I can be dumb, but I knew this was an opportunity he couldn’t refuse,” said Luigs.

The multi-dimensional Luigs has also been a Rules official at many USGA championships.

“He’s been the face of Indiana for Evans Scholars,” said USGA Executive Committee member Pat Kaufman, who is also the chairman of the Joe Dey Award Committee, but neither nominates or votes for the recipients. “You talk about golf and for the good of the game, but with Joe, it’s what good he can do for other golfers.”

When Luigs received the award Saturday, he cited Pinehurst as providing seminal moments over his golf career. He took his first golf lesson at nearby Pine Needles from Peggy Kirk Bell; it’s where his first of two daughters, Lisa, 43, learned to play golf; it’s where his wife of nearly 45 years, Marcia Luigs, also learned how to play; Pinehurst No. 2 is where he first refereed a Tiger Woods grouping; and it’s also where a player once asked his wife, in his presence, to find him a Rules official.

With typical Luigs humor, he said receiving the award made him a target for those who wanted to congratulate and insult him.

Later in the evening, Mickey Wright was bestowed the Bob Jones Award, the USGA’s highest honor. Rhonda Glenn, a close friend of Wright’s and a manager of communications for the USGA, accepted on her behalf.  She spoke glowingly of Wright, now 74, and some of the demands she faced as a touring pro when she was on top of her game.

Wright, a four-time U.S. Women’s Open champion, essentially became the Jordan of golf during her heyday, known mainly for her flawless swing and integrity on and off the course.

 “The swing was the same swing she had as a junior,” said Barbara Romack, who defeated Wright in the 1954 U.S. Women’s Amateur final. “She used to say as a junior, ‘I’m going to try to be the greatest female golfer of all time.’”

Before Glenn accepted the award, those in attendance were treated to a 20-minute highlight video that featured interviews with some of the game’s most recognizable figures through the years.

Ken Klavon is the USGA’s Digital Editor, Communications. E-mail him with questions or comments at kklavon@usga.org.

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