Great Golfdom collections

By |  February 5, 2018 0 Comments

Mel Lucas Jr.’s Golfdom collection was started by former NJGCSA President Frank Svehla before being given to his father. It was passed on to him in the 1970s and Lucas continues collecting to this day.

By the end of 2017, Golfdom had been published 770 times since it was first introduced by the Graffis brothers 90 years ago. Over the years, we have learned of three collections that are close to bringing together a complete run. These are the stories of those collections.

The Lucas collection

Atlantic City, N.J., played host to the 1953 GCSAA Conference and Show, and Mel Lucas Sr., a golf course superintendent at nearby Homestead Golf & Country Club, Spring Lake, N.J., decided to pull his son Mel Jr. out of school for a couple of days so he could attend with him. Mel Sr. had no way of knowing that his son would not only join the family business, but also become president of the association 25 years later. But this story isn’t about that journey. It’s about the start of one of the largest collections of Golfdom magazines we know about today.

“That was my first show that I attended,” says Mel Lucas Jr., now retired. “I can remember the show floor, and it was a convention hall of the hotel that was used, so it was not a large-capacity (venue) like we see today. The New Jersey association was the host, and the hospitality booth at the hotel was hosted by Frank Svehla, superintendent at Colonia (N.J.) Country Club. He would eventually be the NJGCSA president in 1958 and 1959.”

As Lucas tells it, Svehla brought with him his entire collection of Golfdom magazines, which dated back to the publication’s earliest issues, and left them out in the hospitality booth so visiting superintendents could thumb through them. At the end of the conference, Svehla gathered up his collection and saw, to his dismay, that three or four years of magazines were missing.

“In his basic disappointment, Mr. Svehla wanted no more to do with the collection, and told my dad, ‘Mel, they’re all yours. Take them,’” recalls Lucas. “So, all of a sudden, there my dad was sitting with all of these magazines. (He) brought them back to our home, and then he started building on that, saving everything he was getting.”

When Lucas Jr. entered the industry in the 1960s, he started his own collection and became known in the industry as a collector. Older superintendents often would offer their old editions, and Lucas readily accepted everything, even issues he already owned.

“I was getting a lot of duplicates of the magazines, as well as starting to fill in the holes that were created from the loss of those other years,” says Lucas, who received the collection when his father passed away in 1978. “When I became a member of the Golf Collectors Society in 1973… I really started finding more magazines.”

The Golf Collectors Society (GCS) is a group of about 2,000 golf fanatics from around the world who collect mainly pre-1930s golf memorabilia. Thanks to his membership with the society, Lucas’ collection is missing just 23 editions of Golfdom. He was also able to amass old greensmowers, tee markers and cups that date to the turn of the last century, as well as numerous books on golf. Many of those books were acquired in trades for duplicate editions of Golfdom that he made with a fellow GCS member who also joined in the 1970s.

“Mike Hurdzan became a member of that group around the same time, and we started commiserating about what we had, and I realized I had a lot of magazines that he needed, and he had a lot of books that I wanted to acquire,” says Lucas. “So, I would swap him a number of magazines and I’d end up with a book. That’s how our collections grew.”

The Hurdzan collection

Col. Mike Hurdzan, Ph.D., ASGCA, is best known as a golf course architect. He’s a winner of the Old Tom Morris Award, the Donald Ross Award and the Don A. Rossi award.

Mike Hurdzan’s golf collection goes well beyond his editions of Golfdom. He has thousands of magazines, books, clubs and art stored at his office and his home.

He’s also a proud collector of Golfdom.

“All the things that the Graffis brothers did, I thought it was fabulous,” Hurdzan says. “Incidentally, I always consider Golfdom the very first magazine that I ever read that really had information related to golf course design.”

Hurdzan started his collection of Golfdom magazines in the 1960s as well, and credits his mentor, Jack Kidwell, as the reason why. Kidwell owned the golf course where Hurdzan’s father worked as a teaching pro, and Kidwell’s family had saved various golf magazines, including Golfdom, going back to the 1930s, when they got into golf course ownership.

“I spent an awful lot of time at that golf course, and probably the earliest Golfdoms I remember looking at were when I was 12 or 13,” remembers Hurdzan. “So many of them had golf architecture-related articles. The ones with Robert Trent Jones, in particular. Mr. Kidwell was into golf course architecture, and he had rebuilt his own golf course at the time.”

Hurdzan’s Golfdom collection started with magazines he had received from Kidwell, but it was those trades with Mel Lucas Jr. for golf books that filled out Hurdzan’s collection. And Hurdzan’s golf collection goes well beyond magazines. What started as a gift of two golf architecture books on Christmas morning 1968 has grown to more than 6,000 books, 6,000 individual magazines, 7,000 wood-shaft golf clubs, golf art, golf pictures and golf statues stored between the 5,000-square-foot office of Hurdzan Golf Design and at his home in a specially designed basement space.

“Mel and I have been friends for 40 some years, and we have shared a lot of things, and that’s one of the things that golf collectors do,” says Hurdzan. “When you know somebody else has the same interest as you, you try to make available the things that are of interest.”

Lucas says few of the old Golfdom magazines pop up anymore, especially from the few years that he is missing. He is likely to pass on his Golfdoms rather than try to complete the entire run, he notes. Well, unless he is offered the right price.

“At my stage of the game — I’m now 75 — I’m starting to dismantle my golf collection. Am I wanting to buy more things? Probably not,” says Lucas. “There’s a guy on the West Coast who sells golf books online, but he doesn’t have the Golfdoms I’m looking for. He’s trying to sell them for $25 each. If the ones I’m missing came up at that price, I could probably pay that.”

The TIC collection

Turf-related materials at Michigan State could only be seen while at the library. That changed when the USGA and MSU partnered on the Turfgrass Information File (TGIF).

Both Lucas and Hurdzan have impressive personal collections of Golfdom, but they are not the most complete collections. That honor belongs to the Michigan State University library’s Turfgrass Information Center (TIC), a collection that is on the verge of completion.

“Michigan State University began collecting turf materials in the early 1960s, but the major donation was from the personal collection of the pioneering turf agronomist O.J. Noer,” says Mike Schury, manager of the TIC. “That was donated to the library in 1968 after his death and really got the collection going.”

The university’s library kept adding turf-related material to the O.J. Noer Memorial Turfgrass Collection, but only visitors to the library could access the information. That changed in 1983 when the United States Golf Association and Michigan State’s library agreed to team up on the development of a computer database known as the Turfgrass Information File (TGIF), which would house all published materials about turfgrass and turfgrass maintenance. The database (located at tic.msu.edu) now contains more than 250,000 records, including Golfdom.

The effort to digitize all the records started in the mid-2000s. It got to the Golfdom collection a couple years into the project, once the library received approval from magazine publisher North Coast Media, owner of the copyright.

“To get Golfdom digitized on the system, we had to use physical (magazines) we had and we had to put them on a flatbed scanner and then crop the image and straighten it,” says Schury. “We had to have student employees here at the library scan over 60,000 pages of Golfdom from the spring of 2011 until the project was completed in 2013.”

Thanks to the student staff’s labor, everyone can access almost every edition of Golfdom from the TGIF’s website, as well as via a link from Golfdom.com. There, the creation of Herb and Joe Graffis will continue to exist for future generations of superintendents, researchers and turf professionals.

Photos: Mel Lucas Jr. (1), Hurdzan Golf Design (2), Michigan State University Library (3)

This article is tagged with and posted in Columns, Featured

Post a Comment

Privacy Preference Center

Close your account?

Your account will be closed and all data will be permanently deleted and cannot be recovered. Are you sure?