NJSGA Honors 9 Hall of Fame Inductees in Spirited Ceremony
In a stirring and moving ceremony, the New Jersey State Golf Association inducted the second class into its Hall of Fame on Wednesday evening, May 1, in front of over 200 guests at Galloping Hill Golf Course in Kenilworth, home of the NJSGA headquarters.
The Hall of Fame Class of 2019 honored nine individuals who made a lasting impact on the game of golf in New Jersey and was a grand celebration of the rich 119-year history of the NJSGA.
Present for the ceremony were the inspirational Dennis Walters, a native of Neptune, N.J., and Billy Ziobro, a native of Elizabeth, who made his mark as an amateur and PGA Tour player, club professional, and golf executive.
Seven other inductees in the Class of 2019 were honored posthumously, including Leo Fraser, former president of the PGA of America and long-time owner of Atlantic City Country Club; Bobby Jacobson of Hollywood Golf Club, two-time NJSGA Amateur and two-time NJSGA Junior champion; professional Babe Lichardus, four-time NJSGA Open Champion and NJPGA Player of the Decade for the 1950s and 1960s; Joe McBride of Arcola Country Club, four-time NJSGA Amateur champion; Dorothy Porter of Riverton Country Club, five-time USGA national champion; Jeff Thomas of Plainfield West Nine, eight-time NJSGA Amateur and 1993 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, and Craig Wood, winner of the 1941 Masters and 1941 U.S. Open, and member of three Ryder Cup teams.
Walters was introduced by best friend Wayne Warms, a PGA professional at the Eagle Oaks Golf & Country Club in Farmingdale and member of the NJPGA Hall of Fame.
“Dennis has, through his Dennis Walters Show, traveled worldwide and millions of miles spreading the message of what is possible if one has desire, determination, perseverance, dogged tenacity, and just plain old guts. His is a message of hope that no matter what life has stacked up against you, dreams can be achieved. Dennis is the greatest inspirational comeback story in the history of golf – if not in all of sport,” Warms said.
Walters, one of golf’s most well-known celebrities, turned the tragedy of being paralyzed from the waist down at age 24 from a golf-cart accident into a personal mission to teach golf and life lessons to a worldwide audience. This summer, the Jupiter, Fla., resident will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
In 1967, at the age of 17, Walters won the NJSGA Junior Championship, the NJSGA Caddie Championship and the NJPGO Junior Championship, an unprecedented triple crown.
“There’s no possible way I could have dreamed any of this. I’ve used my personal experience to encourage people to reach for their dreams and strive for excellence. If you have a dream and it doesn’t work out, that’s okay. Get a new dream. That’s what I did,” Walters said during his emotional acceptance speech.
“When I started this journey, I did it all for myself. I was trying to cope with a totally hopeless situation. The golf course for me was good therapy. Through my shows, I’ve come to realize if you can give someone the gift of hope, the gift of encouragement and the gift of inspiration, these are some of the most precious gifts you can give to anyone,” said Walters, who in 2018 received the highest honor the USGA bestows, the Bob Jones Award.
“My original goal was to make it through this world on my golf skill – and I did! But along the way I’ve been able to show people what is possible if you persevere and never quit and never give up. I’ve been able to show those with disabilities that they, too, can enjoy the great experience that golf can bring into their lives. If I have had the opportunity to influence people even just a little bit, then it had made my career better and my life better,” Walters noted.
Ziobro’s amateur career culminated at the age of 21 when he won both the NJSGA Amateur and Open in 1970. Playing out of Ash Brook Golf Course in Scotch Plains, he was the first player in NJSGA history to win the Amateur, Open and Junior championships. Ziobro is one of only two golfers to win the NJSGA Amateur and Open in the same year (Charles Whitehead, 1942).
He won his first professional event, the Dodge Open, at Rockaway River in the spring of 1971. Ziobro has competed in five U.S. Opens, making two cuts, and played on the PGA Tour from 1971-1977, where he collected ten top-10 finishes and made 60 cuts.
“The man I wanted to be most like was my father Michael. Through my father, I developed an understanding of conviction, determination, fortitude and focus. Over time, I began to compete well and eventually I was able to play at the finest county clubs in the world against the most accomplished players in the world in major championships throughout the world,” said Ziobro, who resides in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
“Goals achieved, dreams realized and many moments of joy. I have a lot to be thankful for, especially my daughters, Lauren and Regan, for the women they have become.
“Beaver Brook, Salem, Ipswich, Forsgate and Atlantic City country clubs. I take pride in having established, with my staff, a strong work culture at each of those facilities. Thirty-two young men who apprenticed for me became head professionals. I believe I had an influence on each of them and their families,” Ziobro stated.
The NJSGA Hall of Fame was established in 2018 with 16 original honorees. The inaugural class included professionals Johnny Farrell, Vic Ghezzi and Byron Nelson, plus legendary amateurs, Carolyn Cudone, Charlotte Glutting, Bob Housen, Maureen Orcutt, Chet Sanok, Jerome Travers and Charles Whitehead.
Other inductees include renowned architect A.W. Tillinghast; groundbreaking African-American golf professional John Shippen; noted journalist Arthur (Red) Hoffman; Dr. Ralph Engel, founder of the Rutgers' Professional Golf Turf Management School, and benefactors William Y. Dear (youth golf pioneer), and Nestor J. MacDonald (founder of NJSGA Caddie Scholarship Foundation).
The NJSGA Hall of Fame was established to recognize and enshrine men and women who, as New Jersey natives or residents at their time of achievement, have impacted New Jersey golf and/or have made extraordinary contributions to the game through competitive and non-competitive accomplishments.