Dave King of Bethesda turns 50 today, and tomorrow morning at 10:40, he will take another step up in class when he tees off in a qualifying round for the U.S. Golf Association's Senior Amateur championship.
King, who has been winning tournaments around the state for so long it just seems as though he should be older, is one of 50 amateurs among 95 players seeking the four available places for the championship, set for July 25-28 at Oakland Hills Country Club in Birmingham, Mich.
Though this will be King's first USGA Senior showing, he has had plenty of others at the national level. He has qualified for the Amateur eight times and the Mid-Amateur three. His best Amateur was in 1972, its last year at medal play, when he tied for 15th behind winner Vinnie Giles.
Apparently, not enough people are aware of his accomplishments. During the recent Maryland Amateur Stroke Play tournament, he was introduced with a bare "and Dave King of Bethesda." King, a statistician for the U.S. Public Health Service, is one of the finest amateurs in the state, and has been for more than 20 years.
King, who grew up in the Philadelphia area and received undergraduate and master's degrees from the University of Wyoming, won the first eight club championships in which he played, beginning as a teen-ager -- three at Pine Valley (the Pine Valley) and five at St. David's in suburban Philadelphia.
"Those aside, I think the thing of which I am most proud is having won at least one tournament every year since 1959," King said after his finish (223, tied for 11th) in the Stroke Play championship, which ended last Sunday.
It marked only the second appearance in the event for King, an oversight he wishes he could remedy.
"I always had the club championship the same weekend, and played in that until last year," he said. "I love medal play. I think it's the most fun in amateur golf. So, last year I just decided to play in the state tournament instead."
He never had seen the course until the first round, shot 76-73-72221, and tied for third behind champion William Stout and playoff loser Larry Storck.
"This is a good tournament. I wish I had started playing in it earlier. Go back far enough, and I might even have won it, or been competitive at least."
Competitive. That's been Dave King's creed all his life. Though very much a gentleman, he's a fierce competitor.
In his past are two Maryland State Amateur titles, the first Mid-Amateur championship conducted by the Maryland State Golf Association, a D.C. Amateur crown, and a ton of area invitation titles, such as Winchester, Va. (five wins in seven tries), the Kenridge in Charlottesville, Va. (one win) and an old 54-hole medal event called the Washington Area Amateur (twice).
One title to escape him has been the Middle Atlantic Amateur, but not for lack of trying.
"I probably should have won it the year Roger McManus did , but I three-putted the last two holes."
Arthritis in his back puts a crimp in King's swing, limiting his distance, especially off the tee.
Still, at Mount Pleasant for the Stroke Play, King was able to use the "Not how, but how many" adage. At the 198-yard 11th, most of the players were hitting low to mid-irons. . . and making some big numbers. In one round, King hit a 3-wood shot to 2 feet and made the putt for a birdie-2.
"It's hard to compete at the highest level when you only hit it 230 [yards]," he said. "You have different expectations than the kids hitting it 280."
That distance may be out of his range, but there are sure to be other days and other titles for Dave King.
The new Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills will hold officia inauguration ceremonies this morning, followed by what is planned as an annual amateur invitation event.
The opening will be celebrated with the initial Chesapeake Cup a match among four players with illustrious amateur credentials.
The lineup has two-time United States Amateur champion Ja Sigel, former U.S. Amateur champions Vinny Giles (1972) and Fred Ridley (1975) and Danny Yates, the 1988 U.S. Amateur runner-up.
A field of 55, including former champions Joan Winchester (four titles) and Jane Mason (two) will be after 16 places in the championship draw when qualifying for the Maryland State Golf Association's Women's Amateur is held at Rolling Road Golf Club Tuesday. Match play will continue Wednesday-Friday.
This week's schedule:
Tomorrow--Baltimore Municipal Golf Corporation Women's twoball championship, Mt. Pleasant GC, 7 a.m.; U.S. Senior Open qualifying, Manor CC, 8 a.m.; MAPGA/Westminster Motors pro-am, Wakefield Valley GC, 8 a.m.; Free State Seniors, Hillendale CC, 10 a.m. Tuesday-Friday--Maryland State Women's Amateur, Rolling Road GC. Tuesday, 9 a.m.; other days, 8 a.m.