A man of many titles, Bogart adds another: state Hall of Famer @

February 20, 1994|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Sun Staff Writer

Ralph Bogart of Chevy Chase, a man who has epitomized the words "outstanding amateur golfer" for nearly 60 years, will be one of four honored when the 39th annual State of Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame luncheon is held tomorrow at Martin's West in Woodlawn.

Competing, and more importantly winning, has been a way of life for Bogart since he earned his first individual honor, the District of Columbia Junior, in 1937. Since then, the titles earned, alone or as part of a two-man team, number at least 124.

Beginning with his first victory, Bogart, 74, has won at least once a year, with the exception of his World War II service years as a Navy pilot and the year he had a heart attack.

The latest title came last summer when he and his son, Bruce, won the Maryland State Father-Son championship for a record sixth time.

He simply says, "I love the game, and I play a lot. Golf is fun and competing is fun. It's nice to have that desire."

Bogart comes by his love of the game honestly. His father, Ike Bogart, a 1906 Naval Academy graduate who rose to the rank of captain, was a champion golfer.

So it was only natural when doctors suggested that son Ralph, a sickly teen-ager at the time, needed sun and fresh air, that he be pulled out of school for a year and sent over to Army-Navy Country Club in Fairfax, Va., where the elder Bogart was a member. The head golf professional, a neighbor, kept an eye on the youngster.

"I learned to like the game from that," Ralph said recently. "At that time, Juniors could only play certain hours and certain days, but as I got better, they gave me unrestricted play, and playing with admirals and generals appealed to me. I know one year, I played [and defeated] Gen. Omar Bradley in the final of the club championship."

After the war, he became an insurance agent and, during a tournament one time, suggested to boyhood friend Bobby Brownell that he think about it as a career. "At the time, I was an FBI agent, but I was thinking about leaving," Brownell said. "Ralph put insurance in my mind. I ended up getting into it, but with a different company.

"We used to call on clients together, though, and it got to the point where we threw our money in a pot and started our own agency."

It is a company and a friendship that is still going strong today. For years the names Bogart and Brownell or Brownell and Bogart, for that matter, have been synonymous. The late Washington Post golf writer Maury Fitzgerald dubbed them the "Gold Dust Twins."

Bogart considers their relationship something special, and it will be Brownell who presents him for Hall of Fame induction. "He did a lot for me," Bogart said, and it is a tribute to both that he can add, "We have had some disagreements, but we've never had an argument in our whole business life."

For years, in addition to insurance, the business at hand for both of them was golf. As a team, they won the prestigious Anderson Memorial at Winged Foot Golf Club five times and in the Belle Haven four ball, they won four times in five years en route to seven titles.

Not surprisingly, he considers Winged Foot his favorite course. "There is not a bad shot on either course," he said of the 36-hole complex in Mamaroneck, N.Y.

A 1974 heart attack required bypass surgery, but it slowed Bogart only temporarily. The next year, he was back, winning the first of four Eastern Seniors titles.

More recently, he had a heart problem that required hospitalization last fall, but today he admits to having been bothered more by a fall on the boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach after that, a tumble that broke several ribs.

An administrative decision says it all of Bogart's competitive fire. He and such other Seniors stalwarts as Baltimorean Edward Johnston, Dale Morey, and Ed Tutwiler, tired of Seniors events that were more social than competitive, founded the Society of Seniors in the fall of 1982 at Wild Dunes Resort in Isle of Palms, S.C.

From this start, the organization, devoted to pure golf played on the best courses, and limited to low handicappers playing several tournaments a year, has grown to 415 members. There was a record entry of 203 for its most recent championship.

Typically, Bogart's immediate reminiscences are of events he didn't win, chief among them the National Capital Open, a one-time professional tournament played in Washington. In 1948, was leading after 54 holes, had a bad nine, and wound up 11th."

Two items in his storied career stick out. His Maryland State Father-Son titles span a mere 46 years, from winning with his father in 1948 to last summer's triumph; and in 1991, at age 71, he qualified for two USGA championships -- the U.S. Senior Open and the U.S. Senior Amateur.

All these things aside, perhaps a friend best summed up Bogart: "He doesn't play as well as he wants to, but who does?"

Bogart will be going into the Hall of Fame with Tom Gatewood of Baltimore, a two-time football All-American at Notre Dame; Phil Grove of Frederick, a nationally recognized jockey for more than 25 years; and the late Reggie Lewis of Baltimore, a basketball star at Dunbar High School, Northeastern University and with the Boston Celtics.

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