Dorothy Duke, 80, golfer, co-owner of Worthington Valley Country Club

May 20, 1999|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Dorothy M. Duke, co-owner of the Worthington Valley Country Club in Owings Mills, died Sunday of a gastric ulcer at the University of Maryland Medical Center. She was 80.

Mrs. Duke took up golf as a teen-ager to keep up with her boyfriend, James W. Duke, who later became a professional golfer and pro at the Bonnie View Country Club. They were married in 1938.

"She realized that to be with him, she had better learn how to play golf," said her daughter, Carol Isaac of Upperco.

By accompanying her husband on the national tour, Mrs. Duke, who was known as "Dot," developed acquaintances with such golfing greats as Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Patty Berg. She also came to know the Duke of Windsor.

She was the 1945 ladies club champion at the Country Club of Maryland and was often sought as a partner for Professional Golfers' Association mixed two-ball tournaments throughout the state.

While her husband was club pro at Forest Greens and later at Bonnie View Country Club in the early 1950s, Mrs. Duke operated a golf merchandise store and mail-order business on Fayette Street in Baltimore. She also ran a golf driving range that she and her husband owned on Smith Avenue in Northwest Baltimore for 10 years.

In 1953, the Dukes purchased 105 acres on Greenspring Avenue in Owings Mills and began building the first nine holes of the club that was originally named Dover Downs Golf Course and later changed to Dover Brook.

The Dukes carved the fairways, built the greens, sowed the grass and planted the trees, and the club opened in 1954. A converted barn served as a clubhouse, locker room, dining room and living quarters.

The name of the club -- which has always been a public daily fee golf course -- was changed to Worthington Valley Country Club in 1967. A year later, the last nine holes were completed.

"They used to charge a dollar a day for the first hole, and the price changed as they kept adding holes to the course," said Dick Isaac, Mrs. Duke's son-in-law.

The Dukes taught golf to children, and every Thursday was "Kid's Day," Mrs. Isaac said.

Her parents also sponsored junior golf tournaments and made the course available for the Franklin Senior High School golf team and the Baltimore Junior Girls Tournament.

Mrs. Duke was active in the golf business until her death and lived in a house she and her husband built near Worthington Valley's 10th hole.

She played golf into her 70s, when she began to suffer from arthritis and was forced to give up the sport.

"Her advice always was, `Keep your head down and hit the ball straight and long,' " said Mrs. Isaac.

Bob Miller, former golf course superintendent at Suburban Country Club and a friend for more than 40 years, described her as a "power player rather than a finesse player" who "could hit the ball pretty good."

Mr. Miller added: "She also played with the Baltimore Area Women's Golf Association and was one of the better players."

"She used to tell me, `Hit for show and putt for the dough,'" said her grandson, Richard D. Isaac, 28, who now oversees Worthington Valley and began working there at age 10.

"I was always a little anxious and a little shy when I played with her. I was more used to chopping wood," Richard Isaac said, laughing.

The former Dorothy Chenoweth was born and raised in Govans. After graduating from Eastern High School in 1936, she worked for several years as a bookkeeper at a Woolworth's store in Baltimore.

She enjoyed gardening and watching the Canada geese that had taken up residence on a pond near her home.

Mr. Duke died in 1992.

Services for Mrs. Duke will be held at 10 a.m. today at Eckhardt Funeral Chapel, 11605 Reisterstown Road, Owings Mills.

She also is survived by three other grandchildren.

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