It was Old Home Week, the family reunion and down-home cookin' rolled up in a package and tied with a ribbon when some of Joe Vaeth's friends got together to honor the retired Clifton Park golf professional last Friday.
It turned out to be a double-birthday present, too, because Joe turned 73 last Thursday, and his brother, George, didn't let the fact he's a tennis player keep him from stopping by to enjoy the proceedings as a way of celebrating his 77th birthday.
There was a full field of 36 foursomes for the golf tournament, and nearly as many more had to be turned away. Others showed up to say hello and offer congratulations during the post-golf party.
During 29 years at the city course, the last 25 as head professional before his 1985 retirement, Joe Vaeth touched hundreds of people and this was one way some of them could say "Thank you."
Pros and amateurs, men and women, they were all there -- those he had worked with, those he had started in the game, those who chose to play at Clifton simply because he was there.
Among those sending regrets was former resident and one-time tour player Bill Collins, who played much of his early golf at the tract wedged between Harford Road and Belair Road. "If I could putt like you, I'd have been more successful on tour," Collins wrote.
Joe Vaeth was born and raised a drive and a wedge shot across Harford Road from the golf course. He played three years of varsity golf at Mount St. Joseph, and, "I got to caddying here and then shagging balls for [then head professional] John Bass," Vaeth recalled.
"Finally, he told me if I didn't start working here, I couldn't play."
After a brief tour as a manager at Rolling Road GC (two who were kids at the time, Butch Smith and Jackie Rites, were on hand), Vaeth turned professional in 1954, was at the Naval Academy for a year, then an assistant to Bass for four years.
When Bass became Pine Ridge's first pro, Vaeth took over at Clifton Park. Among former assistants in attendance were Paul Haviland, Paul Gehring and Bill Mallonee. Mary Alice Canney, married to another former assistant, Dick Canney, head pro at Chantilly National in Centreville, Va., was one of the best players in the state 30 years ago.
"Joe and Paul Haviland dragged me to tournaments on their days off and saw that I played in the ones I should have," she said.
Baltimorean Coleman Plecker, head pro at Manor CC, who said he bought his first set of clubs from Vaeth, teamed with his son, Joe Plecker, Fred Walter Jr. and pro Frank Laber, from Longview GC, to win the golf tournament.
A committee of Bob Hearlth, Clem Strickline, and food service impresario Norm Schultz did much of the work, although Joe Vaeth took credit for the weather, holding off the rain until the party was over.
The honored guest, who admitted the show was beyond all his expectations, hasn't slowed down since overcoming a series of recent health problems. "I cut the grass, go fishing, and play golf
two or three times a week. You can't beat it."
Klein in Canon Cup
Justin Klein, of Phoenix and Hunt Valley Golf Club, had a half and three losses in four matches during last week's American Junior Golf Association Canon Cup tournament at Bloody Point GC on Daufuskie Island, S.C. The three-day Ryder-Cup format brought together 40 of the nation's best 18-under players (20 boys, 20 girls), with the West team winning, 28 1/2 -21 1/2 .
Klein, 18, a Duke freshman, teamed with Diana D'Alessio, of Flanders, N.J., to halve a fourball mixed match, but lost in fourball, foursomes and individual pairings.
The Middle Atlantic PGA will have 62 pros in tomorrow's pro-am at Wakefield Valley GC in Westminster, and 12 in its women's championship (Kandi Comer of Farmington CC is the defending champion) Tuesday at Chantilly National. . . . A U.S. Mid-Amateur qualifier tomorrow at River Bend CC has 113 entries for four places in the championship, Sept. 19-24 at the Detroit Golf Club. . . . Ten tour pros, including Tina Barrett and Fred Funk, will be in town for tomorrow's annual Ronald McDonald House pro-am at Eagle's Nest. . . .
This week's schedule
Tomorrow--Middle Atlantic PGA pro-am, Wakefield Valley GC, a.m.; U.S. Mid-Amateur qualifying, River Bend CC, Great Falls, Va., 7:30 a.m.; Ronald McDonald House pro-am, Eagle's Nest, 9 a.m. Tuesday--Middle Atlantic PGA Women's championship, Chantilly National, Centreville, Va., 8 a.m.; Women's Golf Association, Baltimore CC and Suburban Club, 8:30 a.m. Friday--Maryland State Seniors, Argyle CC, 8:30 a.m.