Photo: John Rochford (c) accepts plaque on behalf of Echo Lake Country Club, honored as a top contributing club of 2017

John Rochford of Westfield, a longtime member of Echo Lake Country Club and a former New Jersey State Golf Association Caddie Scholarship Foundation chairman and club representative, passed away on Dec. 14 at age 88. He leaves a long and distinguished legacy as one of the great stewards of the Foundation, dating back to the 1960s.

In his more than three decades as Caddie Scholarship Foundation representative at Echo Lake, Rochford is credited for helping to raise more than $850,000. Since he became Echo Lake's CSF representative in 1987, he led the club's fundraising efforts which awarded more than 200 college tuition scholarships to young caddies.

In 2018, Rochford, received the Honey Gantner Award, presented annually to the NJSGA’s top volunteer. He served as chairman of the CSF in 1996-97 and also served on the Executive Committee and Advisory Committee of the NJSGA. Rochford was president of Echo Lake from 2001-03 while also serving as a trustee at the club.

Last year, Rochford was only the second individual to receive the Lee Hale Award, awarded by Echo Lake to a distinguished member.

“John was very, very active for the Caddie Scholarship Foundation for most of his life. Echo Lake was a leading contributing club to the CSF for many years thanks to John’s efforts,” said Ben Del Vento, NJSGA Caddie Scholarship Foundation chairman.

“He was involved in the Foundation going back to the 1960s. Later, he led a program which brought caddies by bus from Jersey City and Newark to Echo Lake where they learned how to caddie, and many of them earned scholarships. He was a good man and a gentle person who earned respect through his demeanor. He worked tirelessly for decades,” Del Vento said.  

“John’s efforts on behalf of the CSF at Echo Lake placed them consistently in the upper tier of contributing clubs. But fundraising was only part of his contribution,” said Kevin Purcell, NJSGA executive director. “John was simply one of the most encouraging men I’ve ever met. ‘Thank you for all you do,’ was his constant refrain. Genuine, sincere, supportive, John made the world a better place through his kindness. He will be missed.”

Rochford was a native of Jersey City and a graduate of St. Peter’s Prep and St. Peter’s College. After graduating college, he joined the U.S. Marines in 1954 and became a platoon leader and company commander.

He worked in sales and marketing with the American Can Company, Johnson & Johnson, and Maritz, Inc., a marketing services and events management company headquartered in St. Louis.

With Maritz, Rochford was involved at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Classic where Rochford spent time with Palmer.

Rochford began to play golf in the 1960s at public courses in Union and Monmouth counties. He joined Echo Lake in 1980 and served at various times as president, house chairman and golf chairman. But, by far, he was most passionate about the Caddie Scholarship Foundation.

Said Rochford in 2018: “The ability to help qualified young men and women, who return the favor by getting good grades, graduate, and create good careers for themselves and their families was always of the utmost importance to me. The number that graduate (96 percent) is truly impressive, and the fact that more than 90 percent of the money raised goes to actual scholarships.”   

Rochford will especially be missed at Echo Lake Country Club.

“John embodied everything you would want at a club like Echo Lake, someone you would want to be in a leadership position and ultimately become president. There’s not a soul in the golf world in New Jersey or beyond who wouldn’t have nice things to say about John,” noted Brian Steller, who worked alongside Rochford as an Echo Lake CSF representative.

“He was innovative in how to raise money. Right up to this year, it was his idea to start a members versus caddies tournament to help raise money for caddie scholars. John was always thankful to everyone at the club. He would thank the people in the kitchen for preparing an excellent dinner. You won’t find many people in your lifetime like John Rochford. Echo Lake is very proud of all his efforts with caddie scholarship. I’ll never meet another person like him,” Steller said.

John Rochford obituary

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